This summer I had the “pleasure” of experiencing a right of passage normally reserved for tweens, teens, and early “twenty-somethings” – namely, the extraction of a wisdom tooth. I had had one of my wisdom teeth pulled in my late twenties. It was an uneventful experience. Due to the position of the tooth, however, this most recent extraction involved surgery. The tooth was partially erupted, could decay and spread decay to the neighboring tooth, was in close proximity to a nerve, and “yadda, yadda, yadda” – you know, all that crap with which dentists love to scare the crap out of you. Luckily, unlike YouTube accounts of such procedures (i.e. “Daniel at the Dentist”), nothing really humorous happened during or immediately after my surgery. The anesthesia didn’t make me loopy or make me say or do anything funny. What I will tell you, however, is that I am baffled by how the extraction of one little tooth could be the cause of such abject, post-surgical misery. I have a pretty high threshold for pain. I gave birth to two children without the benefit of any pain medication. The pain I experienced after the removal of this single tooth, however, totally kicked my ass! A full week after the procedure, I was still using ice packs and eating Tylenol like candy. And that was after using nearly ALL the Norco they had prescribed for me. The surgeon had explained to me about how, since the tooth was quite close to a major maxillary nerve, that there might be some “nerve trauma” involved in a complete extraction. He told me I could opt to have a “crown-ectomy,” the removal of only the top part of the tooth, to avoid this, and he’d do that, if it was what I “wanted.” He said the disadvantage of that would be that the roots might end up erupting in the future and pose the same problem to my other teeth that the crown was now. Well, OF COURSE I wanted to avoid “nerve trauma,” but he could tell by my reluctance to respond that I really didn’t know what to do. “Okay, well, how about if I go in with the intention of doing the crown-ectomy, but, if the roots are loose, I’ll just take the whole thing?” he said. I agreed. Then, low and behold, after surgery, I learned that he had, in fact, removed the entire tooth. That sneaky bastard! He totally tricked me! I think he’d planned to take the whole tooth the entire time. Fast forward to a week later, and, while the swelling was pretty much completely gone and the pain wasn’t as bad as it was initially, I was certainly NOT pain-free. I looked up the symptoms of “dry socket” on WebMD but convinced myself that it wasn’t the problem. Two days later, I just couldn’t take it any more and made an appointment.
It turned out that I did, indeed, have dry socket, and, I would rather endure childbirth than suffer through that kind of pain again. It was depressing to learn that the condition happens more often to women than men, a fact that was mentioned because my husband boasted, “Well, that never happened to me!” I also learned that my “advanced age” (I’m fifty) contributed to it, as well. I asked the surgeon why my daughter had bounced back so quickly after having multiple teeth extracted in one sitting. The good doctor tried his best to answer in the nicest way possible, saying, “Well, a procedure like this is a little harder on the body when we’re not a teenager.” Great. Awesome. I ended up seeing a different doctor than the one who did my surgery. He was a really nice guy. Upon meeting him, I couldn’t’ help but notice his tiny hands. “That physical characteristic has got to be a benefit to someone in his particular line of work,” I later mentioned to my husband. “Dr. Nice” irrigated the socket and then put an itty-bitty piece of gauze treated with clove oil, of all things. As he walked us out, he told me not to worry, but I might have to come back for another application. When I looked concerned, he said that everything looked like it was healing, and he joked, “It’s okay. Your socket looks like that of a twenty year-old.” What a charmer! I wish I could’ve had him do my surgery instead of “Herr Doctor Subterfuge,” with his intimidating Aryan looks and giant mitts. My husband is convinced he’s a sadomasochistic Nazi. Within twenty minutes of leaving the office, I was pain free! Man, I didn’t even realize how much pain I was in until it was gone. I was so thankful to feel better that I almost made my husband drive me back to the office so I could hug “Dr. Nice.” I had hoped I was permanently on the mend.
After a couple days the “itty-bitty piece of clove oil gauze” came out, and I was all the way back to “crying sad face” on the pain scale. I kept waking up feeling like I’d “sleep driven” myself to Fight Club in the night. Which is a problem, because 1) I was SLEEP DRIVING and 2) everyone knows that that first rule of Fight Club is to not talk about Fight Club and I JUST TALKED ABOUT FIGHT CLUB! So, off I would go, back to the oral surgeon’s office. I knew that, with my luck, I’d probably end up having to see Herr Doctor Hurtz von Jumbo Hanz instead of the dainty fingers of charming Dr. Nice. I was just hoping that whoever I saw might give me enough relief that I could enjoy the little getaway trip to our state’s wine region that my husband and I had planned. I’d hoped to feel well enough that I didn’t have to remain wine soaked the entire trip. Okay, okay, okay. I probably would’ve been “wine soaked” the whole time no matter what.
My husband posted a picture on Facebook of me “feeling better” at one of the wineries. It was not just from my wine tasting adventures. I ended up going back to the oral surgeon’s office for another treatment the morning of our trip. As I had anticipated, I ended up having to see Dr. Nazi. The visit made me even more convinced of his sadomasochistic leanings. While gentle Dr. Nice had tenderly irrigated my poor socket with warm saline before lightly placing that tiny medicated gauze, Herr Doctor Immahertzu just whipped out a strand of gauze as long as a towrope, told me to lean my head back, and started jamming it in. I thought I was gonna pass out! After he was done, it hurt even worse. I didn’t start to get any relief until about an hour afterward, and I felt nauseous the entire time. What’s more is that he told me I had to come back to the office the following Monday. I was certain it was just so he could continue the torture, and I’m sure that after he walked us up to the desk, he had to have ducked into the next room and started rubbing his hands together while laughing a diabolically. I guess the “up” side is that, because I insisted, they gave me more Norco. So, I was okay over the weekend when the pain eventually returned.
That Monday, I went back to see Dr. Nazi so he could remove that towrope he’d stuffed into my stupid dry socket. The pain was pretty much gone at that point, and the removal of the gauze didn’t hurt me. He seemed disappointed. I’m sure he’ll be able to console himself though, maybe by lying down and rolling around in the big pile of the money he’ll get from my insurance company. I just feel super lucky that he didn’t “accidentally” push me down the stairs when I left so that he could knock out a few more of my teeth.