dentist

I Got My Wisdom Teeth Out (Again)

Fun fact about me: I have wonky teeth.

I wore braces throughout most of high school, and then after getting them off, I had one tooth go so rogue that I had to put them back on for a year in college.

When I was about 15 years old, I went in to get my wisdom teeth removed. While I had four, the dentist decided it was best to only remove the bottom two, because they were drilling a hole in the roof of my mouth to pull one of my teeth down from somewhere I can only describe as oblivion. (That’s another story.)

At the time, I can imagine they thought they were saving me from total mouth trauma, but I kind of wish they would have just gone for it. If they had, maybe I wouldn’t have found myself back at the dentist, almost 15 years later, hearing that my top two wisdom teeth were coming in (sideways, I might add) and that I needed to get them removed as soon as possible.

Sitting in the chair before the surgery this past Tuesday, I was nervous, but trying my best to look calm. I clutched onto my sweatshirt, which I’d been required to take off so they could put a blood pressure monitor on one arm and an IV in the other. The nurse told me I could keep the sweatshirt on my lap, so that after I woke up I could slip it right back on.

“Okay,” I said, trying my best to sound nonchalant. She seemed convinced, that is until she put a heart rate monitor on my pointer finger and it alerted the entire room that my pulse was over 100. Still, I took some deep breaths and tried to smile.

WHAT IF I DIE IN THIS CHAIR? my darkest fears wondered.

“Yes, I had a good holiday,” I said aloud to the nurse.

The doctor then told me he was going to give me the medicine that would put me to sleep, and that I would probably feel lightheaded and a little groggy. I nodded, blinked a few times at the bright light above me, and then looked down at my watch, curious how close we were to the 1:30 p.m. start time, so I could see how long the surgery took to finish. My fingers fumbled with my watch a few times, but when I was finally able to read it, I saw the time said 2:20 p.m.

I also noticed I was now in a wheelchair.

And my sweatshirt was back on.

And my mom was there.

Oh, so…I guess we’re done?

Speaking to her the day after my appointment, my mom said I looked calm, peaceful even. She said I wasn’t pale, and aside from the swollen cheeks and mounds of gauze in my mouth, my coloring and overall demeanor suggested that I was doing remarkably well.

On the drive home, we stopped at McDonald’s to get me a vanilla shake (and a spoon) so I could put something in my stomach before I started taking my medication. Going through the drive thru, I widely praised my mother’s sense of direction for choosing a McDonald’s so close to the pharmacy. I also gave her a recap of what had happened, most of which surrounded the mystery of how my sweatshirt was put back on without my noticing.

“Also,” I said, disappointed and full of sass, “I can’t believe the nurse didn’t go over the post-op instructions with me.” Because even high on laughing gas and pain medication, my priorities were rules.

“She did,” my mom said, “I think you were just distracted and you didn’t hear her.”

When we pulled into the parking lot at the pharmacy, I was holding my vanilla shake.

“I’ll be right back,” my mom said, and then I nodded, watched her walk inside, and then sat there, staring forward for about 10 minutes.

Now, I don’t remember seeing anyone else in that parking lot, but I can tell you that if someone saw me, sitting stiffly and staring unflinchingly, all while holding a vanilla shake in her left hand like a prisoner, I can imagine they probably kept walking, quickly.

While sitting there, I texted my sister: “I am out and alive and everything is moving in slow motion. Also I have a vanilla shake.” 

A summary in its purest form.

Shortly after, I arrived home, where my sister was waiting with ice packs, water, and Top Ramen. After a few hours, I asked if I looked swollen.

“Only a little,” she said, maybe truthfully, maybe kindly, but then she added, “When you first got home you were very swollen.” Which only brought new life to my vanilla clad serial killer persona in the pharmacy parking lot.

As of now, I am still a little swollen, and still eat a little bit like the squirrel I appear to be, but I am on the mend. I am spending my days mostly on the couch, watching murder documentaries and a series on YouTube where celebrities get interviewed while eating hot wings, and I spend my nights dreaming about crunchy foods and the ability to open my mouth past the halfway point. By this time next week, I imagine I will be back to nearly tip top shape, though I can’t say if I’ll ever figure out who put my sweatshirt back on.

I Went to the Dentist

So yeah, the fact that I had to include “go to the dentist” on my list of goals this year because it was the only way I was ever going to do it is a little embarrassing. But hey, it got me there, so oh well.

To be honest, when I walked in I felt like I’d forgotten how the whole thing worked. Did the cleaning come first? Or did they check for cavities first? At what point would a drill be involved in today’s visit?

Before I had time to sit in one of the waiting room chairs and try to recall the last time I’d been to the dentist—which ended up being so far back they had to search the archive files for my charts—they were calling me in.

“How are you feeling today, Kimberlee?” the woman asked as she walked me back.

I DON’T FLOSS,” said my guilty conscience.

“Fine,” said my mouth.

The woman sat me down in the chair and moved the levers up and down and back and up, until I was in position that was definitely less comfortable than before, especially now that I was looking up at a bright rectangular light that gave me flashbacks of the orthodontist.

Am I getting my braces off today?!

Nope. Maybe next time though. Come back in six weeks.

*walks back to the waiting room with a bag of dental party favors, a new set of wires that are nowhere near as inconspicuous as they promised, and a healthy dose of despair*

The woman clips a bib on me and leans me back even farther. For the briefest of moments I wonder if anyone has ever slid backwards out of the chair, but then she stacks some tools, gauze and whatever else she can fit onto my bibbed chest, and I realize that this countertop treatment must even out the gravity.

The doctor comes in and greets me and asks how I’ve been, even though we’ve never met, and I think she knows that, because she’s looking passed me at my chart, which shows it’s been a solid four seasons of Game of Thrones since the last time I was here. She takes a seat in her chair, next to me, her end table, and goes to work.

Recalling previous visits to the dentist, I wait for the terrifying metal tool she’s poking around my mouth with to make that sticking noise. The one that goes all metal detector at the beach when it finds a cavity—HERE’S ONE. AND HERE. AND HERE!

Much to my surprise however, nothing happens. My teeth are like a roll of knockoff scotch tape—they ain’t stickin’ to nothin’! Pride surges through me, and I picture them giving me an award for my superb brushing that protected my teeth all these years. But then the doctor leans back, slides her mask off and nods sympathetically.

“So it appears as though you have quite a few cavities, Kimberlee.”

Don’t you use my full name like you know me.

Apparently my teeth are “completely free of plaque” (#superbrusher) but my complete and utter lack of flossing caused there to be little cavities in between my teeth (#apparentlyflossingisforreal).

She then goes on to explain “the plan” as if my upcoming cavity intervention is as complicated as a corporate merger. I barely listen, only hearing every couple words as I wonder whether dentists are trained to sympathize with you, only to send you on your way and do a happy dance in the break room.

*dials phone*

“Honey, it’s me. Yes, I just had a patient with a good handful of cavities, go ahead and buy the boat!!”

I’ve now gone to two appointments to fill the aforementioned cavities. One of which left my mouth so numb I had to look in the mirror to put on chapstick. The other was so early in the morning I almost fell asleep, but I was so scared and vulnerable—what with the drills in my mouth and all—that I forced my eyes to stay as wide open as they can go which, picturing it now, was probably an incredibly scary sight for the dentist looking down at me.

So, some lessons learned here.

  • For real.
  • Go the dentist every year rather than every presidential term.

Hey, I’m learning.