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Thursday, December 12, 2013

My Wisdom Tooth Extraction Story

I'd been putting off my wisdom tooth extraction for about a year before I couldn't delay it anymore, the pain was excruciating and never ending. I had everything booked, been in to consultations with my surgeon and was all prepped to finally have these bad boys removed. Then, one lonesome night, I decided to type 'wisdom tooth extraction' into google. Big. Mistake.

After reading page after page of horror stories until 3am I was well and truly freaked out. People don't go online to talk about how wonderful and smooth their extraction was, that's boring. But it seems to be that everyone who has ever had a complication ever has decided to post it on the internet to scare anyone else away from ever having the procedure done.

That's why I'm writing this, in hope that you've googled the same question I did and will find my story a little more informative than some of the others. 

Before Surgery
Aside from having x-rays taken and speaking with my dentist, the prep-work prior to surgery was pretty calm. I made the decision to only eat liquid foods for at least 3 days minimum after surgery because I only had 5 days to recover before going back to work. I prepared a pumpkin soup and blasted it in a blender to make sure it was completely smooth and easy to swallow. I made apple sauce also and had a bag of potatoes ready to boil and mash. Ice cream was in abundance also with a variety of sorbet's and frozen yogurts in my freezer. I also had bananas and spinach ready to make smoothies.

Slow cooked apple sauce

I'd heard mixed opinions on whether ice helps with swelling but it was my opinion that it would so I bought a few flexible ice packs and some stockings so I could put the ice pack inside the stocking and tie it around my head to hold it on. Attractive, I know.

I cleaned my house, washed my sheets and set aside books and movies to read and watch in bed. The one piece of advice that was consistent in all the wisdom tooth stories I'd read from both patients and doctors was that keeping still for 48 hours after surgery will give you the fastest recovery. Everyone said to lay down and stay there, move only when absolutely necessary.

The final thing I did was a quick trip to Kmart to buy a cheap pillow case and towel. I had a sudden thought the day before surgery that perhaps my wound would still be bleeding when I went to bed and I didn't want to ruin my good pillow cases. I prepped a pillow with a cheap pillow case and put a folded towel inside it to protect my pillow. It turned out that I didn't need it because I wasn't bleeding anywhere near enough for it to come out of my mouth.

My pre-surgery shopping cart

The Surgery
We always knew my extraction was going to be complicated. I have strong teeth and the nerve around the roots was incredibly inflamed but no one realised just how complicated it would be. It needs to be said that most extractions aren't this difficult and unless your dentist has given you any indication otherwise, you shouldn't worry about complications.

So I arrived at the dentist’s office and he very patiently let me ask as many questions as I wanted too before he injected me with a local anaesthetic. He started with two shots in attempt to numb me completely before injecting novocaine. After 5 minutes I felt no numbing sensation at all so he went in with another two injections. 5 minutes later I felt a little tingly but definitely not numb. Two more shots. Still nothing. It took another three shots (9 shots in total) before I thought I was numb enough to take the novocaine shot. This is the one that hurts, it goes deep and stings for a few seconds. A lot of stories online describe this shot as the worst part of the whole procedure and for most people it would be but the pain from the needle is over very quickly, it only hurts for a few seconds. We waited about 10 minutes for the novocaine to start working and I thought it had. I felt numb enough.

The dentist started making incisions and I couldn't feel a thing, he started going in with a drill to cut the tooth and it was fine. Then it wasn't. As soon as my tooth cracked I felt excruciating pain. My dentist realised what had happened straight away and quickly injected another shot of novocaine along with two more local anaesthetics. When we were confident that I was numb enough he continued with the extraction.

Ninety minutes later it was over. My half hour procedure had turned into a slow paced, complicated surgery where my tooth was cut into a dozen pieces and a nice chunk of my jaw was removed. Turns out that I'm one of a rare few people who don't respond to novocaine and even with double the dosage I still felt the extraction. Yeowch.

My dentist opted to only extract one of my lower wisdom teeth instead of both because the surgery was so long and complicated. We discussed other options for my second wisdom tooth and have decided not to extract it.

After Surgery
I spent the following 48 hours in front of the television feeling sorry for myself. I strapped ice packs to my head with my little stocking contraption for the first 5 hours before I fell asleep. I managed to eat a small bowl of luke-warm pumpkin soup but the real life saver was lemonade (Sprite). The cold drink mixed with the mild massage of the carbonation was so incredibly soothing. I don't even regularly like lemonade. I slept for 10 hours and set alarms throughout the night so I could wake up and take medication regularly. I wasn't able to speak until about 24 hours after surgery, I think this was because I had to have part of my jaw cut out.

I had no swelling or bruising at all, I contribute this to the ice packs and the fact that I rarely bruise or swell regardless of what happens to me. I'm also a fast healer so I had that going for me too. The pain after surgery was manageable, I could feel a dull ache as the time approached to take my medication but it went away quickly.

After 5 days when the time came to go back to work I was feeling fine, just really tired. My body was using all its energy to heal me so it was understandable that I felt like I hadn't slept properly. I continued taking medication for 10 days, lowering my dosage as the days progressed.

After a week I had the stitches removed and my dentist was in awe at how quickly I was healing. I told you, I'm basically a superhero. My mouth was healing so rapidly that I'd actually healed over my stiches which was a pain to remove. But after that I was on the home stretch.


Why did you have a it done in the chair rather than being put to sleep with a general anaesthetic?
Personal choice, mostly. A general anaesthetic isn't really necessary for most dental procedures. The healing time is much faster without a general anaesthetic also. Plus, the cost is much lower if you have the surgery in the chair. Even though it was a painful procedure for me, I'm still glad I didn't have a general anaesthetic.

What medication did you take?
I put myself on a 5 day course of anti-biotics (Amoxicillin) prior to surgery and continued to take it for 5 days after. Anti-biotics before and after surgery greatly lowers your risk of infection. As for pain killers I took Panadeine Forte (1000mg Paracetamol, 60mg Codeine) every 3-4 hours for the first two days after surgery. I then pushed it back to taking it every 6 hours for the next 2 days and alternated it with 400mg of Ibuprofen, taking it in three hour intervals. After four days I took pain killers only when I needed them.

How long did you bleed for?
About 12 hours but it was only a tiny bit of bleeding, nothing that I was at all concerned about.

Did you experience dry socket (when the blood clot comes off too soon, causing pain)?
No, but my dentist was very particular in the way he stitched my wound closed and I didn't clot on the outside so there was no risk of dry socket for me.

What could you feel during the procedure?
There was a lot of pressure and pulling. For 99% of people it's not painful, just uncomfortable and strange. Because the novocaine didn't work on me (again, this is very uncommon) I could feel the tooth being extracted. I couldn't feel any of the incisions or any of the jaw removal but I could feel the tooth coming out and it was painful.

How was the pain after surgery/did you swell/did you bruise?
Pain after surgery was fine, very manageable with the medication I chose to take. I made sure that I took medication before the local anaesthetic wore off. The only time it really hurt was when I tried to speak in the first 24 hours and that one time I let myself sneeze (big mistake). It was uncomfortable but not painful. I didn't swell or bruise but like I mentioned earlier, I rarely do.

When did you eat solid foods again?
For lunch four days after the procedure I ate steamed vegetables and gradually brought in more foods from there. I didn't eat any hard foods for about two weeks after surgery. I probably could have but I was taking extra precautions to make sure I healed properly.

How did you care for the wound?
I rinsed my mouth very gently with salt water a few times during the first 24 hours after surgery. After 24 hours I brushed my teeth gently after each meal and followed with mouth wash. I also rinsed my mouth with salt water every hour or so between meals.

How do you feel now?
Great! It's been 5 weeks since surgery and I couldn't be happier. Everything is healing nicely and the pain is gone. I occasionally get a quick stabbing pain in my jaw where the bone was cut away but that's just because it's healing still. It will take about 6 months for the wound to heal completely.

So that's it, my wisdom tooth extraction story. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below :)

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