Still Waiting for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Peace Corps Medical Journey Part II)

Peace Corps Morocco / Thursday, March 24th, 2016

I forgot to retrieve my teeth. Yes, the bottom teeth had to be crushed into little pieces in order to be removed. But the top ones came out whole. I should have asked if I could take them with me. It would be a long shot, for sure. But the Tooth Fairy could have paid me a visit and left $800 under my pillow.

Or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in my bed. I’m not picky.

At least I will have a nice bit of frequent flier miles saved up after these medical escapades, which will come in handy if I need to pay a visit home. But this story of loss isn’t meant to focus on my pocketbook. Rather, some beautiful bones that are a precious part of me. Those strong and sturdy wisdom teeth. They knew all . . . except how to grow in properly.

And so, if you’re like me and waited until you were in your twenties or beyond to remove those pesky things. If you would have been happy with The Wisdom residing in your mouth for the rest of your life then this story is for you.

I scheduled my appointment on a Monday.

This isn’t the best day of the week to get your wisdom teeth removed. However, it was schedule it for that Monday or wait another two weeks. I had deadlines to fulfill, so I made the choice to only take two days off. If I didn’t plan on using anesthesia, I certainly didn’t need more than two days to recover.

People thought I was crazy to do it awake. I felt like it was crazy to spend upwards of $400 extra just to take a little nap. I try not to get too preachy (that’s a lie), but if we’re being real, I think it’s easy to sleep away moments of our life that we’re afraid will be painful. For me, I hate that emotional pain. But bring on the physical, because it only hurts for a moment before becoming a dull memory! 

Seriously, unless you have major anxiety when it comes to doctors or dentists, I would suggest doing it awake. It’s an interesting surgery and it gives you some control and knowledge of the situation. And for those of you who just get anxiety of the unknown. Here’s a nice snippet of what to expect when you’re expected to get all four wisdom teeth out.

My Oral Surgeon (OS moving forward) was really great. I came into the office with one of my favorite meditation tracks for breathing so by the time he walked in, I was already feeling very calm. Nonetheless, he answered all of my questions and was certain to let me know the usual risks for wisdom teeth removal. (At this point, I was tempted to ask why we insist on removing the things when the risks associated seem to outweigh the benefits). For me, the biggest risk involved was the crown that sat adjacent to my impacted tooth. Those things cost about $250 to replace, so it was a pretty expensive risk in my book. Thankfully, when the time came, my OS took extra care to ensure it was not knocked off.

After going over the risks with me, he shot up my face with Novocaine. It was eight shots. If you can get through this part, you can make it through the surgery. It takes all of four minutes to do it all and some of the shots instantly make your face tingle. For me, I felt as if some of the liquid from the shots was sprayed on my lips and gums. And a few minutes after he finished, my heart began racing like crazy. I had to do some slow and deep breathing to calm my anxious body down. After my OS finished with the shots, he left for fifteen minutes to ensure that they took hold.

I should probably point out that my OS had an assistant. It’s pretty cool to watch them work together because my OS would whisper a word and the assistant would get him the right tool in seconds. It was a sweet dance.

Before they dived into slicing my mouth open, my OS let me know that at any time I could tell him to stop and he would. And then it began. He worked fast and got my first tooth out within two minutes. At this point, I was still in eyes closed mode. So I could feel the pressure of the instruments probing me, but it wasn’t painful. I knew the moment he pulled the tooth out. I looked up to see bloody tooth number one. It wasn’t nearly as big as I thought it would be.

I had assumed that he would have pulled out my second top tooth, since those were the easy ones. Instead, he went right for my bottom impacted tooth. This one took a little longer. He warned me that it would be difficult. It took my OS around ten minutes to get through this tooth. Again, I could tell that he was cutting into me and I could hear as he was cutting into the tooth as he tried to extract it. However, it wasn’t painful at all. Just this weird pressure that I don’t quite have a word for. This tooth was out within ten minutes. Then he took some string and sewed up the wound before putting some gauze on my right side. The stitches fall out on their own after a few days. After this, he made quick work of the third tooth on top, before telling me to brace myself for the problem child. My impacted tooth was pressed right up against my very expensive crown. I told him to feel free to take as much time as possible.

Well, I kind of mumbled it. My mouth was slightly preoccupied with getting sliced into.

I will admit that there was some brief pain for the last tooth as my OS carved it out. It wasn’t pass-out pain — maybe that feeling of when you unexpectedly scratch yourself on a sharp corner. I think the angle that was used strayed slightly from the bounds of where I was numb. However, it didn’t hurt enough to warrant a shout-out. I barely even registered that the pain was there. Besides, by this point, I had become interested in seeing how my OS worked. Obviously, I couldn’t tell what was going on in my mouth. However, I could see the tools that were being passed to him and could guess as to what was happening according to the sound of the instruments and the pressure I felt in my mouth. I made a mental note to go on Youtube later and see if there were any videos that showcased Wisdom Teeth removal. (I’m smart enough to know that this is a task to do after, not before, you have your wisdom teeth removed). 

My OS worked a lot slower on the last tooth and I could tell that the angle he was using to cut it out wasn’t the simplest. Near the end, when there was a final piece of the tooth hidden near the root, he had me do a second X-Ray to ensure he could cut it out properly.

Finally, though, it was over. He sewed up the other side, added some gauze, and I was a Wisdomless Woman.

My OS had me wait another ten minutes in his office to ensure that bulk of the bleeding had stopped. Then he wrote me a prescription, gave me extra gauze for home, and told me some extra advice for home care.

From the time I sat down in the chair until I left was less than an hour – including the Novocaine setting in, the unexpected X-Ray, and waiting for the bleeding to stop after he was complete. I think my operation was a little longer because of that stubborn final tooth. And my surgery was a bit more difficult because of how impacted my bottom two teeth were. They were growing completely sideways. I say that because it’s really easy to feel a lot of anxiety surrounding Wisdom Teeth removal. And despite all the horror stories you hear, I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as people make it out to be.

I’m on day three of recovery. A snowstorm in Denver at the end of March (I’m looking forward to our April Snowstorm) closed all the schools and gave me the third day to recuperate.

The pain wasn’t terrible, mostly annoying. And it was persistent enough that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do the first day, which was nap the first three hours off. I took my prescribed hydrocodine twice. Both times I had a terrible headache, so I decided to switch to Advil. The Advil did the job better and helped with some of the swelling. Again, the aftereffects were more of an inconvenience to my life than a debilitating pain that had me writhing on the floor.  To be honest, I was more pained over the fact that for the first two days my mouth would only open wide enough to stick a spoon in it. Not to mention, I finally saw what I would look like with a square jaw. Not pretty. But if I had to pick the worst part about removing my wisdom teeth (other than the bill), it was the fact that I forgot about my leftover lamb curry in the fridge and I don’t know how long it will be until I can chew some delicious lamb.

So, don’t fear losing those teeth. The Wisdom stays and the pain is only temporary. And if you happen to see the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson flying around, let him know that he owes me some money.

What was it like when you had your widsom teeth removed?

Medical Costs (Thus Far):
First Dentist Exam: $19
Wisdom Teeth Consultation: $10
Initial Doctor’s Appointment: After insurance, $116 – I’m going to have to ensure she codes my next appointment as my yearly check-up
Medical Labs: Insurance, Final Price TBD
Wisdom Teeth Extraction, localized: estimated price $802
Wisdom Teeth Medication: $7

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