Wisdom Teeth Memories

As a child, I used to share the same fears many other people had of visiting the dentist. I don’t quite know why I was afraid. Maybe it was the sound of the drill – a more sinister sound I have yet to hear. Maybe it’s the scary sight of all the sharp and pointy things that are stored so neatly beside the dentist’s chair – instruments of torture, your friends would have you believe. Indeed, it’s possible that the biggest source of my fears back then were my very imaginative and not very helpful friends.

All those fears disappeared when I was 14 years old – that’s when I started wearing braces.

I have a relatively small jaw, which means all my teeth were bunched up together. The dentist (or dental surgeon, however you prefer to call them) decided that I needed to have 4 (that’s FOUR) teeth removed in order to make space for my teeth to be straightened out. I’m fairly certain that before my first tooth extraction, I was a nervous wreck. By the time the fourth was removed, I was an old hand at it. One tooth was embedded in the gums, and required some fairly nasty twisting and turning. In return I ended up with a fever and 2-days medical leave. (It also provided the backdrop for a certain drama that took place in school later, but that’s another blog post.)

After two years of constant dental attention, I finally emerged with a slighly straighter set of chompers. And after that entire experience, you’ll forgive me if I wasn’t entirely keen on going back anywhere near a dentist’s chair for a while.

As it turned out, I stayed away for nearly a decade (with the minor exception of a quick check-up just before I left for university in the UK).

About two years ago, I started experiencing a slight discomfort while eating. It became pretty obvious quickly enough that a troublesome tooth could very well be the, err, ‘root’ of the problem.

I couldn’t avoid the issue for too long, so I finally made that long-delayed visit to the dentist. Within seconds of his examining my teeth, he announced that not one, but TWO wisdom teeth needed to be extracted – and soon.

Yikes. And there I was expecting maybe a filling or something.

The problem was this: one wisdom tooth (upper right) was pushing another tooth out towards the cheek, and this could cause cuts and therefore possible infection on the inside of my mouth. The other wisdom tooth (lower left) was actually an impacted wisdom tooth, which means it was basically embedded in the gums and can’t get out. The dangers posed by an impacted wisdom tooth (and that was the one causing my discomfort) meant that that would be the one to be extracted first.

The appointment was fixed for a later date. At the appointed hour of my doom, the dentist first injected a local anaesthetic, and after I lost all feeling in that section of my mouth, he proceeded to cut open the gum and pull out the unyielding tooth. (I say pull out, like it was as easy as rooting out weeds, but it was more like yanking, twisting, shaking, and a whole lot of violence in between.) It was a big one – and in fact, he had to basically chip the tooth into two pieces to allow for an ‘easier’ extraction.

Of course, I didn’t feel any pain during the actual extraction. I was given some antibiotics, painkillers and some gauze before I left. About two hours later, I felt the full force of the ungodly pain.

It was undescribable. I could try to lie to you and say it might be similar to childbirth, but I wouldn’t know how that must feel, so I’ll just say it was the worst pain ever. Ever. Worse than getting hit in the nuts. Repeatedly. With a hammer. The sharp end of a hammer.

The problem with the tooth extraction was that it was on the lower jaw – where the saliva pools, where your food and drink eventually settle thanks to gravity. The constant irritiation just amplifies the pain so much, that well, I pretty much used up the all painkillers by the third day. I resorted to topping up my painkilling battles with a lot of Panadol – a poor substitute, really, for Ponstan.

Fortunately, I was given more Ponstan during my follow-up check-up. The pain was still there, and it pretty much lasted for an entire two weeks, before it gradually changed to soreness, then mild discomfort, then… nothing. I was also reduced to eating nothing more than porridge for much of the time. Can you imagine that – porridge and soup and water for nearly two weeks? Tough days.

Eventually, after the hole in my gums closed up and healed, I had to return to the dentist to extract the second wisdom tooth. Luckily for me, this one was neither impacted nor situated on the lower jaw.

The extraction was again painless, but this time, the recovery was even more so. To this day, I marvel at how painless the whole process was. I had porridge that evening, but that was just precaution on my part. I was back to eating solid foods without the slightest pain the very next day. I took the prescribed antibiotics as ordered, but never bothered with the painkillers.

Now, I was to eventually return to the dentist for scaling and other such mundane dental matters, but seeing how that everytime I went there I ended up with a wisdom tooth pulled out, it shouldn’t surprise you if I tell you that I ‘forgot’ to return for another two years.

Until today, that is.

Just a few hours ago, I was back in that very same dentist’s chair. It was for a check-up. After about 10 seconds, the dentist announced he had to, you guessed it, extract another wisdom tooth. This one was quite badly decayed, and had no hope for recovery. It was located way back on the upper left jaw, which was why it was neglected ‘cos no way those regular toothbrushes could have ever reached that far back. It had to go – and to my shock, it was going to go right there and then.

Ten minutes later, the tooth was out. It was, as the doctor said, badly decayed. But it was a big one – a whopper. Again, the extraction was painless. The dental assistant stuffed my mouth with gauze, told me to bite hard and swallow my saliva. More painkillers and antibiotics have been prescribed. A grand total of RM120 was charged, a future appointment was made for scaling, and now here I am waiting for some feeling to come back into my cheeks.

My left cheek is slightly swollen. When I was walking back from the dental clinic, a few people glanced at me and hurriedly looked away. I can’t blame them – I look as if I have mumps.

OK, I’m starting to feel a little sore now. I just hope this is gonna be a repeat of the last wisdom tooth extraction’s recovery and not the first. I don’t think I’ll be able to handle a repeat of the first.

Nevertheless, I think I’m going to be having porridge again tonight. Maybe a comprehensive Liverpool victory tonight will put me in a better mood….

Later, amigos.


10 thoughts on “Wisdom Teeth Memories”

  1. hey,
    which dentist is that? if i need to take mine out (touch wood!), I’ll need a good doctor who could minimise my suffering! I have really really low tolerance level for pain. please send your reply to my email add. cheers. wy

  2. Well… I hope you didn’t open your mouth too big when you screamed at Crouch’s second goal…

    SASHI: I did at the first goal – own goal or not, it was enough to give him some confidence. Maybe that’s why the second one went in. 😉

  3. from a dentist’s point of view..

    doing extractions is day-in day-out affair (especially if it’s in a government clinic).. quite a bore actually. doing surgical extractions of the lower wisdoms is almost the opposite, especially when u get a horizontal impaction (the tooth is totally embedded and lying on its side). opening up n access by raising a flap (cutting the gums and pushing it a side for easier visual n removal) and quite likely removing a wee bit of bone would be needed to get the tooth out.

    of course it would be one under local anaesthetic or LA (general anaesthetic is possible.. but then please don’t be a weeny)

    pain is sumthing that has to be dealt wif, either thru medication or true will (tho easier said then done). basically after surgical removal expect 2-3 days (sumtimes a week or two) of lingering pain (decreasing thank god) and some swelling n trismus (trismus: difficulty on mouth opening).

    funny thing is, men have a very low tolerance to pain compared to women (when u think about it, probably that is one of the reason men do not give birth!). pain does not only come from bodily sensation but also the mind.

    usually a cartridge of LA is enough, half would go to the long buccal nerve (the one at outer side of the gums) to numb the outer gums and half would go to the posterior of the wisdom (to affect the infradental nerves, numbing the relevant half of the lower jaw along with half the tongue and half of the lower lip).

    please note that every person is different, so there’s a variation of the person’s anatomy (the nerves might be located slightly differently, or might be innervated by other nerves as well, etc.) so sometimes a single cartridge might not be enough. technically 4 cartridges is the maximum, i usually stop after 3.

    presence of pus also affects the effectiveness of the LA (at least theoretically). the pH of pus would sort of deactivate the active ingredients in the LA.

    after u haf felt the numbness of the lips, gums, and tongue, ur good to go. there shouldn’t be any more pain, period.

    the dentist could poke u everywhere on the numbed site wif the sharp dental probe and u’d still be watching liverpool play intently (not my cup of tea, i’m a man u fan).

    if u still feel pain when the guy (or gal) poke-d u, then i believe that u might haf a mentally low tolerance to pain. a dentist may only try to calm ur nerves but it is the only medicine for this is the person’s own willpower.

    note, after all of the above bullshit, even i as a dentist fear dentists (especially when i myself think of the guys n gals like me who live for the thrill of cutting, drilling, suturing and giving people ‘good pain’) 🙂

    p/s: please keep a good oral hygiene (by brushing teeth & gums 3 times a day wif a soft toothbrush and a pea sized toothpaste, floss and haf regular visits to the dentist at least 6 mthly)

    do not neglect cavities, plaque.. as they are the most common reasons for tooth loss.

    pulling out unnecessary teeth (because of decay) wif the intent on replacing it wif false teeth, bridges, implants is a misconception. having these prostheses does not replace the true function of God-given teeth. in other words, keep the originals.

    losing teeth before due (teeth should last even when ur corpse has been turned into dust, see mummies) has only the owners to blame (except for impacted wisdoms, u don’t actually need them).

    another thing, for those wif diabetes & heart diseases, please be extra vigilant on ur oral hygiene. diabetics are prone to haf mobile teeth as the gums deteriorate if poor oral hygiene and people wif heart diseases may be at risk to heart inflammation/bacterial infection during extractions or any procedures which may cause bleeding.

    if u haf to extract, please take the needed medicines (only applies to people wif diabetes, heart ailments, hypertensives, etc.) and haf ur breakfast.

    wow, whut a damn long bullshitting 🙂

  4. good thing my wisdom incisors decided to behave and grow up straight. however, odds are they won’t be cleaned properly and will end up rotting anyway. i’ll just wait.

  5. pickyin:

    wisdom teeth are called third molars.. incisors are the front chompers or ‘gigi kacip’

    please don’t neglect them since u were gifted wif perfectly erupted n aligned wisdom teeth 😉

  6. Would you believe that after I set my appointment to extract my wisdom teeth, my dentist got killed in a mugging? Six months on, I’ve not found another dentist and I dunno when I’ll ever get off my butt to start looking for another one. Anyway, thanks for sharing man, and reminding me to get my wisdom teeth out before it turns so bad that it will cause me great pain…

  7. I don’t trust dentist. Period.

    All right maybe I trust them about as far as I could ejaculate.

    Geez no wonder my teeth’s a wreck.

  8. My dentist is evil. While he was injecting local anasthetic into my gum, his phone rang. Did he ask them to call back later? Noooo…he spoke with them for 10 minutes or so (felt more like 5 hours) – leaving the damn syringe in my mouth. Trying to keep your jaw open, swallow saliva at the same time and knowing a fat-arsed needle is stuck in your gum is not fun. At. All. Don’t try it at home, kids.

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