Loss of Wisdom (Teeth)

Medieval dentist extracting a tooth. London; c...Image via Wikipedia

The last few blogs here have been rather serious, about historical and political issues of great import. I'm relieved to say that this blog will be a bit lighter in terms of content.

Yesterday I had the strange pleasure of having my wisdom teeth removed. I have never had a major surgery before in my life, so this was a new experience to say the least.

Let me first say that I am no great fan of the dentist. Of all the medical professions, I think it would be safe to say that most rational people have some mild fear or phobia of the dentist. High powered drills introduced into the mouth of a human being, an area filled with hard teeth and dense bone...why would you NOT be at least somewhat fearful of this?

I woke up yesterday morning with the normal nervousness accompanying any major medical procedure. Upon arriving, I was extremely impressed by the nurse and oral surgeon, who calmly explained the procedure to me, illustrating on my X-ray some possible complications that might occur. These complications, however, only occur with about 1% of patients, so there was no great need to worry. The oral surgeon also told me which side of my mouth would probably ache the most afterwards, due to the long roots of my right lower wisdom tooth.

I was then ushered into the surgery room, where I laid back in the seat as they put a nitrous oxide mask over my face. I was instructed to breathe deeply in and out...and this is about where it started to get weird. My vision went blurry, and I began to feel extremely lightheaded. I had never felt this way, feeling that I had entirely lost control of my senses. My right arm was laying palm side up, and my hand was in a tight grip. This was the arm that they put the IV into...and as the needle went in I felt a slight sting, as if a tiny invisible bee was stinging me without my notice. My hand was still gripped tightly, for what reason I'm not quite sure. One of the doctors told me to relax my arm, which I did. Everything that the doctors said to me sounded like it was coming in from another room, that I wasn't entirely present. In many ways, it felt like the stereotypical hospital scene, where the viewer sees things from the eyes of the patient, with masked faces hovering above him.

The oral surgeon then instructed me that she was putting the medicine into the IV...she told me to dream some nice dreams. I don't recall blacking out, or even closing my eyes...the next thing I notice, in a totally seamless transition, is that my mouth is being packed with gauze, and the doctors are announcing to me that they had finished. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice the clock...10:30am. 10:30? The surgery had begun at around 9:40...the time had passed instantly! I was completely unaware that in a brief moment, the surgery would both begin and end.

I was groggy, sitting up from the chair and being helped into a room where my parents waited. I laid there, regaining some form of alertness. My dad snapped a photo, and I was too out of it to make any protests. The surgeon entered, saying that the entire procedure had gone just fine, no complications at all. I was greatly relieved, and me and my parents returned home so that I could begin the recovery process.

I am now in day 2 of recovery...the bleeding has stopped, and only slight soreness remains. As I stood in the shower this morning, with the warm water running down my face and cheeks, I was reminded of what a blessing modern medicine is. Any such surgery would have been unthinkable 100 years ago, at least at the level of sophistication today, and the lack of pain afterwards. I thanked God for the pills I'm taking, primarily Vicodin. This little wonder completely nullifies the soreness of my mouth and jaw, and it is absolute heaven.

Thin soups, Jello, and vanilla shakes have been my cuisine. I'm pleasantly surprised at the lack of swelling and soreness that I've experienced, certainly far below my horrible scenarios of how bad it would be. Thank God for a smooth and relatively painless procedure...ah, the wonders of the modern age.