Saturday, January 14, 2012

Reliving my first two extractions from this blog post, written two years ago:

My tongue is wandering. I haven’t let it get as far as actually touching the stitches in my gums, but it knows they’re there and wants a feel. My mouth feels fragile and at any minute I am afraid I am going to tear something or swallow a blood clot. I don’t hurt as much as I assumed when my dentist prescribed three separate drugs, Vicodin among them. I’ve been happily eating my sweet potatoes and butter from the left side of my mouth, drinking water, and sipping Dayquil every few hours in between my 4 doses of penicillin. My face is chipmunk-cheek swollen, but I don’t notice until I look in the mirror.

I can handle the pain. I cannot, however, handle the dentist’s chair.

I’ve known for about ten years now that I would have to get my wisdom teeth out. My mouth is small and my mother before me had an awful time when hers came in sideways, I knew I was next. It was set to be my own rite of passage, removing these teeth, and one that I didn’t mind bypassing.

Ten years of anguish hit me as soon as I sat down in that chair. Ten years of thinking, “Holy shit, is this gonna hurt.” Ten years of dread.

I walked into my exam room and the dental assistant with the accent remembered me from July’s visit, “Oh, you are that Verizon girl!”. Either I had made quite the impression, or she had written my occupation on my chart to make me a promoter of the Smile Center, Inc.

She stuck two Q-tips of numbing pink goo in my mouth and left the room. My heart raced. “It’s not too late!” I thought, “I can still make a run for it”. I found my throat dry and unable to swallow and I panicked further. I felt the throwing up sensation although I hadn’t eaten beforehand and I knew my throat muscles were paralyzed.

The dentist came in and examined me. I told him which teeth hurt, he told me we were removing the other ones. Great, so I am here for nothing. This surgery will not stop the pain that rushed me in for emergency removal. Again, I began to wonder if perhaps my dentist simply wanted me to come back sooner — when I could no longer take the pain from the impacted teeth he had sneakishly left in my mouth. Did he want more money? Again, when I questioned him, he told me this is the plan of action we had to take: remove the painless teeth.

He left the room. I was left alone again. And when I tell you that I began to freak out, I mean it. I freeeeeeaked out. My heart began to race, my teeth began to chatter, my whole body seizured. I was terrified.

The assistant came back in the room soon after and I immediately blurted out, “I’m terrified!” as I shook. She tried to calm me down. “Breathe in to five, and slowly out,” she repeated in her thick accent. “Breathe in to five, you are not doing it.” I trembled visibly.

“I’m just scared” I said, “I’m sorry”. I hated myself.

She tried to comfort me, “But why? I have seen 12 year olds handle this better than you are right now. Breathe in to five.”

“Twelve year olds don’t have severe anxiety” I answered defensively.

The dentist came in and watched me helplessly shake. The assistant brought me a blanket. “Please just knock me out!” I pleaded with him. “Please! I’m too scared.” My teeth chattered.

He told me the same, “Take a deep breath and slowly let it out. You’ve already gone through the hardest part. Numbing your gums will hurt most and you’ve already done it. What are you afraid of?”

My brain began to wind through his question. I was afraid of him opening my gums and not being able to leave that chair. I was afraid of tasting blood, or throwing up on him (and I almost did when he accidentally stuck an instrument too far down my throat while sewing me back up) or feeling my roots being cut. I felt like I was in A Clockwork Orange being forced to watch horrid acts of sex and violence for hours. I couldn’t get up if I needed to, and loss of control scares the living snot out of me.

When I calmed down enough under my blanket, he laid me back. I asked again to be knocked out and again he told me I was fine. He began to cut open my gums.

It did hurt, yes, but the sound of him grinding my teeth and snipping the roots like a haircut was unbearable. I can handle the pain, I cannot handle the thought of bone grinding.

I kept my eyes closed the entire time.

When it was over he said, “Now, tell me, was that the worst thing you’ve ever been through in your life?”

I answered, “YUP” and smiled.

I reached over and hugged my dentist. I hugged him to thank him, maybe, or to let myself soak in that it was done. As much as I hated him for keeping me awake and putting me through that spine tingling procedure, I loved him because it was over.