Tuesday, April 6, 2010

...then he ripped out my molars with a fucking vice grips

I went home for the holidays. Passover, you might say, but I didn't go home because of passover. More likely, I went home because of Easter, and because of shoddy nutrition as a child.

That is to say, my primitive skills school had a spring break, and I needed to get my wisdom teeth out. (I read somewhere that indigenous people didn't have many dental problems, because they ate a much more nutritious diet, and thus had more robust jaws, which had room for all the teeth. But my sources are shady on that, so don't take my word on it.)

It was a really interesting weekend. I'm not even going to tell you the most ridiculously interesting part. I'm just going to taunt you, like this.

Back to my mouth:

quote from my dentist: "I don't know why they call them wisdom teeth. They should call them stupid teeth."

I am quite fond of my new dentist. He is nice and good humored and he is so ridiculously more advanced technologically than my previous dentist that I'm almost jealous for the future generations of children who wont have to suffer the indignities and tortures that horrible, stupid dentistry technologies have inflicted on me. (though they were still much better than even worse, more ridiculous technologies of further back.

Let me give you some examples:
fillings: fillings now don't have to be giant bits of shiny mettle in your mouth, nor do you need the weird, extravagant methods of punching out the mettle to fit the hole drilled. It's just an epoxy they put in and shine a light on. It's really quick.

Needles: this makes me pissed off at all previous dentist methods: there is topical anesthetic that you can swab on to the part of your gums that's going to get stuck, so you don't even feel much of the needle going in.

braces: this is the biggest one. Apparently now they have this shit called invi-align or something, where, instead of the hugely pain in the ass process of spacers, cement, tender teeth and gnarly rubber bands and oh fucking hell, night-time head gear, you can get a mold of your teeth taken, and then they make this see-through plastic tooth cover that subtly moves the teeth into place and you just take off, when you want to eat. I assume you progressively go in for more of these molds that keep moving your teeth into place, and I assume it's more expensive than the spiky mettle and cement option, since you always pay for convenience, but damn, that's a better sounding option by far. I've already put my time in (oh god, how much of my life was made worse by those clinky mettle bastards?) but hopefully it's not too much more expensive, so future generations don't have to deal with that shit. It seems like it might actually be less expensive, since it's so much less work. Just take a mold, send it it, have a set of tooth covers made. Done. I suppose if I was trying to get money off this blog I would put in a link to invis-aligne or something, but I have some mental blocks about being a businessman.

fluoride: even the fluoride is better. that is, it is much less likely to trigger my gag reflex. It needs to stay on for less time, and it's put on differently, and it doesn't taste as bad. Rather than a tooth trough that they fill with goop and you bite down on, they just swab it on, while your mouth is propped open with gauze and such.

I kind of get the feeling that this dentist is just really interested in using the least invasive/uncomfortable stuff, and really does his research. I actually feel comfortable letting him at my mouth, rather than with most dentists, where I'm constantly wondering if this person drilling at my teeth is doing a dirty car repairman scam, messing something else up, or fixing things that don't need fixing. If not intentionally, just via outdated information.

Whatever it is I end up doing, I'd like to take that model for being successful: just do your job really well, trying to give the customer the best service possible, and charge a premium for good service.

As opposed to the business model of just trying to get people to give you their money.

Anyways, my dentist said I should get the wisdom teeth out, two especially, so I went to the maxiofacial surgeon he recommended for that.

After a bit of nonsense where my x-rays didn't get sent, we got into the actual procedure, which was pretty fast.

A bunch of pills, one to prevent swelling/inflammation, and an antibiotic. A big ol' shot of Novocaine into each quadrant that was getting pulled, and then waiting for that to take effect, so a second, even bigger needle could go in further, without much pain. They asked if I wanted laughing gas, or to get knocked out. But I declined. I'm already numb, the other stuff is just for scaredy-cats who are frightened of the idea of teeth being pulled. Or so I thought.

I take the long wait, as they're calling back and forth in the office, trying to get the right x-rays mailed, to survey the tooth ripper's equipment. Most of it is covered with one of those dentists light blue napkins. I'm sure that's standard procedure to keep the squeamish from panicking, thinking about how all the exotic tools are about to be used. I used to be in that category hard core, so I can relate, but it doesn't bother me any more, and I like to savor that fact, since it's a rare opportunity to survey the real, practical change that has happened to me, via dedicated and prolonged spiritual practice. That shit took a lot of my time and attention, was painstaking and difficult to stick with and sometimes harrowing, having to face my demons, and it's not like learning the piano, where you can bust out a nice tune that you couldn't at month before, or get paid for your expertise playing at a bar. Spiritual improvement is so much less tangible. Generally I only notice it when something really shitty happens and I react in a much more healthy way than I'm supposed too.

So no knockout gas for me, and I get to enjoy the unique sensation of hearing the cracking and feeling the pressure as my teeth are sawed, levered, cracked, and pulled out, and the very bone upon which they were embedded, scraped with a mettle tool, like they use for cleaning teeth, to make sure there are no bone fragments (I'm deducing here, the doctor wasn't giving me a running commentary, also probably to avoid making squeamish people vomit or piss themselves.)

I did get some laughing gas given to me, halfway through. As the doctor was cutting into my gums, to get to an underground molar, I started feeling a bit nauseous. I wondered if it might have been from blood loss or something. I mentioned this to the doctor, by grunting and pointing at/rubbing/clutching my belly, and they put on some laughing gas, which I thought was peculiar, since I wasn't freaking out, and since I recall laughing gas in the past making me feel a little queasy, breathing it in. But after the initial queeze of putting it on, it did make the stomach upset go away. Cool.

I'm going to play Sherlock and posit that the massive injury to my gums and jaw, though not painful, was still detected by some body system, and the body started responding like it's supposed to when it's being chased by a leopard after having a chunk taken out of it. That is, heart rate up, evacuate bowels, stomach stop digesting.

As I felt my jaw bone being scraped, I gave deep, heartfelt thanks for the invention of anesthetic. And for the proficiency that medicine has gained, to do such a big operation, so efficiently. couldn't have been more than fifteen, twenty minutes of actual cutting and ripping. maybe less. Then I was back out on the street with some bloody gauze jammed in my cheeks, proscriptions waiting for me at the local CVS and ice-cream waiting for me at home.

Sure beats a barber strapping you to a chair with belts, giving you a bunch of whiskey, and ripping your molar out with a piece of string, after the pain has become so agonizing that this option actually sounds preferable.

God bless good doctors. And good medicine.

Though, I must say, I am currently feeling seriously loopy. I think it started Saturday, with flying back to Seattle on a plane. I may have caught some kind of strange bug, because of my compromised immune system. There's no coughing or sneezing, but I am really, really tired, and I don't feel like eating anything solid. I just checked with my tooth destroyer, and he said it should be fine, just get rest and drink liquids.

So I think I'll go have some more tea and sleep now. though it's only 8:30. I am quite fond of naps, these days.

that's all for now. if the writing is weird, it's cus the brain isn't working so well. It feels like the power is being diverted away from the brain, into the body's healing systems.

[addendum: (I often leave these pieces in the draft folder until I have time to come back and edit them (mainly spell check, also, so I can look at it without being sick of my own voice)) it is many months later: everything healed well, turned out the weird-headedness was from decaying matter in my empty sockets waging war against my immune system: just had to rinse out the sockets more thoroughly and promptly after eating. Also, I still have the painkiller prescription, which I only used a few of, and am not sure what to do with now. For the moment, I moved the pills out and put in some peanut m&m's, so I can pretend to be a pill popper, and because I like peanut m&m's (though actually it's some pretend-healthy knock off from the local health-food store.) end addendum.]

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