- Apr 10, 2010
Ten years ago, my dentist told me I had to have my wisdom teeth out. One erupted ok, but the other three erupted only partially and crooked and were covered by gum flaps due to insufficient space in my jaw.
I never considered having them pulled, too terrified I was.
Today I learned that ALL my fear was grounded in what my rational mind told me happens during a wisdom tooth removal, and that, as we all know, is a bit gruesome. At 38, I'm not a spring chicken anymore, and know that everything would be harder rather than for someone in their, say early twenties.
Finally, after dentist number four told me they had to come out and one appeared to have decay in it, I finally made the "Stop wussing out" move. That was four weeks ago. My dentist opted to do the job, but I knew that since my fear is all in my head, I did not want to be aware of the procedure.
I consulted with an oral surgeon who offers IV sedation. For the past four weeks, I was very nervous and researched the issue to death. I had never had any kind of sedation or procedure and the fact that my surgeon kept telling me, "You will be awake and responsive but you will not feel or notice a thing" was a contradiction to my rational mind.
I read thread upon thread in this forum, mostly to find an answer to one nagging question: Do people rave about IV sedation because it really IS great, or only because of its amnesic effect, so nobody actually remembers how they suffered through the procedure?
Turns out how important a good doctor is to alleviating fears. Two days ago, he called me in for a final consultation. He patiently addressed all my concerns and convinced me that I would be ok. No suffering, no discomfort and no pain. Mind you, my only concerns were regarding the actual procedure. That there would be post-op pain I knew, but that is not too much of an issue for me, since my fear is more about the thought of someone doing violent things with scary instruments in my mouth. Post-op pain to me is not scary at all, it's just that, pain, and I trusted in modern chemistry to deal with it.
Here is how it went down:
Yesterday morning, I had my surgery appointment. Interestingly, I had grown LESS anxious over time, not more. But still quite fearful. The night before and an hour before the surgery, I took a Halcion pill on the doc's recommendation.
A friend drove me to the appointment. Arrived, a little nervous but not too scared. (Halcion is awesome, I discovered!) Sat in the chair, they started to prep me. I somehow mentioned I had taken the Halcion pill with a glass of water. The nurses asked me, "wait, what? Um, we need to check with the doctor." Doc came into the room, saying, "sorry, Daniel, we can't do it. It's not safe."
Great, I thought. So much for getting this over with. Luckily, they could reschedule me for the next morning.
Went out with friends that night, had a couple of beers, went home. Took a Halcion with a glass of water, then made sure I had no food, no water, no nothing that night.
The morning of the surgery (this was today):
Took a Halcion pill with just a sip of water. Friend picked me up, off we go. Arrive at the surgery center, take two.
I sit back in the chair, moderately nervous, but way less than I would have imagined given my overactive mind. (Again, take that Halcion! This is not the time to be a hero. Makes everything easier.)
They put a blanket on my lap, clip an oxymeter to a finger and put on a bloodpressure cuff. Not much chit-chat, friendly atmosphere, but they keep it moving. I really appreciated that. Someone puts a rubber band on my upper arm, pulls it tight. A small pinch, the IV is in. No problem. I'm feeling alright. The doctor asks me about my job. I respond, explain what I do and close my eyes.
I open my eyes. I'm sitting on my couch at home, watching a movie with the friend who drove me. still numb, but no pain, no discomfort, I have a milk shake in my hand.
I get the frozen peas out and wrap my face in a towel with the peas against my cheeks. At the surgery center, they had insisted someone look after me for at least five hours following the surgery. I'm single, my friends lead busy lives. I had made arrangements with a different friend who agreed to watch me for the remainder of the day, at her place. I had packed a bag with stuff I would need so I could crash on her couch.
About an hour post-op, my ride had to go. He was supposed to drop me off at the other friend's house so she could watch me. I told my ride, "I'm fine, no need to take me anywhere."
Friend leaves. I finish the movie, then watch the second one we had rented earlier. Interestingly, I remembered nothing of that, even though my ride told me how we had debated which movies to get. Funny experience.
About three hours post -op, I feel the numbing wearing off. I take 600mg Ibuprofen, in anticipation of pain. Doc told me I could try the Ibu only before taking the prescription he had given me (Lortab, which according to the pharmacist, is stronger than Vicodin.) I never take pain medicine, so I wanted to try the Ibuprofen first.
I take the gauze pads out and put a couple of new ones in. No bleeding. I ask my friend to call the doctor's office to find out if I actually NEED to replace the gauze. They say No. Sweet! No more gauze for me, and I'm only three hours post-up. I'm starting to like this.
Five hours later. The numbing is gone. Still no pain. No swelling either.
I need to rent more movies. Crap, friend took off with my car. Ride my bike. Intention is to only go to the video place around the corner, then back home to ice more. Find myself comfortable enough to run several errands, visit friends etc. Still no pain. Ride my bike to my friend's place, load it into the car and drive to the video store. (Earlier, the doctor's office had STRONGLY advised me not to drive within 24 hrs, but I felt totally fine.)
Drove around, stereo blasting, stopped at the guitar store, did some shopping, then picked up some more movies. Went home, relaxed on the couch.
Still no swelling, still no pain. Decided to stop icing and never took any more pain meds.
In summary, this was the biggest friggin' piece of cake I ever experienced in terms of dental stuff. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I SWEAR that the dental cleaning I had a couple of months ago was WAY more uncomfortable than my whole wisdom teeth extraction situation, and yes, that includes the post-op time.
I can also honestly relieve any concerns that with IV sedation, you will NOT notice ANYTHING during the procedure, let alone discomfort or pain. At home, I had to actually LOOK at my wisdom teeth, which the doc had put in an envelope and give to my friend, to convince myself they really had been removed.
My advice if you're anxious about having your wisdom teeth removed:
Don't even THINK about having a dentist do it. Go with an experienced oral surgeon, who has the experience from doing nothing but this kind of stuff and the anesthesia options at hand.
Take what modern medicine has to offer (Oral sedatives beforehand, IV sedation during the procedure)
There is NO NEED for the so-called "general anesthesia" where they put you "fully under", and a machine needs to breathe for you. In my case, the effect with IV sedation ("twilight sleep") was EXACTLY the same: No awareness, no pain, no remembrance, nothing.
Don't worry about it too much beforehand. Address all your fears with your surgeon, and you will find that once you trust them, everything will be so much easier.
I learned today that getting four wisdom teeth pulled does not necessarily have to be a lot more uncomfortable than trimming your nails.