My daughter had four front, lower baby teeth pulled by the dentist recently. He said she’s among the roughly 30 percent of children whose baby teeth don’t fall out on their own; he’ll likely have to pull them all out when they’re ready in order to make way for the permanent chompers.
But that’s not what this is about. This is about me, and how I had two wisdom teeth pulled a day after Kalista’s ordeal. I am certain my procedure was more excruciating.
For starters, I had to see an oral surgeon for this. Had it been the dentist, my dental insurance would have covered the entire cost because it truly is wonderful insurance. But no. I had to see a guy who fell into the “specialist” category, meaning I had to pay $150 out-of-pocket to offset the percentage my regular health insurance picked up.
Hell. That might have been the most painful aspect of this calamity.
So the day comes. Doomsday. I had a month following the initial consult with the surgeon to hear others’ accounts of wisdom teeth extractions. I heard stories of dry sockets, bad breath and terrible, debilitating reactions to pain medicine. Some were out of work for days. I was terrified.
But the surgeon had told me mine would be the easiest kind of wisdom teeth extractions. Mine were relatively straight, fully erupted and only slightly decayed. “I’ll just loosen the gum around each tooth and it’ll pull right out,” he had said with an unnecessary smile the day of my consult.
I told myself to listen to him. I ignored myself.
I began to appreciate the magnitude of this “easy extraction” when the assistant took me in a plain room near the back of the office and prepared my arm for a blood pressure cuff. I’d be attached by a long cord to a medieval machine below a contraption that looked like it kept track of Earthquake magnitudes. In front of them was a defibrillator.
Wow, I said to the assistant. It’s never unsettling to see those in a dentist office.
She told me without smiling we were in an oral surgeon’s office. My mistake.
I began to keep track of my blood pressures, which were taken automatically every five minutes. They went from mildly high to normal, then to moderately high once I discovered pretending my teeth were being yanked without Novocaine just before the machine was set to run would yield alarming numbers. It was a good way to pass the time waiting for the numbness to set in.
A bad way to pass that time was to wonder what the surgeon was doing in the other room. I heard noises: bags crackling, folders closing and papers tearing. Was he eating something in there? Did he have a good book?
He came back smelling like coffee.
“Are you numb yet?” he said with that smile.
Of course I was. I had 20 minutes to absorb anesthetics that took 10 minutes to administer. My tongue felt like it was outside of my mouth. I was certain he just wanted to hear me talk like a kid with an extra chromosome.
His assistant returned carrying instruments I didn’t want to see. I had an idea what was in that canvas bag of tricks; I saw the pliers the dentist used on Kalista and they made me think of Frankenstein.
So it was downright terrible to hear the doctor describe in detail exactly what he was doing with those tools as he was using them. The blood spatter on his mask made it obvious enough what was happening inside my mouth – I didn’t need a play-by-play. It also ticked me off he could sound so calm during a time of crisis. I was dying.
He twisted. He rocked. He cranked. He pulled. My head would have done the same if I hadn’t had my neck muscles strained to the max. My feet twitching to a song I was trying to hear inside my head turned into hooves of a bucking bronco.
“Easy there,” he said with a laugh, looking down at my legs. “You’re working harder than me.
“Why don’t you give him one of those stress balls?”
His assistant complied. I wondered what my blood pressure was.
I waited for the first tooth to come out with a “pop” as he described at the consult, but never got it. He had it out before I knew it. The second should be easy, I thought.
Although the Novocaine clearly hadn’t set in as well on that side of my mouth, knowing I didn’t have a “pop” to dread made it easier. I didn’t even give a crap he again narrated every twist and tug of the same procedure he did before, although I wondered if his office had customer survey cards one could make anonymous suggestions on like restaurants.
“Do you want to see your teeth?” the assistant asked seconds after the surgeon gave me my life back. I was still making sure that stress ball couldn’t breathe.
“Oh yeah,” I said. I was dying to, actually.
And there they were, resting on a patch of gauze atop her rubber gloved hand, red with blood near the roots.
“See how they were decaying? And there’s the cavity,” she said of what looked like a hole in a corral reef.
They were disgusting. They could have passed as Halloween decorations. I would have taken them home and put them under my pillow, but the tooth fairy probably would have looked at them, thrown up and robbed me.
“Glad to be done with those things,” I said.
I was. Glad to have them out of my mouth, glad to have that office off my list of destinations.
I was glad to have it over with.