Saturday, March 20, 2010

Goodbye, Teeth! or My Brain On Drugs

Okay -- I've been thinking that I should write an account of getting my wisdom teeth pulled. Not only because it was something big in my life and thus belongs on my blog if I want it there, but also because I think others who get their teeth pulled deserve to have accounts to read ahead of time to help prepare them. I'm officially adding my experience to the hundreds that are probably on here somewhere already.

We went in and first talked with the oral surgeon for a long time about different things that you will find boring and thus are not included.1 Then -- and I didn't know this going in -- Justin was not allowed to go with me into the room where they did the actual pulling! Augh! Didn't they know I needed him? I wish I had been forewarned on that one.

After going in and sitting down they strapped the heart rate monitor to my finger and put a blood pressure cuff on my arm. This was unhelpful -- it let me know exactly how stressed out I was. I was trying to calm myself down with little success when they put the thing over my nose for the nitrous oxide. I was breathing it in, wondering if it was going to be okay or if I was going to seriously regret this later, and nothing was happening. I asked what percent the gas was.

"100 percent," they tell me. Now I know they're trying to kill me for sure. But why am I not feeling anything?

"100 percent nitrous?" I ask in a disbelieving voice. Then they laugh at me and tell me it's 100 percent oxygen right now. That makes me feel a little better, but I'm still pretty tense at that point.

They turn on the nitrous oxide at a 50/50 mix and it makes me feel unbelievably dizzy. I ask them to turn it down. They proceeded to numb me up and forcibly yank my teeth out.

It was a really weird experience, like having two levels in my brain. There was the stupid level that was high on drugs and thinking really dumb things.2 Then below that was my sane brain -- I was fully aware and could think about how surreal the experience was and how stupid my other brain was being. I spent a lot of the time thinking about what my cognitive limits were and testing myself to see how fast I could think, which wasn't very fast. It was like my brain was slowed down.

Also, they kept talking to me like I was an idiot or a child. My high brain was okay with this, but the sane brain was kinda peeved. And it was interesting that while the nitrous oxide made me care less about what they were doing, my hands were still involuntarily clenched pretty much the whole time. My body was still stressed and definitely not relaxed. I remember at one point asking if my pulse was too fast. Every time I almost fell asleep my sane brain wouldn't let me. I know it's irrational, but I felt like if I did I might lose myself.

After it was all over I left with a mouth full of gauze and no feeling in the lower half of my face. Word of caution -- go straight to the pharmacy for your pain meds. We got stuck in traffic and had to pick the kids up first, so the numbness wore off completely before I got my prescription. It hurt really, really badly.

The biggest surprise for me was that it took me days -- more than a week -- to feel okay again, No one had mentioned that having your teeth pulled makes you feel like you have the flu. I was lethargic, dizzy, sometimes nauseated, and shaky for days. It was miserable. Add to that not being able to eat anything other than soup and pudding and such stuff and it was not something I would want to do again. I'm glad it's over.

1Well, not first. First was the x-ray machine that swiveled all the way around my head, making me feel like they were deliberately trying to give me brain cancer.
2Every time they said, "that one's out. We're going to clean now," it made my high brain want to say, "I love you guys!" My sane brain didn't let that happen.


  1. Interesting. I haven't heard a really detailed account of someone else's experience before. I had mine out when I was 18, and because I have control issues, I really, really didn't want to be put under or use nitrous oxide. They numbed the area, but I was definitely all there. I never felt super anxious (or so I thought), but my body didn't agree with my brain--it just shook. They found a couple blankets in the office to see if that would help, and that made the shaking not quite as violent. I think it eventually went away as they got into it. I always wonder if I might have hurt a little less afterward because they knew I was fully aware and tried to be as gentle as possible. I didn't see a specialist, either, the doctor was both our family dentist and my orthodontist. Don't get me wrong--it did hurt after the fact. I'm told there were tears, but I don't remember them. I think I kind of blocked it out. :)

  2. Just a note for those interested, I just went under for mine. One second I had the mask on wondering why I wasn't falling asleep, and the next second I was groggily waking up with a fat tongue. It was glorious. And it's fine. Not any scarier than any other sort of anesthetic. I mean, me personally if I hadn't gone under I'd have been trying to figure out what they were doing to my mouth more than be freaked out, but I'm weird that way. Once I know what's going on, it doesn't scare me, even if it's dangerous. As long as I understand it. But yeah, if you tend to be really scared or freaked out by things like that, trust me, going all the way under is a much better option. Especially if they have to do any cutting, like on mine.

  3. My wisdom teeth are all in, strait, and pearly white. I'm gonna keep 'em!

  4. As well you should. I wish mine had been that way. Mine were all impacted. Cutting and drilling abounded.

    They gave me the option to have stronger sedation, but I'm nursing and felt I should go with the one with a shorter half-life. We don't really know enough about what things really do to babies.

    I couldn't have done it with nothing. I'm dentist-phobic as it is. My sane brain did a fair share of freaking out, but my high brain helped to dull it. If I had to do it again I'd do the same thing.

  5. Yikes. I still have my wisdom teeth. Hmm. Glad you are okay now though.

  6. I went under for my wisdom teeth - and thankfully there were only two and they weren't especially hard to remove. One minute they're telling me I'll start to get light-headed and not much later I'm waking up and can't talk or walk straight. Thankfully I only needed to take one percocet to deal with the pain.

    Then again, I doubt I would have done anything but cry if I'd been awake for it. Getting cavities filled is a traumatic enough experience for me. (Though I just sit there quietly and look horrified - no flailing or screaming from me, thankfully.)

  7. I had my wisdom teeth remove before my Mission. They were impacted, and had to be removed surgically. They gave me a valium/demoral IV. It worked, I had virtually no pain, even with gum cutting & chiseling of the teeth. I was weak for several days afterward. I took the pain meds as soon as I could after the surgery to prevent an experience like yours.