Monday, March 20, 2006
Round Two: Fight!
In Which I Go Back to the Dental Surgeon, Get Stuck with More Pointy Things, and Am Sentenced to at Least Another Week of Dieting upon Pain Meds, Antibiotics and Mush
(Okay, so, I meant to post about this a few days ago, but as many of my fellow Blogger-users may well know, Blogger has been having a lot of technical issues over the past several days, and my blog seems to have been one of the ones that was particularly hard-hit, and I have therefore had extreme difficulty posting of late. I apologize if any of my regular readers have come upon a "forbidden access" error message or a whacked-out, barely-readable layout here lately. It was, unfortunately, a situation entirely out of my hands).
So, this past Thursday I went back to the dental surgeon who had removed my wisdom teeth the week prior to have my sutures removed. That's right-- instead of those nifty Space-Age disappearing sutures most dentists use on extraction patients now, I had positively archaic non-absorbable wire stitches stuck in my mouth for a week because my dental insurance is just that cheap.
Anyway, I was glad to have an appointment already scheduled, because while three of the four areas where my teeth had been removed seemed to be healing nicely, the removal site in my lower left jaw was still hurting. A lot. I had sort of expected it to hurt more than the others, because that tooth had been tilted at an odd angle, and was difficult to remove-- it took twice the time to take out that one as it took to take out any of the others (I know this because, as I've previously mentioned, I was fully awake and aware with no drugs besides a local anesthetic during the surgery. See above description of cheapness of dental insurance company). But I hadn't exactly expected my whole left jaw, my left cheek, and every tooth on the lower left side of my mouth to be throbbing in serious pain that I could still more-than-vaguely feel through the three Advil and two Extra Strength Tylenol I'd been popping along with my prescription penicillin every four hours.
I was afraid that maybe despite, being the amazingly good girl that I am, having followed the written instructions the dental surgeon had sent me home with to the letter (including not eating anything hot or drinking anything through a straw the first day, brushing and rinsing my gaping wounds according to a tight schedule, etc.), I had wound up with this thing called a dry socket. Or, worse, that the dental surgeon had accidentally cracked my jaw without realizing it, or left a piece of my tooth in my gums, or something. So I was glad to have the opportunity to ask the dental surgeon if anything bad was going on.
However, when I arrived, the dental surgeon was nowhere in sight. Instead, a dentist's assitant, whom I remembered had been present during my surgery, apparently mostly to hand tools to the surgeon and occasionally yank on my jaw, came into the exam room. She started rooting around in a couple of drawers and pulling out various tools, and I began to get a little nervous. This woman could not have been more than 20 years old. At the ripe old age of 25, I am still getting used to the idea of medical professionals being younger than me, and I have to admit it always makes me a bit uneasy. But even putting my unfortunate ageism aside, the chick seemed to me to be, well, a little ditzy. The day of my surgery she had spent at least 15 minutes searching the entire room for a set of clips that happened to be dangling from my chair. Then while we'd waited for the surgeon to come in, she had related a story to me about how just the last week she had gotten lost trying to avoid traffic in a construction zone and wound up being so late that she'd decided not to come in for work at all.
Was this woman going to CUT WIRE STITCHES out of my mouth?
"Okay, let's take a look at those stitches!" She sang out cheerfully, approaching me with large tweezers and an enormous pair of wicked-looking curved scissors.
"Um . . . look! I need to see the surgeon! I'm still in pain, you see, a lot of pain, on this one side, from the surgery, and I sort of expected to be in more pain on that side, you know, because you all had to work so much harder on that tooth than the other ones, but I'm in more pain than I should be after a week, you know, so, um . . . well, you see, I was hoping he could look at me and . . . I thought I might have that dry socket thing or something, you know?"
The other workers in the office overheard me through the open exam room door, and started laughing. "She had her wisdom teeth out and she wants to know why she's in pain?" someone called. "Hello! Tell her to take her pain meds!"
The assistant, though, looked concerned. "Hmm, what kind of pain is it? Is it a throbbing pain?"
"Yes, it throbs sometimes."
"How bad is it?"
"Well, I've been taking a lot of pain medications . . ."
"Is it like the last time you had a toothache? Like getting a filling?" She asked, standing in front of a huge glowing X-ray film of my completely cavity-free teeth.
"Umm, I wouldn't--"
"Is it a screaming pain? Like, the kind of pain that makes you want to scream at your husband?"
Thinking of how I'd come out of my Vicodin-pain-and-lack-of-food-induced fog on the Monday morning after the surgery to discover that my son's hair had not been brushed in three days, there was a new abstract artwork in green crayon covering the lower third of my dining room wall (and another in permanent black pen scrawled across the newly-crumpled pages of my son's favorite book), and my laundry basket had overflowed into giant piles on the bedroom floor*, I said, "Well . . . "
"Hmm, let me have a look," she said. She shifted the tweezers and scissors to one hand, and picked up a mirror to look in my mouth with the other. As she manuevered the mirror, she leaned forward, and suddenly,
She hit me in the lower lip with the scissors.
"Oh! I'm so sorry!" she gasped, giggling. "I swear, I'm really not that clumsy. I'm not that clumsy!" she continued as I felt my lip to see if it was bleeding. "I just forgot those scissors were in my hand!" Not quite bleeding-- the sharp tip had only grazed me; she'd mostly hit me with the flat end.
"Anyway, let me go ahead and take your stitches out," she said matter-of-factly once she'd recovered from her giggle fit, "and then the doctor can have a look at you and see what's wrong."
Before I could scream for the doctor in terror, she shoved her hands in my mouth and started cutting. I was afraid to breathe. At last she pulled the last stitch out. As far as I could tell, there was no new damage. The assistant left to get the surgeon, and I felt like I had narrowly escaped having my tongue cut out by a madwoman. Which may have been true.
After shining various lights in my mouth, turning my head this way and that, and making several grandfatherly "Hmmm," and "Ahh," noises, the surgeon determined that the top of part my gum had healed before the bottom part had a chance to finish healing, and that this situation had lead, despite a week of prophylactic antibiotics, to an infection.
"You just heal too well, that's your problem! We'll have to cut you back open," he said cheerfully.
"I said you heal too well! Great healer. Now open your mouth. Got a little bitty bit of novocaine." Before I knew what was happening, he shoved a needle into my gums. The left side of my tongue immediately went numb. My jaw itself and the area around the original incision, however, kept throbbing. Seconds later, he grabbed some sort of sharp silver implement and jabbed a new hole in my gum.
"OWWWWW!" I said, as well as I could with a half-numb tongue.
"Well, it was just a little bit of novocaine."
Anyway, now I am on another, stronger round of antibiotics. The enormous red pills look EXACTLY like the Red Pill from the movie The Matrix. The package says side effects may include nausea, tiredness, headache, vomiting, or mild diarrhea. (I'll let you guess which four of those five I've been getting with every dose).
Four days later, my jaw still hurts.
And I STILL CAN'T EAT NORMAL FOOD. At least, not if I don't have an hour and a half on my hands to sit there and chew every very small bite of normal food extremely carefully only on the right side of my mouth.
This totally sucks.
*My man does deserve some props, though: he did go out in the middle of the night to get me a mango smoothie once during all this.