Monday, October 23, 2006

pulling teeth

It's a cliche.

"It's like pulling teeth--" to get high school kids to follow directions, to learn MLA style, to throw their trash into the trash cans.

People should not use cliches in their writing. It's boring and it doesn't conjure up images in the readers' mind because the reader just glosses over the overused, over-heard phrase without really taking its meaning into consideration in the context in which it is written. Plus it's not creative.

That said, the benefit of short term amnesia is that I kept forgetting I was going to have someone at the SD Naval Medical Center pulling my teeth on Monday. Happily, I did not become anxious about something I did not even realize was happening--I was going to say that becoming anxious over the improbable was impossible, but given my recent anxieties over being attacked (it's been happening in our neighborhood), running out of money (again, a common neighborhood occurrence), staying disabled for a longer time than my insurance will cover (it's happened to other people), I know I could have been anxious about this teeth pulling bit.

But I was not.

I am one of those people who never had a cavity, never had a broken tooth, never had a root canal or a drilling. I actually like going to the dentist. Except for being "encouraged" to floss more frequently, it's a very relaxing experience to just lie there and let someone else take care of me while I think of nothing. I like how smooth my teeth feel afterwards, and I like being congratulated for not having cavities and for brushing well. I know that's a little sick--the grade-mongering over dental care, but the smoothness of the teeth is really the best part.

Justin on the other hand is the reason we cannot neglect to buy dental insurance. Cavities, fillings, root canals, etc.

So, when I said I was just going to have local anesthesia and that I was driving myself to and from the oral surgeon's office at SD Naval Medical Center, he acted like I was crazy. Firstly, he thought I should be put under IV conscious sedation. I did that for my lumpectomy; I didn't think it would be necessary for pulling clearly visible teeth numbers 5 & 12 (the molars in the middle/back just past the canines).

"You've never had a shot in your mouth before, have you?"

No, of course I hadn't.

Then he wanted to drive me there and back--which would take him away from his Ob/Gyn duties that afternoon, which to me is like ditching school (even though he had permission), and to which I objected.

But I lost the battle. Besides, who doesn't want to be taken care of when a handsome gentleman insists? Plus, I got to go to breakfast with him at The Mission, which is delicious. Cinnamon French Toast, eggs and bacon. My last meal before The Teeth Pulling.

As with my lumpectomy surgery (my first surgery), I did not think this procedure was going to be that big of a deal. Of course, after my lumpectomy I was happy that my nurse-mom had decided to come down to take care of me for a few days; I couldn't move without pain, I couldn't hold much of anything, and even walking hurt. Who knew such little things actually bounce?

Before brunch & teeth pulling I can smile--up close you can even see the teeth they'll take.

By the time my neighbor, my coffee-guy and my husband had looked at me with a mixture of horror and pity and told me it would hurt, I was good and nervous.

In the waiting room my hands were shaking. I kept asking Justin if he wanted to come into the room with me. He said no at first--said he was already queasy, said he could amputate a guy's leg but couldn't look at an oral procedure, especially on me ("You really amputated a leg?" "Yeah," he said it as if he were admitting to liking pizza.). I kept working on making cards--despite the shaking hands, and said, "Yes, I really do want you to come with me." At least he could hold my hand during the mouth anesthesia shots. "You can look away. You don't have to watch." But the surgeon said he couldn't--it was a sterile field.

The nameless surgeon (if he told me, I forgot immediately) did the shots as well as the pulling while also having a conversation about the ER and General Surgery departments being stupid over when and where to admit some guy who had a broken mandible and a high blood alcohol level (my surgery was at 1:30 p.m.).

I'll admit, the shots did hurt. It's not like a bee sting, which is what they say. It's more like a needle going into your gums and the roof of your mouth. There's no comparison. But even my eyelids turned tingly and then unmoving, which turned out to be OK because they covered my eyes with a towel. Had I known my contacts were going to be dried by closed eyes and slightly paralyzed blinking, I would have worn my glasses. I was warned that I would feel tugging, pulling, pressure and pulling and that if I felt a sharp pain I was to indicate as such, then he would give me more local, but it wouldn't hurt because I'd already be numb. I got more local about four times. On the right side I did hear cracking, and then this fascinating one sided conversation about where "it" could have gone. "See that little part that's missing? [this was to the assistant] It's less than a milimeter . . . Maybe it's in the cheek? . . . I'm going to do a little incision here to see if it's in there . . . could you get me some sutures? . . . nope not there . . . we'll do some sutures (at this point I can't stop myself from giggling just a little bit as I feel the threads falling on my face and picture Justin sitting at his desk with his suture-practicing-kit tying knot after knot) . . . OK well, we'll take an X-ray afterward to see if we can find it." And then he started on the left side.

When he was through yanking my teeth out while I held my neck back and my chin up and reclined as if in the beginning of the going-upside-down part of a fair ride, he told me to sit up. I did. Then he directed me to go to the X-rays room. With gauze filling my cheeks and holding down part of my tongue I warned, "There's two of you," holding up two fingers and then putting my hands together in front of my face and moving them apart and together like scissors.

"OK. Then just sit there for a little while longer."

By now a little posse of oral surgeons were gathered at my door discussing the ER situation and who was yelling at whom and what their ranks were and thereby who should call the ER next. The guy who pulled my teeth out turned to the woman doctor and said something about my double vision, asking her, "Is that normal with local anesthesia?"

She said, "Yes, sometimes."

Ah, confidence inspiring. I've been operated on by yet another resident. Junior resident, senior resident, I don't care, but I know for sure I can't walk down any hallways and remember my wisdom teeth being pulled during spring break in high school and the same thing happening, only then I was too shy to say I couldn't really walk and ended up lying down somewhere while they waited for my mom to return with a week's supply of chocolate pudding and apple sauce. This time, the resident asked if there was still someone out there waiting for me, and I said yes, and he said he'd get my husband to help me walk, and I happy-clapped. If I closed one eye I could see fairly clearly. But with two open--the lids slow to blink and tingling--two Justins.

Now how great would that be! We could have one who went to medical school and one who stayed home with me and played. :)

I was X-rayed sans earrings and with nose ring. They couldn't find any little tiny chip of tooth that will apparently work its way out if it's in there or will cause an infection, and then he'll "have to just cut in there and take it out and then it will heal," so I get to take penicillin four times a day for ten days.

Gauze filled with blood fills the mouth that can't really smile because of the anesthesia.

"It's like pulling teeth." Not that bad, not that great, different for everyone, shouldn't be used in writing.

But in a couple of years when these braces come off, my teeth better look damn good and my gums better not recede one tiny little bit more (which was the primary motivating factor in getting braces in the first place.)

1 comment:

OakMonster said...

Um. Ouch. Thank god I can't afford braces right now. Heh.

My bottom teeth are taking on the family trait of crookedness. I'd love to get them fixed. But dental doesn't cover braces. Damn.

So much for braces during the teen years, huh? :)