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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
30 Rock


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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Wisdom Teeth. What Are They Good For? Absolutely Nothing!

Now, without further adieu, a highly anticipated update on my teeth. I will warn you in advance it's somewhat long and detailed, but not disgusting, which is good. As it turns out MCF was right. More than five of you do care, give or take a few that just didn't get the chance to swing by that day.

Tuesday morning I awoke as prepared as I could be for battle the extractions. I had a big meal, what I quietly liked to refer to as "The Last Supper" the night before which consisted of two helpings of meatloaf, potatoes, peas and carrots. Later on I even had bowl of cereal before I turned into a pumpkin at midnight. I felt like those people on The Amazing Race, that, when faced with possible elimination, put all their clothes on just in case they are not eliminated after all and get to keep nothing but the clothes on their backs. I realize if you don't watch The Amazing Race this analogy is completely lost on you. I'm sorry but it's timely and fitting so I'm going with it.

So I showed up at the office. They say that the early bird gets the worm. At say a diner, the early bird might get the discounted breakfast, but in a doctor's office all the early bird gets is a rack of uninteresting magazines and the knowledge of impending doom. So I waited and I waited some more. You know I was early because I actually managed to make it there 2 minutes before the girl who was scheduled before me. So then it was both of us waiting because there was a girl who was already in there, who was scheduled before us. Other than the extraction itself, I knew I was not like these girls. In both cases the adult who came with them went in the back with them briefly. This is because wisdom teeth extraction is the sort of procedure you tend to get as a minor so I'm about ten years and a dollar short. Incidentally, listening to minor #2 retell her overwhelming calm mother about her alleged boyfriend's missed court date and bench warrant for his arrest provided some entertainment and also reminded me that things could always be worse.

One Cosmo! Girl, Entertainment Weekly and some other magazine later I was called into what I kindly refer to as phase two. You've all been in phase two. If the waiting room is heaven, phase two is like purgatory, which I suppose would make the procedure itself hell. In theory anyway. So the assistant began to prep me as I waited another 10 minutes for the man, the myth, the legend... the surgeon to arrive. Of course these girls always try to make small talk, asking how you are today blah, blah blah. Only thing is I see these girl's small talk attempts and I RAISE them an actual response, whether they want it or not. Our exchange went something like this:

Assistant: (in the perky prepackaged voice all assistants seem to come with) "Hi Janet. How are you today?"

Me: "I'm extremely scared actually."

Assistant: (subcumming to nervous laughter) "Oh don't worry. There's nothing to be scared about!"

Me: "Well, I guess I'm just scared because I'm scheduled to have teeth taken out today, but my mouth really doesn't open that wide."

Assistant: (in I've heard it all before mode) "Oh you'd be surprised how easily they can open your mouth during the procedure."

Me: (realizing this chick ain't getting it) "I'm sure. But my mouth only opens THIS wide. (At this point I obviously can't show what I'm talking about. All you need to know is it's not wide enough to see my wisdom teeth.)

Assistant: (Look of horror comes over her face that she quickly tries to cover up as soon as she realizes she has an Oh! Shit look on her face and clearly not knowing where to go from here, moving closer to the door...) "Well, we'll see what the surgeon says when he comes in ok?"

As I sat and waited for the surgeon I realized the assistant didn't have to say anything, her look said it all. I was worried going in but then a small part of me thought that once the professionals saw my situation, they wouldn't be nearly as scared as I was because they were well, professionals.

Finally the surgeon arrives. He tells me he heard I was concerned and I proceed to replay the entire conversation above with him, including the action shot, the only difference here being his look of horror is only a flicker and is quickly smoothed over by optimism and canned confidence. It was then that I started crying. Here's another way I was different than those 17 tear old girls who came and went before me. I'll bet neither one of them cried about the procedure. I'm all mixed up.

Suddenly, it's as if the surgeon went from doctor to clown college instantaneously. He started holding my hand, telling me I was a sweet girl and looked like "a good citizen" which was an unusual comment if I ever heard one, but whatever. He then left and came back with a plastic rose and a lottery ticket. I swear if this man could have juggled 3 balls while riding a unicycle and swallowing fire I think he would have done it. He's just a "can do" kinda guy.

So he said ok. I'm going to see just how far your mouth will open. Together we tried opening my mouth. We didn't get very far, literally. He asked me if this was because of my TMJ or if it was because I had wisdom teeth problems. I told him I honestly didn't know. I mean I haven't been able to open my mouth very wide to begin with for awhile, which is definitely TMJ, but in the past week it's gotten worse (although there's no pain). So whether that's TMJ, wisdom teeth problems, stress or just plain ol' bad luck, the same answer remains.

Then he says the magic words "Well, we're gonna try." I did not feel comforted by those words. If anything, it made me cry more. Here this man who has been doing this for years didn't have anything wise to say about my wisdom teeth. He was as baffled as I was about how to approach this. So he took an all for one, one for all approach. He's like ok, you never know. We are going to go ahead and sedate you and we'll give you the novacaine and it might open you up a little more. Only thing is we won't put you under as far as we had anticipated because I'll need your help. I went into panic mode at the idea that I'd be awake for this procedure. He said I wouldn't be awake per se, just a little more aware to make sure I was ok with what was going on.

It was then that I asked him what happens if he can't do it. He said, well, you can have this done at the hospital but I'm trying to avoid that because 1. you're wisdom teeth are not impacted and insurance will not cover it if they're not and 2. They will stretch you out the whole way and it will hurt your TMJ.

With news like that you'd be calm, right?

He showed me all the things he does to open somebody up. There's this plastic metal device that helps keep the mouth open. He showed it to me and just like a magician, he made it disappear. He assured me they wouldn't be using that today. He just wanted it to be like Vietnam was originally intended; get in and get out.

After this is when things get a little hazy. If you've ever been in twilight sleep you know what I'm talking about. You know what's going on but you go in and out of knowing. So what I recall from here on out is just fragments of what actually happened.

I remember I was shaking a bit and they told me to relax and breathe in and out. I remember feeling pressure. I remember them (joyously) announcing each time they got a tooth out. And I remember the last tooth hurting a bit because something was leaning on my lower bottom lip (I have the black and blue to prove it). The next thing I remember is them telling me it was done and that I had done a great job. It seemed like it took no time at all. I don't remember seeing the surgeon before I left, but I do remember hearing him out in the hall say "That was a tough one."

I went into the recovery room for a bit, headed home and prepared for what I always feared would be the worst part of this whole ordeal: the healing process. I still had a lot of numbness in my mouth and my whole bottom lip looked like Mike Tyson after a fight. I also felt a little nauseous from the sedation. I had my dad fill every prescription they gave me (higher dose Ibruprofen, an antibiotic and Percocet). Even if I didn't need them all, it made me feel better knowing they were there if I did. I applied ice kinda did in The Karate Kid, 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off. Immediately I took the higher dose Ibruprofen, not because I was in pain, because I was anticipating pain considering all that I had been through and all that I had read.

Other than that I was amazed at how OK I felt. My cheeks didn't look like chipmunks at all, probably because my teeth weren't impacted. I didn't need any stitches which might attribute to a painful recovery, again probably because I wasn't impacted. The corners of mouth didn't hurt, probably because I wasn't stretched that far. I couldn't open my mouth that wide either but not because of pain, becuause I never can. This might be frustrating for some people, but it's just something I'm used to. Hell, in my mind I started thinking everyone should say they have TMJ! But I was still weary because it was early in the day and nothing had worn off yet so I didn't want to blog and be all smug about it and then grow to eat my words later. Of course my words would have to be soft and mushy words, but still.

I ate a pudding. I missed my mouth. I ate a jello. I had some on my lip for a half hour and didn't know it. Then the pain medication wore off. The novacaine wore off. Later on I had soup and ice cream. And I felt....fine. Huh! What? Aren't I supposed to be in more pain? What's going on here? All I felt was slightly uncomfortable, especially when I talk. This I discovered is probably because I can actually feel my jaw bone now where my teeth used to be. Gross, I know, but true nonetheless.

Again, I was cautiously optimistic. After all, I had heard day 2 was worse than day 1. Kinda like when you go jogging more than you usually do and your muscles feel fine only to ache the next day type of deal. So as a precaution, I took regular old Advil before I went to bed in lieu of the industrial strength Ibruprofen he had prescribed. And I was a bit concerned about the sleeping part itself because I sleep on my stomach and thus, on my face. But my dad said, if it doesn't hurt I don't see why you can't. So I tried it and I think it went...fine.

So all of this is the really long winded way of something everything is surprisingly working out so far. I woke up this morning with a mild sore throat and some soreness on my left side where my TMJ normally is worst, but NOTHING unmanageable and nothing that over the counter Advil once again, didn't fix.

Of course the constant worrier in me stands firm. I've won the battle, but not the war. And really what is any battle without a few scars? Late Wednesday I discovered that one of my innocent bystander teeth got caught in the crossfire and is now slightly chipped, which I suppose is easy enough to fix (sigh). Assuming they can get back in my mouth to fix it that is. I'm also still deathly afraid of developing dry socket, especially since I can't see any of my sockets in the first place. And I haven't attempted to chew anything yet. I can't imagine knowing the right time to start doing something like this. I also have a follow up appointment next week which, if I'm still at the same spot with opening my mouth, will turn into treatment for TMJ, no doubt.

All I can say is that I'm grateful and I really can't blame the man, even if he did chip my tooth. I'm grateful I have had no real pain up to this point and that so far it seems like I made the right decision. I'm also grateful (and amazed) by this tiny, Martin Short-like man who handed me a flower, a lottery ticket, a t-shirt and ice cream, making me look like I had just spent the day at some bizarre boardwalk carnival instead of the pearly white truth.



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