Removals, Recovery & Wrong Ideas

As babies, some of my teeth decided to come out in interesting ways that I can relate to my children when we talk about the Tooth Fairy. One on the top near the front came out when I bit into an ice cream sandwich at school.  I mistakenly brought home a piece of corn from my lunch tray and put that under my pillow.  Since the tooth itself was never found, I can only assume that I inadvertently swallowed it. Another came out at a friend’s birthday party when I was playing with the zipper of my windbreaker, slipping my tooth into the hole of the puller.  Unfortunately, I miscalculated the angle and the puller became stuck.  My friend’s mom tried her best to dislodge it, but, seeing as how the tooth was ready to fall out anyway, she just yanked it.  Talk about a party favor!

Once all my baby teeth had come out and the adults came in, my interminable relationship with orthodontia began.  I have had expanders, retainers, braces (twice), wires, rubber bands, and perhaps a small Lego city in my mouth at one time or another.  My awkward teens were made all the more so by taunts of “Metal Mouth,” “Brace Face” and other such examples of original wit.  (However, I can only imagine the taunts and looks I would have received today had I not been fortunate enough to have parents who could afford dental insurance, so I suppose I really can’t complain.)

During my junior year of high school, in the midst of all the check-ups, tweakings and shiftings, I was informed that my wisdom teeth were coming in and crowding my existing teeth in my already too-small mouth.  I had had a couple of teeth pulled before by a dentist when I was much younger: they were the remaining babies that refused to let go and make way for the adults that were already coming in.  But this was not just pulling a couple of semi-loose baby teeth.  This was major surgery, extracting four full-grown, stubbornly rooted adult teeth from the way-back part of my mouth that requires a Reach toothbrush.

I was offered two types of anesthesia: a complete knock-out gas and a “twilight” gas.  The knock-out gas does just that: it knocks one out completely for the duration of the surgery so that it would seem as if the past half hour or so had magically disappeared.  Since I have major control issues, and start to panic at the thought of being completely unconscious while a strange man pulls my teeth, I opted for the “twilight” gas.  This stuff was better for me because I was still relatively conscious, just too loopy to make any sense of what was going on.

One of the last things I remember before the doctor came in was laughing hysterically when the nurse asked me if I had a boyfriend.  I did at the time, and it really wasn’t that funny, but I suppose that meant the gas was working.  For the next forty five minutes, I slipped in and out of consciousness while, one by one, my wisdom teeth were removed from my gums.

My mother apparently has superhero-like powers of resistance to pain; after she had her wisdom teeth removed, she went shopping later that evening as if nothing had happened.  As her daughter, it was only logical that I would recover as quickly as she did.  What she failed to take into account, however, was that I am more my father’s daughter: I freckle, sunburn easily, and don’t handle pain well.

I was out for an entire week after the surgery, and that week was the most hellish week I can remember experiencing.  The anesthesia didn’t agree with me.  I was nauseous, so I didn’t want to eat, and therefore couldn’t take my antibiotics.  I passed out twice, almost hitting my head against the porcelain sink in the bathroom.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe through all the gauze and my swollen face.  My face is fairly round, so the residual swelling I endured gave me a new look that can only be compared to that of an overweight woodchuck.  By some miracle, I managed to avoid the camera my mother seemed to carry with her at all times during my recovery. I survived for that week primarily on Carnation Instant Breakfast and chicken broth, the only things that I could keep down that wouldn’t become entangled in my stitches.

By the end of the week I was upgraded to relatively solid foods: mashed potatoes, toast, rice.  I could leave the sofa of my own accord without the risk of my blood pressure suddenly falling, leaving me unconscious on the floor. The swelling had also gone down enough that I was again willing to receive visitors.  I was also left with massive bruises on each of my cheeks that would haunt me for several more days.

My then boyfriend, who will henceforth be known as “Dick,” offered to take me out for a short while one afternoon, as I was starting to get a nasty case of cabin fever.  We agreed on a short trip to Wendy’s, my first attempt at solid food since the surgery.  I figured that chicken nuggets and a Frosty were a pretty good start.

It was mid-afternoon: after the lunch hour, but still a few hours before the mad rush for dinner.  Except for the minimal staff behind the counter, we were alone in the restaurant.  After contemplating the menu for a few moments, Dick pushed some money into my hand and told me to order because he had to use the bathroom.

I approached the counter to find a woman who looked exactly like Mimi Bobeck from The Drew Carey Show, makeup and all.  Like her eyeshadow, her name tag will forever be emblazoned in my mind, boldly reading, “Lisa.”  I gave Lisa my order, and she told me that I would have to wait a few minutes, since they had to fry up some more fries.  And so we waiting in silence for a few moments while my lunch was getting ready.

Lisa looked terribly uncomfortable, shifting her weight and nervously looking around. Eventually, she cracked.  She leaned over the counter and said to me in a hushed, urgent voice, “Honey, I know it’s probably none of my business, but he really shouldn’t be treating you like that!”

Slightly stunned, I could only mutter a reply, “Oh, thanks.”  Dick had only asked me to order lunch while he was in the bathroom.  What was so terrible about that?

Dick emerged from the bathroom about the same time as our lunch was being placed on the counter.  We found a table near the window and I gingerly bit into a french fry.  We ate slowly and deliberately in the afternoon sun.  All the while, Lisa eyed us suspiciously from behind the counter.

Never one for subtlety, Dick suddenly said in between bites, “You know, in this light, your bruises really stand out.”  I then realized the meaning behind Lisa’s cryptic statement.  You see, Dick was my “bad boy” boyfriend, with a steely gaze in his eyes, adorned with piercings and tattoos, altogether a little rough around the edges.  Seeing me bruised and slightly despondent, Lisa probably thought he beat me up on a regular basis.  I smiled to myself as I sipped my Frosty.

(Photos from herehere and here.)


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. curlywurlygurly
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 15:47:15

    okay, the tooth-in-zipper story made my neck hair stand up!!!! ouchie!!!

    as for the wisdom teeth–i also had mine pulled and had a reaction to the ‘knock-me-out’ shot. i work up vomiting. it was a joyus occassion. then i got about 24 infections because (at age 16) i couldn’t grasp the idea of ‘soft food’. what? no bagels? c’mon!

    thanks for the laugh–this was a good one!

    I think we are truly kindred spirits, amiga!


  2. mylesfromnowhere
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 22:30:55

    I was fortunate to get the genes for a solid and straight set of teeth… unfortunately they came as a package with the genes for alcoholism…. still I think am better off having to attend a few 12 step groups and learning to kiss in junior high with out braces

    I have to agree with you on that one. A first kiss with braces makes an awkward situation even more so. Thanks for stopping by!


  3. jonsquared
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 22:42:52

    I probably never would’ve survived my own wisdom teeth extraction had I opted for the ‘twilight’ treatment. Thanks for sharing this glimpse into your orthodontic chronicles.

    Always happy to oblige!


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