Friday, February 7, 2014

a tale of two teeth

Last year one of my fears came to bite me in the butt...or the mouth. For years one of my bottom wisdom teeth has been trying to come out. It would poke out then go back under the gums. Lather, rinse, repeat.

It never really caused me much grief, was just annoying. Made me able to relate to cranky teething babies/toddlers though.

But then last January, I developed an infection due to that one wisdom tooth. It was p-a-i-n-f-u-l. It took me several days to go see a dentist, though, as I'm not overly fond of the dentist. Not that I've had bad experiences with them before...quite the opposite. Other than getting a retainer when I was in Junior High, I haven't had any experiences with dentists (besides regular cleanings, of course). That's right - zero cavities. I've never had a needle in my mouth, I've never had a root canal. Nothing. But I have always been terrified of the idea of getting wisdom teeth pulled.

But eventually the pain was so bad that I couldn't keep myself from going any longer. So I made the appointment and waited in anxiety for the results of my x-ray. To my surprise, the dentist said I could keep all of my teeth! He gave me a prescription for anti-biotics to clear up the infection but he said the tooth was growing in nice and straight, so if I wanted to "teethe it out", I certainly could.

Uh, heck yeah! I figured I would get rid of the infection and life would continue on as per usual after that with never another problem.

Until I woke up the Saturday before Christmas feeling pain very reminiscent of a year ago. I tried to tell myself that it wasn't actually another infection but just minor teething pains that I could deal with on my own. However, by the time I woke up on Christmas Eve morning, I couldn't live in denial anymore. So after begging the local doctor to see me (my dentist AND family doctor in the city were both on holidays/closed for Christmas already), I was able to snag another prescription. Unfortunately it wasn't soon enough to get me through Christmas - and the start of our Fargo holiday - pain-free, but after 72 hours I was finally starting to get relief.

And then three weeks later, the pain started...again. I knew this was it - I couldn't possibly keep getting infections like this. It was time to bite the bullet and get it over with. Get the tooth pulled and go through the pain one final time and be done. So I made a last-minute dentist appointment and got a new x-ray. This time I was told that from the top wisdom tooth trying to push its way out, the gums by my lower tooth were getting caught (?) and food and bacteria were getting trapped which was what was causing the infections.

So both teeth were going to have to get pulled. Apparently they were the "easy" ones though - local anesthetic was all I would need. Sure.

My dentist appointment was on a Thursday afternoon, and they scheduled me in for Monday morning. Yikes!! Too soon! I wasn't ready for it that quickly. But as the weekend dragged on, I thought that Monday couldn't get here soon enough. I just wanted it all over with. But for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how in the world they expected me to let them rip out teeth while I was awake and lucid. Sure, they would give me local freezing...but for me to actually be aware of what they were doing while they were doing it?! I just didn't understand how that was going to work.

But Monday morning came and I was determined to be strong and just get 'er done. I had many people praying for me and I told myself that they do this sort of thing every day. I would listen to music to drown out the noise and I would close my eyes so I wouldn't see the "equipment" they were using...and it would be all good...sort of.

When they called my name at the oral surgeon's office that day, I was scared but calm all at the same time. Then as the surgeon took yet another x-ray of my mouth, I was given news that I wasn't expecting. "I'm not comfortable taking out that bottom tooth with you awake." Apparently the x-ray revealed that one of my nerves was too close to the bottom wisdom tooth for a simple extraction. The efforts they would need to take to remove it without damaging the nerve were more intensive than originally anticipated. If I would make one wrong move...

I sat in the chair and cried, I'm not gonna lie. Part of me was relieved that I wouldn't have to do it awake now - but the other part of me was so desperate to just get it over with. It had been a l-o-n-g weekend waiting for this procedure and I was looking forward to putting it behind me. But it wasn't to be. I was rescheduled for Friday at noon and that was that.

I tried not to think about it too much throughout the week, but wasn't really successful. Sure, I wouldn't have to worry about being awake for it anymore - but I also was anxious about being put under. It's a bit unnerving thinking that there's always the slight possibility things could go wrong. You know, just the natural response to going in for surgery, no matter how minor. There are always risks, no matter how slim. And with them calling it "semi-conscious sedation", I was hung up on that term too...what do you mean "semi-conscious?" Am I conscious or not?? (Apparently they use that term because it's not like I'm under to the point that I need a tube down my throat. I would be breathing on my own and all that, but still "under.")

Friday finally came, and my Mom dropped me off at the oral surgeon's and took my girls out for lunch while they waited (it was an inservice day, so no school for them). I lay down in the reclined dentists' chair and they brought in the anesthetist. I was anxious and a little teary-eyed, but he rubbed my arm to calm me down and just kept talking to me and asking me questions as he administered the drugs. The next thing I knew, I was coming to and it was all over. Well, all over but the recovery anyway.

I came out of the sedation quite well and wasn't all weird and crazy. I remember pretty much everything and I think I made pretty good sense the whole time. I do remember being concerned about what time it was and I also gushed to the nurse about "everybody here is so wonderful."  :)

My procedure was a noon (and they were only about 5 minutes behind) and by 1:15 my Mom and girls were back in the recovery area going over my care instructions with the nurse. After a stop at the pharmacy for my meds, we were on my way to my Mom's place. Me and the girls had waited in the car while my Mom went to get my prescription, and as we waited I was getting overheated with all of my winter stuff on, but hadn't thought to take any of it off. When my Mom got back and started driving, the motion combined with me feeling warm and still being so tired from the drugs made me start to feel sick. I quickly started taking off my hat, scarf and gloves to cool off - and thankfully it was a very short drive to my Mom's where I could get out of the car and breathe in the fresh air. Luckily that helped curb my nauseau.

By the time all was said and done and we were at my Mom's place, it was 3:00 and I was starving (as I had to fast from midnight the night before). I was only allowed something cold at this point though, so I had a bowl of ice cream with my T3 and was so tired that I just started to cry. I slept most of the afternoon, waking up to have some jello pudding for "supper" and then Les (who had come after work) took me home.

The next day (Saturday) was a lazy sleepy day for me as well. I was either in my bed or on the couch all day long. Les' parents brought us supper and I was even able to eat some "normal" food already. I wasn't as swollen as I was expecting to get and the pain was definitely manageable. I had taken three T3's on Friday and then I only took one for each of Saturday and Sunday night. Other than that, extra strength advils were doing the trick for me. This picture is from Friday evening, the swelling didn't get any worse than this.

Sunday was a long day though, as we were in the city all day. We left at 9:00am for Sunday School and then I even sang in the worship team. I definitely sang with my mouth more closed than normal, but apparently it sounded fine so it was all good! We also were invited to a Superbowl party in the evening, so we went to a friends' house for the afternoon to wait for it. I rested on my friend's recliner chair most of the afternoon and then I was also dopey and lazy at the party itself. Luckily it was a smaller party, and the 4 women just hung out in the living room (without the TV) and visited. By the time all was said and done on Sunday, I was plumb exhausted and couldn't wait to fall into bed.

Monday was a day at home by myself and while I did do some housework, I made sure I rested in the afternoon since I was still quite tired. Tuesday was back to work and the rest of the week was busy with work and babysitting my nieces and nephew. I am definitely back to normal energy-wise (and was by Wednesday already), but I'm still popping Advil's every 6-8 hours to help keep the pain in control.

All in all, it was an experience that went better than I had anticipated (isn't that the way it often goes?), but I am happy to have it behind me. Now we have to pay for it though - no insurance, yikes! - and hope that I don't have to get the other side done yet. I had been debating just getting them done too, now that I was being put under - but the cost of just the one side was astronomical enough, so we just left it for now.

And that, my friends, is the tale of my two wisdom teeth. Not exactly a gripping story, but something worth documenting anyway! Thanks to all of you who prayed for me and offered words of support and encouragement leading up to the procedure and for checking in on me during my recovery time. Much appreciated!

**Edited to add the following:
It turns out my recovery wasn't quite as simple as I thought it was, in the end. When I wrote this post a week after my surgery, I mentioned that I was still popping extra-strength Advil's every 6-8 hours to manage the pain. This continued to be the case for another several days until I finally called my oral surgeon's office. I was able to get a quick (and FREE) follow-up appointment the next day (11 days after my surgery) and they confirmed what I had suspected, after doing some research online. I had developed a dry socket which basically means this: The socket is the hole in the bone where the tooth has been removed. After a tooth is pulled, a blood clot forms in the socket to protect the bone and nerves underneath. Sometimes that clot can become dislodged or dissolve a couple of days after the extraction. That leaves the bone and nerve exposed to air, food, fluid, and anything else that enters the mouth. This can lead to infection and severe pain that can last for 5 or 6 days. I took a flashlight to look into my mouth, and sure enough, I could see bone!! When I wasn't on Advil, I was in extreme pain - and one time when I had forgotten to take Advil along when Les and I went on a date night, the pain was even spreading to my ear.

Thankfully the fix for this is very simple. The surgeon cleaned out the socket, then filled it with disgusting tasting medicine. This happened mid-morning on a Tuesday (Feb 11th) and I took 1 Advil at suppertime but was Advil-free from then on. The pain relief was very quick and while I still felt discomfort the next day [but did my best to refuse Advil since it had been making me feel so bloated already by this point], by Thursday things were just slightly noticeable and by Friday - a full two weeks after surgery - things were finally 100% back to normal!


Kathy said...

Oh what an ordeal! Glad that you made it through and will never have to do THAT again.

Sharon Warner said...

Yikes. Wisdom teeth are a pain if they don't grow out correctly. Usually they'll misalign your other teeth, but having an infected tooth has to be one of the worst. At least you were able to go through with the procedure without feeling any pain during the procedure. Scheduling dental appointments could be quite cumbersome, but that's recommended when you feel something's wrong, or even just for a routine checkup. It's better than having to live through the pain. I hope you're okay by now!

Sharon Warner @ Premier Dental Esthetics