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Three’s A Crowd: A Wisdom Tooth Removal Experience

Before

I had a miserable experience getting my first wisdom tooth out; it was an emergency procedure that I had to do in February 2021 because I was in so much pain. I couldn’t close my mouth for days and I couldn’t eat anything but vegetable broth and soup for a week. Since then, the pain from my remaining wisdom teeth would crop up on occasion, but I was determined to avoid another procedure for as long as possible. This original procedure was done at a traditional dentist office without sedation, so when it became necessary that I schedule an appointment for the rest of my wisdom teeth to be extracted, I made sure to schedule it with an oral surgeon.

6:20am: I wake up early so I can eat today. Because my appointment is in the afternoon and I’m undergoing sedation, I can’t eat or drink for eight hours prior to the surgery. I’m not hungry but I take my time eating a bowl of oatmeal because I know it’s my only opportunity to eat until at least the evening. I also drink a few glasses of water.

9:00am: I wake up again after having a dream about my wisdom teeth removal. My anxieties about the procedure have seeped into my dreams, and now I have at least four a week where I am either bleeding out or unable to eat. In this particular dream, they tell me that I ate too late and now the sedation won’t work, so I have to undergo the entire procedure awake.

11:00am: I’ve spent the morning showering, working on my final essay for class, and trying to find anything to distract me from how hungry I’m becoming. A headache is probing my right temple. I am attempting to suppress my concerns about sedation (What if it doesn’t work? What if I do something embarrassing when I’m awake? I don’t need my pitfalls to be immortalized on my parents’ cellphones for the rest of my life. What if they give me too much and it kills me?), though I am surprisingly good at forgetting that I’m about to get my gums cut into and three teeth pulled out of my jaw. The past weeks of hearing horror stories from my friends, coworkers, and acquaintances have filled me with a constant sense of dread but now that I’m preparing to go in, I just want the procedure to be over already.

2:00pm: My mother and I leave the house early because we have to pick up soup from the store. After my last wisdom tooth removal experience, I wanted to be sure there was something I could eat after the procedure. We arrived at the office 20 minutes early, per requested, because my appointment was at 3:10pm. While I’m shaking from anxiety in the waiting room chairs, a man walks outside with his son’s arm slung over his shoulders. The young man is in the middle of a laughing fit, eliciting a smile from most of us in the waiting room.

3:20pm: They call me to the back room and the hygienist makes a comment about how I get the most comfortable chair in the building. They have me take out my claw clip because I’ll be laying my head back (when I do this, I’m surprised to feel a hole in the back of my headrest). She makes me sign paperwork outlining all the risks of the procedure and anesthetic: permanent nerve damage, stroke, seizures—mild issues I hadn’t considered until I had to brandish the sheet with my shaky signature. She attaches a blood pressure monitor to my left arm and doesn’t warn me that it will repeatedly check my blood pressure every five minutes. The hygenist took the nail polish off my right thumb for a reason I didn’t hear then and don’t remember now.

The doctor entered the room a few minutes later and debriefed me on the procedure. He gave me laughing gas first and a few minutes later, let me know he was putting the I.V. in my arm. I was ready to count backward from ten, but then he saw my bracelet and asked about it, which I told him I had a matching set with my boyfriend. He proceeded to ask me questions (When did you get together? Is he here? Where does he work? Where does he live? Will he be moving to Ann Arbor with you next year?). I was aware that my words were getting farther and farther apart; it became an exercise to remember what I was going to say. I don’t remember at what point I went unconcious.

After

4:31pm: I remember crying a lot. I’m vaguely aware of watching them finish the procedure and remove my last tooth, though my vision was blurry because they had removed my glasses. I don’t know if I stayed awake from this point onwards or if they gave me more anesthesia. I remember wanting chapstick and not being able to move my arms to apply it. I checked my phone for the first time when they had removed my I.V. and my mouth was full of gauze. I remember being in pain and taking ibuprofen very slowly. My entire body tingled and it was a challenge to move my arms. I was handed a variety of bags and paperwork, which I dropped promptly upon leaving the room. Two hygienists helped me to a chair in a hallway I didn’t remember seeing when I first entered, and one left to fetch my mother. I am told that while we waited for the sedation to wear off more, I checked my phone approximately twelve times within three minutes, trying to see how much time had passed. I asked to see my wisdom teeth and I remember being disappointed when they told me that they’d already thrown them away

7:00pm: I was surprised by my ability to talk not long after I arrived home from the surgery. After about two hours, I’d gotten irritated with the gauze filling my cheeks and stopped using it. I made myself my first meal of the day—a can of Campbell’s broccoli cheese soup—which I finished in time to take my first Hydrocodone/Acetaminophen pill. found out later that I was only supposed to be taking half a pill every time I did take one, which explained why I was wearing into my twelve-pill-prescription so quickly.

The next day I went shopping with my mother, incredibly thankful that my mask managed to hide my protruding cheeks. While she drove us around, I iced my face. The swelling is supposed to peak at 48 hours, which I look forward to only so that I can stop alternating between hot and cold packs. I think I could handle the pain, but the swelling is uncomfortable. I can see my cheeks in my peripheral, I can’t sleep on my side or my stomach, I can’t open my mouth wider than what’s required to take a few drinks of water, I can’t smile, frown, or emote. Both nights I’ve slept, I’ve woken up from pain shooting through my jaw and completely unable to get back to sleep because of the uncomfortable position I have to contort myself into. By Sunday, I’m exhausted.

A week later, I still don’t feel as though I’ve completely healed, but my swelling is down and the only actual sign of the procedure are the fading yellow bruises on my cheeks and my inability to open my jaw completely.

Anna is a student at the University of Michigan pursuing a dual-degree in English and Creative Writing and Literature with a minor in Polish Language, Literature, and Culture. She is the Editor-in-Chief for the Her Campus UMich chapter.
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