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….