How I Made The Best Out of My Wisdom Tooth Surgery

We have many milestones that we look forward to in life. Our 16th birthday, getting our driver’s license and becoming a full fledged adult at 21 are just a few. But getting your wisdom teeth out is definitely not one of them. If your dentist never told you what wisdom teeth are, then consider yourself lucky because you most likely don’t have any to worry about. However, the other 65% of the world isn’t so lucky. My mother was was fortunate to not have any wisdom teeth, so I guess it was only fair that I was born with all four of them.

Normally people try to remove their wisdom teeth between the ages of 16-25 after they’ve begun to develop and emerge. The reason why you can’t just leave them to grow in is because wisdom teeth usually grow in at odd angles. Sometimes they can grow in leaning sideways, which is when they’re called “impacted,” and that can be a really painful experience depending on the person. Scientists believe that since we have adapted over time to not need wisdom teeth, our mouth’s are not large enough to accommodate them. So if you let them just grow in you run the risk of the rest of your teeth being severely crooked and prone to dangerous infections. This is why since the late 18th century, oral surgeons have practiced the removal of those pesky wisdom teeth.

                                                                                It's what she deserves.

This year, I found out that not only did I have all four of my wisdom teeth, but two of them in my lower jaw were impacted. What’s worse is that one of them was really close to my trigeminal nerve, which in lamen’s terms is basically the nerve in your jaw that controls the feelings in your gums, eyes, jaw, chin, lip, tongue, etc. That meant that if anything went wrong during my procedure, I ran the risk of losing feeling in different parts of my face permanently.

Normally, I’m super calm when I go to the dentist. All of the workers know me by nickname and give me high fives when I’m leaving. But this time, I couldn’t control my nerves (HA, get it?). I opted to go the extra mile and pay extra for deep sedation where I’m essentially knocked out while they work on me, and I wake up with no memory or pain of the surgery. Who wouldn’t want that?

FUN FACT: If you attend UCLA and you have USHIP health insurance, that means you have the ability to use that insurance outside of UCLA. USHIP can cover up to 80% of costs when it comes to medical procedures, including dental care!

So fast forward to 2019. I had my wisdom tooth surgery planned to a T. I would arrive on Thursday, and the doctor and his special sedation team would put me into a relaxed state as my mind wandered off into dreamland. The surgeon would take out all four teeth in less than 30 minutes. I’d wake up extremely loopy and confused and shipped off home with by my mother to enjoy a feast consisting of KFC mashed potatoes, gravy and mac and cheese.

But like most things in life, things don’t often go according to plan. I got a phone call from the office two days before my procedure. Not only did the doctor who was supposed to work on me cancel the appointment, he also demanded that if I wanted him to work on me, I would have to pay hundreds of dollars to get a special x-ray that would show the details of my jaw. The doctor was afraid of working with the wisdom tooth that was touching my nerve so he cancelled because he couldn’t handle the risks.

So the office decided to give me a different and more experienced surgeon for the next day! Not only was I not going to be put to sleep, but I had to get my surgery a day earlier than I expected. You could guess that my nerves were all over the place. The only thing that put me at ease was that they said I would be given nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas.

                                                            I was so ready for this whole ordeal to be over.

So I left UCLA early on Wednesday, only to arrive at my dentist to receive more nerve-wracking news. The doctor who would be working on me last minute decided to not use laughing gas. He expressed that because the risk of nerve damage was so high, he wanted me to be awake and mentally present for the entire procedure so that if I felt any major pain near the nerve, I would be able to react and alert him.

At this point, I was nearly hyperventilating in my patient chair. Magically, my mom walked in and after telling her about the risks, she immediately hugged me and calmed me down. The dentist said that he was extremely confident that I’d make it out in one piece as he’d performed this type of risky procedure hundreds of times in his career. So after everyone calmed me down and my mom left the office, it was time to begin the surgery.

WARNING: I go into slight detail about my oral surgery here, so if discussion of blood and teeth extractions disturb you then please skip ahead to the picture of KFC buckets.

The first thing the dentist did was give me the local anasthetic, which practically numbed me to my eyelids. These shots were some of the most painful I had ever received from a dentist. I remember being given around six to seven shots in my mouth that day. Once I was all numbed, the dentist moved right in with the dental saw and scalpel. He started with the risky tooth first. First, he described that he was cutting into my gum to reveal the tooth. Then he used the saw to cut the large wisdom tooth into pieces so that the extraction would be easier. After doing so, he removed the tooth in pieces and stitched a piece of my cheek to the gum where the tooth was extracted to speed up the healing process.

He repeated the same procedure on the rest of my wisdom teeth, and I kid you not, we were done in less than 15 minutes. I only felt slight pressure when he pulled out the teeth at the top of my mouth. Overall, the most painful part of the experience was getting the numbing shots.

At the end of the procedure, I was stuffed with gauze and given my prescription for painkillers and antibiotics.

                                                Everything I ate was different shades of brown and really soft. 

After getting back to my mom, I was surprised to see my best friend Danielle, sitting right next to her. She came to offer support since she knew how nervous I was about the procedure. After my appointment, I jumped in the car with Danielle and we followed my mom to our local pharmacy, which was conveniently located next to KFC. We were told that my medication wouldn’t be ready of another 2 hours, so we took that time to put in a huge order for KFC mashed potatoes and mac and cheese. Since I was essentially stuffed with gauze, I had to communicate with Danielle and my mom using my notes feature on my phone.

                                                Danielle was one of my saviors throughout my whole surgery.

Unfortunately. by the time my medication was ready, the numbness had worn off. The pain that followed could be described as a professional boxer repeatedly punching me in my jaw. My lower jaw was in so much pain that I almost started crying. But the good news is because I was feeling all of that pain, that meant that my nerve was okay and I wasn’t permanently numb!

By the time I got home, I downed half a large mashed potato just so I could take my painkillers on a full stomach. My mom had to leave for work so I was left to the care of Danielle.

She was definitely one of the best parts of the surgery. She made an ice pack for me and helped me with the gross process of changing my gauze.

                                      Even though I'm smiling in this picture, I was ready to cry from the pain.

Danielle told me funny memories from high school and kept my spirits up with her weird 80’s playlist. For the rest of the night, we watched Bravo TV while I kept going in and out of sleep. The next morning she drove my groggy self back to the train station and gave me a Bon Voyage as I went back to UCLA.

I am lucky to have no classes on Fridays, so I took the next two days to sleep as much as possible, which is important if you want to recover fast from your wisdom teeth surgery. If you end up having to skip class due to your surgery then I suggest asking the professor, a teaching assistant or another student for notes from the lectures you miss.

Though my surgery started out with one ordeal after another, I wouldn’t change my experience for anything. Being awake was actually a much less nerve-wracking experience than I thought it would be. I ended up making friends with my surgeon and got to bond with my mother and best friend after the procedure. If you’re also afraid of getting your wisdom teeth out, make sure you have supportive loved ones around you on the day of your procedure. Remember you can also request a different surgeon if the one you’re paired with doesn’t make you feel comfortable and confident. The only other thing that can make the surgery worth it is the endless amounts of smoothies and soft junk food you get to eat!