Four impacted wisdom teeth.
The phrase is exceedingly frightening to nearly anyone, and that’s not just because it’s a sentence fragment. When I heard these words come from my hygienist, dentist, and finally oral surgeon, I nearly cried. And I mean that. I almost cried every time it was discussed.
All this fear probably stemmed from the horror stories I had heard from my friends, family, and random people on the internet. If some big burly guy on the internet said it hurt, how in the world would I survive the pain? I’m a weakling who still holds my mom’s hand when I get a shot.
So you can imagine what I was picturing: my face swollen up like a balloon, nerves screaming at the pain shooting down my jaw, not able to take any medicine because it was too strong for my stomach. Not to mention the horrible embarrassment of whatever I said right after the surgery. What I was not picturing was exactly what happened.
What I must say to begin is what I read several times during my fear-induced research sessions. “No experience is typical; blah blah blah, everyone has different levels of pain, etc. etc. etc., everyone is different.” You get it. That’s my disclaimer.
But I would also like to offer some hope, because my experience was not as bad as I had worried.
I woke up around 10:30 am for my 11:00 appointment. I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since late last night, so I just put on some comfortable clothes and brushed my teeth without letting myself swallow any water. The surgeon said not to eat/drink anything for at least 12 hours before the surgery, so I went for at least 13 or 14. I wanted to play things safe considering my anxiety level.
When I got to the office, I was extremely snarky and rude to the people working (which I feel so so so incredibly bad about) as I filled out a form. After just a few minutes, I was led to a room where I was sure my death would take place. I didn’t let myself look at the torture tools sitting on the counters mere feet away from me. At this point, I was already crying. I have absolutely no chill.
A nurse/hygienist told me she was there to help me “calm down” before the surgery – they knew before the date that I was SUPER nervous – and she put a mask on my face so I would breath in some nitrous oxide gas. She took off my shoes and wrapped me in a blanket, then just chatted and told me jokes for about a half hour.
After that time, the doctor came walking in with another nurse or two. He asked me if the gas was taking effect (it was most certainly not, as I was still more stressed than ever) and began to prep my arm for the IV. As he could see my spastic reaction to the needle about to be placed in my arm, he asked me about school and made jokes to help me chill (never happened).
Doctor: did you hear about the English major in Star Wars?
Doctor: yeah, they don’t have jobs in the future either.
Me: *laughs but also continues to die inside*
Once the cursed needle was plunged deep into my flesh and medicine flowed amongst the blood of my veins, it was smooth sailing. They pumped a bunch of medicine in me and I don’t remember counting backward or anything. I was just gone. The surgery happened (I mean, supposedly it happened… I couldn’t tell you because I was out cold), and the next thing I knew the nurse was taking the needle out of my arm and placing a band-aid and cotton ball over the little dot of blood.
I’ve seen several videos of people relaxing in the chairs for a while after their surgeries, but for some reason that didn’t happen. The nurse (the sweet, sweet nurse, who handled my obnoxious self with such mercy) helped me up and into my shoes. I went out to a bigger area and sat down in chairs between my parents. She explained all the stuff we needed to know about the recovery.
At one point, my mom asked if I knew what she was saying, to which the nurse replied that I wouldn’t remember any of this exchange, and would probably be loopy. At the time, I was pretty irritated because I felt mentally capable, but I felt too drowsy to respond. My parents basically had to drag me out of the place and into the car.
Once home, I just wanted to sleep, listen to One Direction music, and watch Criminal Minds. Sadly, I didn’t do anything too crazy, and I have no memory loss of the event. My friends were looking forward to lots of videos of me saying bizarre things, but I didn’t talk much, just mumbled about various things I wanted (i.e., to turn up the volume on the TV because Dr. Reid was talking). I did send one slightly loopy video to my friends showing them that I was okay and listening to One Direction.
The days following the surgery were nowhere near as bad as described by my friends. That first day was no problem once my mouth stopped bleeding. I immediately ate some mashed potatoes because I hadn’t eaten in probably 16 hours. I drank a little water, but it was super awkward. My mom gave me an ice pack for my jaw and I took some medicine as a preventative measure.
I had gotten a prescription for the liquid version of Norco because I was worried about swallowing pills with a swollen mouth. I would highly suggest this because not only is it easy to swallow, but also allows you to control your dosage. I never took a full dose (I only took the medication three times), which meant less stressing about getting sick from the meds.
Because I didn’t get sick, I never got trapped in that pain-sickness-pain-sickness-pain cycle. But the thing was, the pain was completely manageable. My mouth was a little sore right after waking up on the third and fourth days after my surgery (even though I slept with my head raised, as you should) but it was nothing a little children’s motrin didn’t solve.
I did struggle to brush my teeth, and ended up having to use a plastic water syringe in addition to a salt-water rinse to clean my gum sockets. While the stitches healed, there was an awful taste in my mouth. After they finally came out, I continued to use the syringe for a couple weeks to keep the sockets clean and free from infection.
Basically, the whole ordeal was not so much of an ordeal. In fact, it was quite simple despite some discomfort. I wouldn’t just willingly go through it again, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as everyone told me it would be.
If you’re worried about your wisdom teeth, go ahead and worry. But know that it may not be as terrorizing as you think.