Wednesday, 31 October 2012

What's the going rate from the Tooth Fairy nowadays? The story of my tooth extraction.

I had a rough time at the dentist when I was young, and clearly remember my mother arguing with a dentist who'd removed one of my adult teeth without approval, I must have been about twelve at the time. I don't remember having any trouble with my teeth, just that I always seemed to come away from any visit to the dentist with a new filling. Perhaps dentists were more prone to filling teeth in those days, or perhaps he was just maximising his income from the NHS.

Years later I mentioned to my dentist (not the same one!) that I was having some discomfort with one molar when I ate on it. She couldn't see anything wrong, but removed the existing filling that my amalgam-crazed dentist had applied, removed a bit more tooth for good measure and packed it back in with fresh amalgam, saying she couldn't see anything wrong. It still hurt and I put up with it. It was only when I moved to a local dentist four or five years ago that I mentioned the tooth again. He used a special instrument and immediately located a crack. I'd had that massive filling done for nothing. A couple of years later the crack finally gave way and I ended up with a tooth which, above the surface at least, was more filling than enamel. The tooth never settled down due to the size of the filling, niggling me regularly and earned the name of 'Manky Tooth' because that's what he was to me.

Fast forward to two months ago. I went for my usual six monthly check up with my dentist and again mentioned that everything was fine apart from Manky Tooth. We chatted about the prognosis for him and it seemed that at some point he'd no doubt need a root canal procedure. Being the crazy fool that I am, and having heard nothing but bad things about root canals, I suggested the alternative would be extraction. My dentist seemed a little set back by my drastic suggestion, but agreed that that would resolve it for good. I mentioned that I was looking into having braces to straighten my teeth and he suggested that I discuss it with my orthodontist. Perhaps having it removed would make sense in that case, as it would give my other teeth room to move. I had an appointment with my orthodontist a week later, and mentioned it to him. After looking at my mouth and x-rays, he agreed it would mean I'd get a better end result. The decision had been made. It was the end for Manky Tooth.

I made an appointment with my dentist for a couple of weeks later; on a Friday so I'd have time to recover over the weekend before going back to work, and first thing in the morning so I wouldn't be sitting around stewing about it.The Friday morning came around soon enough. I'd been really stressed the night before, worrying that either it would hurt (despite knowing in reality it wouldn't) or that the recovery process would be awful (despite having no mental scars from the tooth being removed when I was twelve), but on the upside, in less than eighteen months I'd have straight teeth and no on-going niggly pain. I managed to convince myself and had a good night's sleep. I woke up on the Friday in good spirits and headed to the dentist, accompanied by Andrew for moral support. I didn't have to wait long in the waiting room before I was called through. The dentist welcomed me with his normal straight, white smile, then sucked air through his teeth and said, "oh dear, so we're taking a tooth out". I retorted that it shouldn't be a case of "oh dear", he should be reassuring me that it would be easy and painless. He assured me that whilst it was never nice to have a tooth out, it wouldn't hurt. Great.

The needle was in his hand before I was quite expecting it, and I saw it looming over me. I try not to look normally as it looks terrifying! The injections were quite painful, I moaned a bit and then washed my mouth out to take the taste away. He chatted to me about the letter from the orthodontist and what I was having done whilst the numbness started spreading and after only a couple of minutes said it should be numb. I couldn't believe how quickly it worked. He put one of the instruments on my tooth (I have to admit, I had my eyes tight shut!), but I could feel it, so he gave me a third injection, which I didn't feel at all. After a few seconds, he pressed on my gums and I couldn't feel anything. We were good to go. The dentist started wiggling the tooth in circles, whilst the nurse stroked my arm. All was good until he realised my head was rotating with his arm, and asked the nurse to hold my head! After a couple of minutes of wiggling (pain free, I can confirm!) Manky Tooth was out. I was a bit concerned as it seemed to be taking a long time, but he showed me the tooth and it had come out in one piece, complete with very long roots. He put a swab in my mouth, gave me some spare swabs, my tooth in a bag (at my request!), some care instructions and sent me on my way. Andrew was surprised to see me, he's thought it would take much longer and I was in good spirits as I settled the bill. I was a little shaky with adrenaline, so was glad I had a driver.

Once I got home I kept the swab in place for an hour, I took some painkillers so they'd be working once the numbness had passed, but I needn't have bothered, the numbness lasted a good four hours, with my tongue being the last bit of my mouth to get back to normal. I was a bit nervous drinking but it was fine, I wasn't aware of any blood, and it didn't cause me any pain. I took it easy for the rest of the day, watching a lot of daytime television and eating sorbet and mousse. By the time Andrew got home from work I'd progressed to mashed potato and ice cream, which caused me no issues. The area was sore, and I'd get a taste of blood every so often, but not enough to persuade me to take painkillers, I guess I was used to a certain level of pain from Manky Tooth. It was difficult cleaning my teeth, especially as my jaw wouldn't open fully, but I cleaned the front and my good side, the other side would wait. I rinsed very carefully as I didn't want to risk dislodging the clot. I went to bed, but slept propped up, at least for most of the night.

The following day I felt much brighter, I started doing salt mouthwashes after meals to keep the area clean. I'd progressed to more solid food and impressed myself by eating soup, shepherd's pie and cauliflower cheese, as well as more mousse. By Sunday it felt as if the bruising was coming out, as my jaw felt sore, but other than that I seemed to be on the mend. Come Monday, I went back to work, and other than feeling slightly self conscious eating, I felt as if no-one would have known. I had a bit of pain and some sensitivity in the neighbouring teeth, but still didn't feel any need to resort to pain relief. 

Whenever I had a question (e.g. how should I clean my teeth on the first day, when can I eat normally), I'd Google it. Without exception, every site mentioned the same warning messages: don't spit, don't drink through a straw, don't drink alcohol and whatever you do, don't smoke. The insinuation seemed to be that if you do any of these, or if you're unlucky, you will be guaranteed that most terrible of outcomes, the dry socket. I read this so many times that I was glad when I got through the first week and considered that the risk had passed. It was only later that I read that less than 5% of patients suffer from dry socket. Whilst I understand that the horror stories may be needed to minimise the risk, at the same time I do wonder whether it's overplayed given the likelihood of occurrence.

It was about ten days later when I actually felt the most pain. Up until this point the site seemed to have settled down, but I started to have sharp throbbing pain when I bent over or did anything more energetic than sitting down. A couple of ibuprofen knocked the pain on the head though. By yesterday the pain was much less, but to be on the safe side I went back to the dentist. He reassured me that it wasn't infected and that it was healing well, I should just keep up with the salt mouthwashes. I have to admit I dropped those on day six, literally as soon as I could, but I'm now back to using them after every meal.

I have to admit there were times when I wondered what I'd done and did regret it. Luckily Andrew was on hand to remind me that once the pain was gone and my teeth were straightened, I'd be glad I'd done it. As usual, I suppose he's right!

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