Monday, October 26, 2009

Wisdom Teeth

Powdergirl's post about her recent dental misadventures reminded me: I've never told you guys about the time I got my wisdom teeth removed.

I was 21 years old, still living with my parents. Sitting in front of the TV one night, snacking on pretzels, I noticed that my teeth felt funny. Off to the dentist we went, and sure enough I had all four wisdom teeth on the advance. A date was set to have them extracted.

I fretted. I worried. I felt jealous of my friend Marcus- my 6'3" friend with the enormous jaw, who was able to let all of his wisdom teeth grow in and take their place as honoured participants in his mouth. I didn't want to face the surgery.

Be careful what you wish for. Two days before my appointment, I got a call from the oral surgeon's assistant. His father had died, so he was taking a week off. My surgery date was postponed.

By that time one of the teeth had become impacted. I was in pain. I ran a fever. I had to go on antibiotics. I was 21 years old and I was teething. It was increasingly uncomfortable. I counted down the hours to the surgery. Trust me, by the time the day came, no one could have kept me away from that appointment.

So there I was, a willing participant, lying back in the chair, sucking back big lungfuls of happy gas. I have vague memories of nasty things happening in my mouth, but I was so high at the time that I didn't care. The oral surgeon finished his work, packed my mouth full of gauze, and I was good to go.

I don't remember the next part very well, so I'll re-tell it from the point of view of my ex, who had come to help my mom deal with me after the procedure.

The scene: The surgeon's office is in a high-rise attached to a shopping mall. My mom had gone to get her car. It was my ex's job to steer me through the mall to the side exit where my mom would be waiting.

My ex is a big man, 6 feet tall, and, at the time, 200 pounds, all muscle. Not to mention he's black, in a neighbourhood where, at the time, almost everyone was white. He's usually as mild-mannered as a teddy bear, but you wouldn't know it to look at him. After a certain time of night cabbies, even the non-white ones, won't stop to pick him up.

So first of all they bring him into the recovery area, and there I am, high as a kite, chatty as can be, telling him all about the surgery and what it was like for me. Except my mouth is stuffed completely full of gauze. So I'm like Mwah mwah nhah uh uh uh! and gesticulating expressively, rolling my eyes and whatnot, and he's taking in exactly how blasted I am.

They get me up onto my feet. My ex has me by the elbows and guides me into the mall. Bear in mind what passersby are seeing here. A huge, scary-looking black guy, dressed all in black, is manhandling a tiny little white girl, limbs skinny as matchsticks, who's totally drugged out of her mind, and he's taking her... where? And what is that? Is that blood dripping down her chin?

Every few steps he hisses into my ear: "Keep your chin up! Chin up!" But I'm still floating in a cloud of nitrous. I can't remember what's happening, and my head is so heavy. Every few steps I start looking down at my feet again, and gory drool drips from my lower lip. He looks around nervously. Someone's probably called security. Surely half-a-dozen cops will come running any second now, surround us, take him down, cuff his hands behind his back.

Miraculously, we make it to the exit and into my mum's car without being confronted by the authorities. I'm free to lie down at home and swap my nitrous high for a bottle full of painkillers.

It wasn't quite a happy ending. I developed a dry socket, "characterized by severe pain following a tooth extraction". (If you're squeamish, don't click on the link.) I got to the bottom of that bottle of painkillers, and realized that after the last one wore off, I would have to throw myself out a very high window. I had never experienced such relentless, all-consuming pain before.

I paid one more visit to my oral surgeon, who tut-tutted, and then packed the painful spot with a tiny square of cotten soaked in oil of clove. The pain dissipated within minutes. It was an incredible relief. I also thought it was really cool that he was using a hundreds-of-years-old low-tech remedy even though we were surrounded by all the electric and pharmaceutical wizardry of the 20th century.

That night I ate spaghetti with meat sauce, flavoured strongly with the oil of clove leaching out of the little cotton dressing at the back of my mouth. I didn't care. It tasted like healing.


Jenski said...

Blech - I got to have all mine out before they started coming in. I will count myself lucky!

Kate said...

Haha! I had two out just after high school, after which, I remember lying on my mom and dad's bed watching South Pacific on Public Television while my mother ironed. Another one when I was in my 20s and I insisted - in my higher than a kite mentality - that my mother take me shopping. I remember stopping mid stride after about an hour and saying, "I'm done. I have to go home." Poor mom. she could hardly get me back to the car. Funny. She wouldn't take me shopping after I got my gallbladder out...

Anonymous said...

Is it bad for me to gloat about being born without wisdom teeth? It's probably bad, huh?

Yeah. Probably. Instead I'll tell you this was a fine bit of storytelling. Poor ex. :)

Warped Mind of Ron said...

LOL... well other than the pain part. I have yet to have a wisdom tooth removed.

powdergirl said...

I only ever grew one wisdom tooth, it was tiny and popped out easy.

My BF had all four of her thumb sized W teeth out at once. Yikes! I picked her up at the surgery and ended up stayiing with her for 3 days while she said things like "look at all the tiny lil' animals", and " I can drive.."

God, your poor ex, what a tricky thing to live with.

We have all of maybe 5 black people in our little town, waiting for my kid to finish his martial arts class tonight I sat reading a book in a T. Ho's. Couple sits next to me and starts chatting, He's black, he asks what I'm reading, "Book of Negros" it was awkward, I had to explain a bit of the book and I'm not that far in to it, while appearing unaware that I was speaking to one of the very few Black people in our area. The woman looked appalled too, Jesus, I wasn't reading White Pride...I need to move somewhere a tad more cosmopolitan.

Used that same old dry socket remedy on my BF, too : )

wigsf said...

Due to countless retainers, braces and wisdom tooth extraction, I've learned to chew using as few teeth as possible.

SoMi's Nilsa said...

I just want to know why they're called Wisdom Teeth. Clearly, they're not wise if we get rid of them. Or maybe it's that we're dumb for extracting them? Hmmm...

Sparkling Red said...

Jenski: Yes, you were lucky. That's better than a visit from the tooth fairy. ;-)

Kate: You went shopping? That's priceless. I'm surprised I didn't get the same idea, considering I was walking (or being walked) through a mall at the time.

darcknyt: Thanks! Go ahead and gloat. A little gloating is healthy every now and then. :-)

Ron: Really? Aren't you the lucky duck.

Powdergirl: My husband had to have all four of his wisdom teeth broken while they were still in his jaw, and then the pieces were extracted one at a time. He woke up partway through the procedure with the oral surgeon's knee on his chest (for leverage). At that moment, under the influence of the drugs, he threatened to kill the surgeon, so after the procedure all the staff left the office before he woke up. Crazy!

It's very weird tiptoeing around race issues. Because I grew up Jewish in a WASP area, I always ended hanging out with the other kids who didn't belong; who were half-black or half-asian (technically my ex was half black, half white, although he looked "black" to most people). My friends called themselves "brown" and didn't identify fully with any one group. We didn't talk about it much.

wigsf: That'll come in handy in your old age. ;-)

Nilsa: Whoever named wisdom teeth must have been using irony.

LL Cool Joe said...

I'm more interested in hearing about your ex than your teeth. Is that wrong of me?

DarcsFalcon said...

Oh you poor thing! That's a great story though!

Scarlet said...

What a story! OMG! I love the part where you're walking with your ex in the mall with blood dripping down your chin...the way you tell it, that is. :)

Aren't you glad they're out?? I had mine taken out when I was 21, too! It was the day before Thanksgiving and I was back to normal within a few hours (except for the swelling). I had a fanastic meal the next I was happy!

Sparkling Red said...

LL Cool Joe: It's understandable. He's a very interesting fellow. We got back in touch a few years after I moved out, and now we're at least marginally friends, which is nice, since we spent 12 years together including all of high school. It's good to be able to play "remember when?" with someone who was there.

DarcsFalcon: Thanks! Almost any amount of suffering is worth a great story. ;-)

Scarlet: You ate a Thanksgiving dinner the next day? Without running it all through a blender? Wow, you're a toughie. I was eating mush for a week.

G said...

I think I'm fortunate in that I still got all my wisdom teeth.

Did have a couple broken/impacted molars takent out a few years ago though.

Adventures in tolerance of pain.