As I see it, if there is any wisdom related to wisdom teeth is to be wise enough to have them pulled while you are young. From what I’ve read most people have impacted or decaying wisdom teeth removed in their teenage years and early twenties. If you have passed those marks, let’s hope that you don’t wait until you reach middle-age or beyond to get those 3rd molars extracted.
Take it from someone who knows. I thought I had all of my wisdom teeth removed decades ago. When low and behold my dentist tells me that I have one remaining and it needs to come out.
“After each exam, you tell me that I have a mouthful of beautiful, perfectly good teeth,” I said to him. “You do,” he replied, “except for that remaining wisdom tooth. It now has a cavity.” “Can’t you just fill it?” I asked anxiously. He responded, “The cavity extends below the gum level. Better to have that tooth pulled now, then for me to fill it and you have more trouble with it later on.” For two months I resisted until I finally relented and said okay, “Let’s do this.”
I’ve been going to the same dental office for nearly 25 years, and Dr. P has been my dentist during all of that time. He and his entire staff are wonderful people, and they all have an excellent bedside manner. If it were up to me, I’d vote theirs the best dental practice in the city. And judging from reviews I’ve read on Google their other patients feel the same way.
Last Friday was D day. The wisdom tooth is coming out. I am as anxious as a woman about to give birth to triplets on a crowded Metro train.
Dr. P doesn’t do extractions. He leaves that to Dr. M. While she and her assistant prepare me for the inevitable, the dentist and I engage in an active conversation about the various types of yoga, an exercise that we both enjoy. After the “prep-talk” (which I know is a distraction to calm my nerves), the actual process begins and lasts less than 10 minutes.
The procedure wasn’t bad because before injecting the general anesthesia Dr. M used a local anesthetic to numb the area of the soon to be removed tooth. I relaxed a bit feeling confident that like Dr. P, Dr. M knew her stuff. When she went to work, I didn’t feel the needle nor the pressure of the extraction. After yanking that baby out, Dr. M stitched the hole.
Since the wisdom teeth are in the rear of the mouth, unless you tell someone, no one but the patient and the dentist would know that you have missing teeth back there. Warning people: when anyone tells you that the aftermath is worse than the oral surgery, believe them.
Although I have a low threshold for pain, typically, I am not a pill popper, so I mindlessly refused a prescription for a painkiller. “You may need something after the numbness wears off and for the pain in the coming days,” Dr. M warned. No. Nada. I refused. The pain cannot be worse than recouping the $325 bill for the procedure. Or so I thought.
Let me tell you – when the numbness began to wear off I wanted to scream “Impeachment!” But Dr. M was not the person I had in mind.
The sheet detailing instructions for extraction post-operative care is pretty specific. During the first 24 hours, I faithfully follow the long list of dos and don’ts. Do drink plenty of water. Do not spit or drink through a straw. And although caffeine was listed along with no alcohol or smoking (I could live without those first two items, because I am not a drinker or a smoker.) but no coffee – now that is a problem. I confess, I brewed a cup of java but made sure to let it cool down to lukewarm before drinking it. No hot foods or liquids also meant that I had to let my chicken soup cool down almost to the temperature it was in the can before consuming it. About 3 hours after the extraction the pain begins to creep in.
Seeking relief, I swallow Ibuprofen. When that doesn’t work, I switch to Extra Strength Tylenol. A double dose soothes the beast for a little while, and when the pain demon rears its ugly head again. I do it again.
My appetite has waned for the past couple of days, but fortunately, for me, some of the foods that I enjoy are on the list of recommended things to eat following a tooth extraction. Applesauce. Ice cream (nothing chunky like Butter Pecan or Rocky Road). Broth-based soups. Jell-O. Smoothies. Mashed potatoes. Yogurt. Instant oatmeal.
It is now day three post-surgery. I awoke this morning feeling like tiny people wearing spiked shoes were tap dancing on my sensitive gum. My head ached. The lower left side of my face throbbed. I rolled over and grabbed my new best friend, Tylenol Extra Strength, from the nightstand. I crawled out of bed like a battle-wounded soldier, ate a banana, drank a protein drink and then popped two Tylenol ES capsules into my mouth. After a short while, whallah! I felt like I could conquer the world. Or if not that, I could achieve something less dramatic like writing a blog post which is long overdue. It’s been nearly seven hours since this morning’s dose of pain-killer, and it feels like the teeth-munchkins are putting on their spiked shoes and getting ready to dance again. But I’m prepared. My best friend is right here with me, besides the keyboard.
While searching for another solution to after-extraction pain, I discovered the following amusing and possibly prognostic quote about wisdom teeth. “It seems like everybody at one point in their life had wisdom teeth but got them pulled out. And later you find out that the teeth weren’t the only wisdom that’s been removed.” Author unknown.