Where's the wisdom in wisdom teeth?

Nov 21 2011 - 10:07am

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The dentist handed me a half-sheet of green paper. Harmless enough, right? Wrong! It's my orders to have my wisdom teeth removed.

As my date with the oral surgeon grew closer and closer, my nerves got worse and worse. I had never had an IV, or been put to sleep with anesthesia for any sort of procedure. Lots of people told me getting your wisdom teeth out is harmless -- one friend even said he was eating a hot dog when he got home.

On the other hand, plenty of people told me the cold hard truth about having one's wisdom teeth removed. My physics teacher even went as far as to explain the procedure to me in detail. With so many conflicting reports, I wasn't sure what to believe.

Because of my experience, I've decided to de-bunk the myths. Here's the truth on getting rid of those wisdom teeth.

Oh, the pain

One of my biggest fears going into the doctor's office was that the surgery was going to be terribly painful. While it wasn't excruciating pain, it did hurt. It wasn't like an oh-my-goodness-I'm-going-to-die sort of pain, more of a lingering, dull ache where something used to be. I was prescribed a pain pill, but I found that I didn't need it; I could control the pain with ibuprofen and ice packs.

Ice packs rule

For whatever reason, I had a lot of swelling. The first night it wasn't horrible but as the week went on, I swelled to the point I could barely open my mouth to fit a spoon past my lips. I also developed a really nice black eye that took nearly three weeks to heal.

The only thing that I found that worked to take the pressure out of my cheeks was ice packs. Not huge ice packs but little ones, about the size of my hand from wrist to fingertips. They were just big enough to cover my cheek and put the cold right where I wanted it. They also weren't so cold that they froze my face off, but just cold enough to alleviate pain and make the swelling go down a little bit.

Food dilemmas

Since I couldn't get solid food in my mouth because of the swelling, for the first week and a half after I had my teeth removed I stuck to soft squishy food like applesauce, chicken noodle soup and Popsicles. I especially loved Popsicles. Since sucking on things can cause dry-socket in your gums, I'd bite a little piece off and hold it in my cheek, right where my mouth hurt the worst. Melting Popsicles were perfect while I was waiting for my ice packs to re-freeze.

People told me to eat ice cream to soothe the pain too. But, in all honesty, I didn't like it so much, probably since it was hard to get the spoon into my mouth. Once I could use a spoon, anything cold -- half-frozen applesauce, ice cream, Popsicles -- felt good on the inside of my swollen cheeks.

Side effects

Shortly after arriving home from the oral surgeon's office, I fell so deeply asleep that no prince's kiss could have woken me up. The only thing that did wake me up, however, was throwing up. The swelling made it hard to hold the gauze packs in place. When I did have the gauze in, it would tickle my throat and make me feel like I was going to throw up. Because I didn't have the gauze in, blood went down my throat, and I would throw up.

Eventually, though, I stopped bleeding and throwing up. Once the swelling went down, my jaws and face still ached. There was still that chance of dry sockets or an infection or the swelling coming back.

Nearly everyone must endure having their wisdom teeth removed. I'm pretty sure I got every adverse side effect. In my misfortune, I hope I can pass on a few helpful hints to making wisdom teeth removal a little easier.

Abby Payne is a senior at Bear River High School. When she's not singing, writing or talking a million miles an hour, you can always find her reading. Email her at wild_cherry1994@hotmail.com.

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