I’ve decided to post about my experience with my wisdom tooth removal because this is information I wish I had been able to find before I had it done. If you don’t want to know, don’t read it. I’m not sparing any detail.
Before I start, let me just say that this was NOT the worst thing that has ever happened and if I had to do it again, I could with no problem. In 2012, I had a lumbar puncture and the wisdom tooth thing wasn’t even nearly as bad. The whole procedure took less than 10 minutes (for one tooth…AND the tooth was impacted, so I was quite impressed) and was completely painless. I was awake the whole time and it never bothered me.
There was really no prep. Brush, floss, and rinse before going to the dentist…as usual. I DO recommend getting some OTC pain killers and some gauze BEFORE having the tooth removed, just in case they don’t give you any at the dentist. You’ll need it afterwards.
The prep that occurred in the office was different, though I didn’t do much. My dentist gave me two shots of Novocaine which completely numbed the left side of my mouth. I have no problem with needles, so I just relaxed and let him do his thing. This was the worst part, really. I yelped on the first one because I wasn’t expecting it. The second one was worse, but I knew what was coming so it wasn’t a big deal. I sat there for 5-10 minutes waiting for it to work its magic before he came in, raised my seat, and got to work.
(If you’re afraid of needles…I don’t know what to tell you except that I used to be and getting over that fear has made my life exponentially easier. Though I realize it’s harder for some people to just “get over it,” so you could probably ask for some other kind of anesthetic. Before the surgery, I asked the secretary what he was going to give me. She said, “Whatever you want.” I didn’t care, so I just let him do what he thought was best.)
He didn’t immediately start the removal. First, he had to make sure I couldn’t feel anything. He took this thing that kind of looked like a flat head screwdriver and jammed it into my gum, right where he was going to cut. I didn’t even know he did it until he asked, “Did you feel anything?” I said that I couldn’t and he did it again somewhere else on the tooth site. I couldn’t feel that, either. He assured me that, had I felt it, the pain would have had me flying out of his office. He told me the operation would be completely painless and that I might hear some noises I don’t like. Other than that, it should be fine.
Then came the cutting.
Before I went to the dentist, I had read an account by someone who I will not name because, frankly, he gets a little melodramatic when it comes to medical…anythings. Basically, he said that you can hear and feel them ripping into your gums and it’s a terrible sound.
Uh…I don’t know what kind of backwoods, medieval doctor he went to…but was most certainly not the same in my case.
I heard nothing except the sound of the drill, then the metal tools scraping against my tooth (you know the sound it makes when they’re cleaning your teeth? That’s the sound I mean. So if you’ve ever been to a dentist, it’s not anything unusual), and then the sound of my tooth hitting a metal plate. That was it.
He started by taking a small blade and cutting into the gum, which I only knew because he was telling me (you can ask them not to do this. He did it for me because I told him it would make me feel better if I knew what he was doing). I didn’t have any issues with blood simply because there was none in my mouth ever. He had someone assisting him and she was ALWAYS on top of sucking out any fluids, so the doctor could see what he was doing.
Then he drilled. I don’t know what he drilled, since I couldn’t see it or feel it. I believe he only did it to make the procedure go more quickly. I did, however, feel a VERY SMALL pinch. It wasn’t even a bad pinch, I just made a little sound to let him know that I felt something (even though it didn’t actually hurt, but I didn’t like that I was able to feel anything at all) and to please tell me if it’s going to get worse or if that’s the brunt of it. He decided to just stop doing what he was doing. As soon as I made a noise, he stopped the drill and went to doing the rest by hand.
I don’t know what he did exactly, but he put this plastic thing in my mouth, on the right side (the opposite side of the surgery) and told me to bite down as hard as I could. This wasn’t for him, but for me. It would make it easier on me if I bit down while he pulled the tooth out. And it did! Because he had to pull REALLY hard to get the tooth out, it was yanking on my jaw. Having something to bite down on gave me something to fight against the pulling (which made it easier for him to get the tooth out).
All of a sudden, much sooner than I expected, he said the tooth was removed and then asked for the sutures.
This is where the weirdness was, but it wasn’t so bad. Again, I felt nothing. But, you know, when you get a tooth pulled there’s going to be a gaping hole there. My mom said her dentist just left hers open and stuffed it with gauze (eek! I couldn’t imagine). Mine sewed it shut to reduce the risk of getting an infection and/or dry socket. The weird part: I did hear one sound I didn’t like. That was the sucking sound of my gums being pulled together and string being laced through them. But I got him to talk to me (which covered up the sound) by pointing to the sutures and giving him a puzzled look. He then started explaining what he was doing, though I already knew. I just really needed to hear a noise that wasn’t the sucking sound. Because ew.
If that would gross you out, tell your dentist that when he does the sutures, you want him to talk about basically anything so you won’t have to hear the sound. If I had known the sound was coming, I would have done that ahead of time. You could also ask if you can wear headphones. That would work, too.
I asked them how long the procedure would last. They said about 30 minutes or so. As I said before, it took less than 10 (NOT counting how long it took for the Novocaine to kick in). He was very efficient. Some doctors aren’t that way, I guess, because Zach was very surprised and said the doctor he went to took about an hour for one tooth.
Once the sutures were secure, he folded a piece of gauze into quarters and told me to let it sit for one hour and then change it. Once I changed it the first time, I needed to change it again every 20-30 minutes, or until it stopped bleeding. His assistant gave me a huge baggie filled with gauze to take home. He also told me that if it didn’t stop bleeding within two hours, to try putting a moist tea bag on it. Tea contains tannic acid, which is a styptic that can help reduce bleeding. I did that, but the tea bag I used was so big that it hurt to keep it there. So I took it out and continued using gauze regularly.
I continued bleeding through the night, though it was much better by the time I went to bed. I put in a piece of gauze before bed and slept with it in. Yes, I was afraid of choking on it. That fear mixed with the pain I felt after the Novocaine wore off kept me half awake through the majority of the night. But the gauze stayed perfectly in place, so it was OK. (Note: If the bleeding doesn’t stop within 24 hours, call your dentist.)
Before I left his office, he gave me a whole sheet of paper with instructions on it. Because he knew that I would forget everything he told me when I got home. The most important part of the list:
- Take a couple pain killers (800 mg) as soon as you get home so they have time to kick in before the Novocaine wears off.
- Do not to drink through straws
- Do not spit (I’ll explain the spitting situation in a moment)
- Do not rinse or brush the area of surgery for the first 24 hours
- Do not drink carbonated beverages for the first 24 hours
- After the first 24 hours are over, brush it as gently as possible.
- Do not rinse with mouthwash that contains alcohol while the wound is still healing. Rinse with warm salt water (1/8 tsp salt + 1 cup of water). If you don’t want to use salt water, the best rinse would be Crest, because it doesn’t contain alcohol. I just used the salt water. It wasn’t so bad.
When I got home, I immediately took 900 mg of Tylenol (he said 800, but my store doesn’t go any lower than 550 mg a pill…I figured an extra 100 wouldn’t kill me) to head off he pain before the Novocaine wore off. Some dentists hand out Vicodin like it’s candy…mine won’t give you any unless you get dry socket and it’s causing you severe pain. But that’s OK because I didn’t need it. The Tylenol made the pain more bearable during the first night. By the second day, the pain was basically gone…and replaced by inexplicable soreness. Honestly, the worst part of this whole ordeal was waiting for the Novocaine to wear off. That stuff feels weird when it’s wearing off. He recommended taking the Tylenol for the week and then weaning off it when I didn’t need it anymore. I didn’t do that. I took the full dose the first night, then I halved it the next morning. After the first dose the morning after, I didn’t need it anymore so I simply didn’t take it.
I also applied an ice pack during the first night, which felt nice and kept the swelling down. As a matter of fact, I didn’t bruise at all and I only slightly swelled. I was the only person who could tell I was swollen. My brother came over the day after the surgery and didn’t even know anything was different until I told him (and then I kicked him out because he wanted to talk and talking hurt the first couple of days).
As I said, the next day I was really sore. I was so glad the bleeding had stopped, because I couldn’t get my mouth to open wide enough to put more gauze in it. As a result, I spent the next two days on a strictly liquid diet. As bad as they are for you, I drank mostly meal replacement shakes because it was all I could stand to consume. The first one took me three hours to finish because swallowing made the soreness worse. Zach also got me two enormous bottles of Naked juice, because he’s awesome. Between those two things, I wasn’t very hungry. By Wednesday evening, I got brave enough to eat soup–no chunks, just liquid soup. That went OK, but it took me so long to eat it that I finally gave up and let Zach have the rest.
Thursday, I visited my mom (meaning, I felt good enough to travel, since it’s a two and a half hour drive to her house). She made me chicken Alfredo (with bacon flavored Alfredo sauce…wow), because I needed something soft to eat. I ate that with no problem, though I had to cut the noodles and chunks of chicken into smaller pieces. I anticipated not being able to eat until the sutures came out, but that wasn’t true. As long as I ate on the other side of my mouth, I was fine. Also, this probably has something to do with the time I had my surgery, but I seemed to start out feeling crappy in the morning, but I was always better in the evening. Before I went to my mom’s on Thursday, I stopped at a friend’s house. They gave me pasta for lunch and I couldn’t eat it, it hurt too much. But only a few hours later, I felt so much better and was able to eat pasta at Mom’s. So it was weird. Like I said, I think it has something to do with the fact that the removal happened late in the afternoon.
Friday, I had burritos because I still needed something soft. 😛 Plus they were delicious. At that point, I wasn’t in pain unless I talked too much, moved my jaw the wrong way, or laughed too much. Laughing really hurt.
By Saturday, I felt nothing. In fact, had completely forgotten that I had had my tooth removed. So I made the horrible mistake of eating on that side. It was agonizing. Do not do that. Other than that, I was fine. I ate salad and had no problem with the tougher vegetables.
A friend of mine told me that she had all four removed at once. I can’t even imagine. But she elected to do that–you can stagger it so you do one side and then once it’s healed you do the other side. Assuming you have to have them all removed. I only had to have one removed. (If you’re in the military, you have to have them all removed whether you want to or not and I honestly don’t know if you have to do them all at once or if they give you a choice. My brother-in-law did them all at once.)
The only part I don’t like is that I have a bad taste in my mouth all the time. Which is normal. He said that will last until the wound is completely healed. I honestly don’t know how long that takes, but I’ll let you know when I figure it out (EDIT: It lasted about 3-4 weeks). The bad taste is there even after I brush, floss, and rinse. It’s just something that makes me feel self-conscious, but it’s only temporary.
Some dentists use dissolving sutures. Mine did not. I think part of the reason is so he would have an excuse to check my healing progress, which I’m fine with. It took him less than a minute and it was completely painless. He didn’t give me anything, he just cut the top of the thread with a knife and used a pair of tweezers to pull them out. I didn’t even feel him do it. Once they were out, he told me I was healing great and that I had almost healed completely over the sutures. As a result, he did have issues getting them to come out…but I still didn’t feel anything. So sutures aren’t a big deal.
1. Do it as late in the day as you can. That way, you only have to deal with the pain during the evening on that first night. You’ll sleep through most of it.
2. Don’t get too nervous. It’s not that bad and getting worked up only hurts you for absolutely no reason. Your dentist will not care that you don’t want to do it. No one wants to do it. Just put on your Big Kid underpants and get it done. Having it removed will save you from a lot of pain and suffering later, should the tooth become abscessed.
3. Take someone with you. Not into the actual room with you, but have someone there just in case you can’t drive yourself home. Even if they don’t drug you, the adrenaline rush you feel when it’s over will hurt your concentration. Especially if you were really nervous. My dentist wouldn’t even let me sit up for the first few minutes once I was done because, apparently, it’s not uncommon for people who were nervous to get dizzy and fall down.
4. Distract yourself. I know I said this above, but it bears repeating. If you’re worried about any noises that would disturb and/or upset you, find a way of distracting yourself. Be it putting on head phones or telling your doctor that you would like for him to talk to you as a distraction from what he’s doing. If he’s any decent kind of person (and doctor) he’ll be fine with it.
5. Make sure you have everything when you leave. I didn’t forget anything physical, fortunately, but I did forget to make my appointment to remove the sutures. I called three days later and they set it up for me with no problem. Aside from that, make sure you have your gauze and your belongings. And, if your doctor didn’t write down instructions, ask him to. I can’t imagine how I would have gotten through the night without that little piece of paper he gave me because I kept forgetting everything.
6. Ask questions. Ask legitimate questions and stupid questions. I asked a ton of silly questions I knew the answers to (or should have known, if I didn’t already) only because it made me feel better. If hearing your doctor tell you something you already know (or tell you something you don’t) will make you feel better, screw your pride. Just ask.
7. If you don’t have insurance, get a quote ahead of time. Don’t go to pay and then be shocked by the answer. Your brain won’t be able to handle that after the procedure is done.
8. If you can afford it, pay a little extra for a quality doctor. This is something I would recommend for anything, actually. My doctor was amazing. He was more pricy than some of the others in town, though not by much. And it was worth it for some of the added comforts (like knowing he knew what he was doing and trusting that he wouldn’t do anything that would cause me pain). By quality, I don’t just mean that he’s nice and can do the surgery well. Something I like about my doctor: he’s honest and trustworthy and those qualities are so rare in medical professionals these days. For instance, the other three teeth aren’t being removed because they’re sitting on top of the mandibular nerve and he’s not confident that he can get them out without damaging that nerve. But they’re impacted and not moving anymore, so he’s pretty sure they shouldn’t ever need removed. The fact that he could admit that he was nervous about the prospect of removing them (and even told me he had an actual surgeon he could recommend if I ever really needed them removed) was what convinced me to let him do the removal. I’ve had too many doctors in the past who didn’t always know what they were doing and were too proud to admit it and then I was the one to suffer for it, which has made me distrustful of other doctors. I even told one once, while I was getting my spinal tap done and he told me I wouldn’t feel anything in the IR, “The other doctors have been telling me things like that for two days and, so far, they’ve all been lies. Why should I believe you?” (I felt bad for it afterwards, because he was the first one to actually get it right.) Get a doctor you can trust. Because when I ask a doctor a direct question and they sit there and lie to me just to make their jobs easier, we have a problem.
9. Remember that pain is subjective. Keep this in mind before the surgery. My friend who had all four removed at once didn’t feel anything during or after the surgery. She was surprised when I told her how sore I was because it was something she hadn’t experienced. In fact, she said was eating regular soft stuff the day after. Like I said, I did a liquid diet the day after because I hurt too much for real food. Everyone is different. I have been told, though, that the pain I felt is as bad as it gets, barring any complications. So that wasn’t so bad.
10. Eat and drink lukewarm to cold foods and beverages while you’re healing. Hot stuff will cause some discomfort, or even pain. I recommend applesauce, pudding (because pudding), Jell-o, and yogurt. My dentist said ice cream would be OK, but I didn’t consider it soft enough. Oh, and cheesecake. Cheesecake is soft enough (and certainly delicious enough).