Getting My Wisdom Teeth Out
It’s a rite of passage in our society, as well as a side effect of modern dental hygiene. Getting your wisdom teeth out is an important part of growing up in modern America, something you have done in your early- to mid-twenties. Our modern diets and high standards of dental care have left us with more teeth than our jaws can hold, so when the third set of molars erupt in our late teens, they can reek all kinds of havoc on our health.
Squeamishness and Procrastination
I’ve always been squeamish about medical procedures, and the idea of the dentist yanking out perfectly good teeth freaked me out to no end. So I put it off. My wisdom teeth came in with some discomfort, but the pain subsided as they fully erupted. But still the dentist said I needed them out. Even those they weren’t causing me pain, they were hurting my health.
My wisdom teeth were trapping little bits of food in my mouth and harboring bacteria like nothing else. Still I put off going to the dentist at all for several years. After a couple more years of hounding by my family and my doctor, I found a new dentist and went in. My mouth was a mess, with gum disease and a bunch of cavities. I got a deep gum cleaning and bunch of cavities filled, but my dentist kept reminding me about those damn wisdom teeth. They were full of bacteria that could put be at risk for heart disease, and they needed to go.
Biting the Bullet
Finally a few weeks ago, I decided to do it. I called them up and scheduled an appointment before I could talk myself out of it. The day came, and even though I wasn’t going under, I had my parents drive me. (In fact, they insisted.) So I went in at 10am. I got some injections of novocaine (by far the most painful part), and tried to relax as the dentist drilled and pulled for an hour and a half. The drilling didn’t bother me, but the pulling did. By far the worst parts were psychological: the cracking sound of teeth breaking and the smell of burning enamel. Still I was okay, I was facing my fear, and in time it was all over. I came bouncing into the waiting room with a mouth full of gauze, surprising my parents with my liveliness.
Thanks to narcotics, ice packs and several long naps, I felt pretty good that day. I was also thankful that I went with local, rather than general, anesthesia. Because I wasn’t put under, I didn’t have to deal with the nausea and lethargy that accompanies general anesthetics. In fact, I felt quite energized that evening, so much so that I joined my friends at the bar. I couldn’t eat or drink anything but water, and I had trouble talking, but it was nice to get out and about after such a traumatic life event.
The Dreaded Dry Socket
I got progressively better for a couple of days. But then I got worse. I went back to the dentist and got diagnosed with the dreaded dry socket. The dentist proscribed more drugs and packed my mouth with a gauze infused with eugenol, an essence of clove oil. It made everything taste like the clove cigarettes my hippie friends used to smoke in college, but it did help soothe the pain. Unfortunately, you can’t use the clove-infused gauze forever, as it interferes with long-term healing. Nor can you keep taking narcotics, since they are (by definition) habit-forming. So that left me with over-the-counter painkillers and a lot of patience and time.
Everyone told me that getting my wisdom teeth out would be easier when I was younger, before they got too big and too attached to the jaw bone. In the foolishness of my youth, I believed I was the exception. I figured I was in the 10% of the population that can keep their wisdom teeth. But of course, I am human, and subject to all the ups and downs thereof. As I write this, I’m still in some amount of pain, but I know that things will be alright in the end.
Have you had your wisdom teeth removed? What was your experience? Let me know in the comments.