He was a busy doctor and had no time to mess around.
I, who had never gone into surgery before, was honestly overwhelmed with information. It was my first consultation where the possibility of removing my wisdom teeth had first been discussed, and I simply was not prepared. He spewed his facts with the speed of a seasoned professional, and as I sat back in his dentist chair, I couldn’t process them fast enough. After perusing x-rays of my very-angled wisdom teeth with not so much as a comment or reassurance, he crossed the room. “Any questions?” he asked in a nonchalant, almost uncaring tone. I opened my mouth to speak, though nothing came out. Not being able to think on my feet fast enough, I managed to muster a “No”. I was swiftly escorted out of his office, and the countdown clock had begun: Two months to D-Day. Or, maybe W-T Day in my case.
Though I had been discussing removing my wisdom teeth for almost two years with my orthodontist and dentist, I guess you can call me stupid or hopeful, but I really wished the day wouldn’t come for a long time. Last year, after one of my biannual cleanings, my dentist suggested I get a panoramic x-ray of my mouth after he had concerns about my wisdom teeth coming in on my bottom jaw. I went to get one done, and my orthodontist observed that the teeth were coming in at an angle. He was afraid that the teeth would ruin all the hard work my braces had done in my middle school years, so he told me to get a wisdom teeth consultation with a surgeon as soon as possible. The surgeon saw me for maybe 10 minutes, then pushed me into his schedule for the end of July.
I had been dreading the day for months. The upcoming surgery was a weight on me all summer, and it slowly creeped up on me with nothing I could do about it. I was going to get these teeth out of my mouth no matter how many nightmares I had or how many times I denied the day would come.
They say there’s a first time for everything, but this was one “first” I could live without.
A few days before, I started losing sleep over the anxiety I felt over the procedure. Although I talked to lots of people who had gotten theirs out, they did nothing to ease my worry. “Everyone gets this done,” they all said, but that never made me feel any better. Look, I get that getting wisdom teeth out is a very common surgery, but this is coming from someone who’s never gone under the knife before for anything. I had no idea what to expect, if I should get knocked out by medication, how I’d feel afterwards. And I’d never know fully until the day finally came and I was experiencing the surgery myself. They say there’s a first time for everything, but this was one “first” I could live without.
When the day of the surgery finally came to my dismay, I sat through the drive to the doctor’s office as confidently as I could… then broke down crying as my mom pulled into a parking spot a few strides from the office. “I’m glad you held it together for this long,” she offered, but it did nothing to calm my breathing or to rid the tears spilling from my eyes. The walk to the office seemed like a trudge to my murder, and I opened the door, hands unwilling to stop shaking. This was only the beginning of the panic attack that unfolded.
I was escorted to the operating room quickly and without fanfare. I tried to quell my nerves as I laid resting with my head to the ceiling, my palms sweating on the seat. An all-too chipper nurse came in and started setting up medical equipment that was no doubt going to be placed on or prodded into me somewhere. A mask eerily similar to this Mad Max villain’s was secured over my nose and mouth, along with a tube that clung like a snake around my ears and up my nose. “It’s just oxygen,” the nurse cooed in an attempt to get me to relax. A heart monitor was placed at the foot of my chair, just in my vision, that would track my every heartbeat, and that’s when I truly lost it. That machine bothered me more than the actual surgery.
Why, you ask? One of my biggest fears is being made aware of my heartbeat, for some reason. Taking my pulse scares me, hearing my heartbeat freaks me out, and when we learned about heart attacks in school, I started having trouble breathing. I’m not really sure why I have this fear – maybe it’s because the heart is one of the most vital organs of the human body, and there’s so much that can go wrong with it. One wrong pump or clot placement and you’re done for, just like that.
The heart monitor’s beeps invaded my mind and took hold of every thought and fear of mine.
Anyway, I was hooked up to the machine soon enough so I could be given a little anesthetic (I would be put into a “twilight”, as the nurses called it), but not for long. The heart monitor showed my pulse, the numbers climbing into almost the 200s. The rise and fall of the pulse wave was paired with a beep that I knew I heard too many times to be normal. My pulse was irregular – it quickened and slowed as I tried to get a grasp of my heartbeat. After a few seconds of this, the machine spazzed, the beeps alarming the nurses that I had an incredibly high blood pressure and that something needed to be done.
I tried to self soothe. I attempted to breathe in and out slow, to think of a happy place, to focus on anything and anywhere other than here. But those damn beeps would not leave me alone. They invaded my mind and took hold of every thought and every fear of mine and played with them. What if the beeps get faster? What if the sound grows louder? What if they suddenly stop and you flatline and that’s it?
It’s the stuff of nightmares.
My surgeon (the same one I had the consultation with) seemed like he was getting fed up with me, and the surgery hadn’t even begun. He parted the flock of nurses surrounding me and told me that any kind of general anesthesia wouldn’t be possible if I couldn’t control my pulse. We were all in agreement that that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon with the monitor on, so the nurses removed it. I instantly got better, maybe because of the Nitrous Oxide they decided to pump like crazy into my Mad Max mask, which would let me be aware of the procedure, but more relaxed, which was fine by me. Whatever they did, I’m all the more thankful for it.
Things suddenly got better, and I had more confidence that I could handle the surgery, that this was a breeze. I laughed with the nurses as my arms started tingling. I giggled when they gave me local anesthetic that felt like I got lip injections. I wasn’t the biggest fan of my tongue going numb, but I was very suddenly way more okay with this almost-condescending-by-being-so-experienced surgeon invading my mouth. I started laughing again for God knows what reasons as he cracked the wisdom teeth apart. Something about sounds just get me, I guess.
After the surgery, I was still very much on my meds – not loopy, but a little light-headed, not in pain, and way happier than I should have been for someone who just got their teeth pulled. I was given a set of instructions that I should follow post-surgery that I’m going to share with you because these tips really helped me get through another sucky part of wisdom teeth surgery: the aftermath.
👄 Change your gauzes every 20 minutes.
At the end of the surgery, one of the nurses stuffed gauzes in the back of my mouth to help stop the
inevitable bleeding. You have to fold them twice into tiny squares, push them to the back of your mouth, and bite down. I’m not going to lie – it’s really gross having to change these, but you’ll feel better once you have. It’ll help create clots by your stitches *shiver*.
My jaw was also one of the sorest parts of my mouth since they propped it open for so long to do the surgery. Opening my mouth to change these gauzes was a problem the first day. I got my full jaw mobility back after 2 weeks post-surgery.
👄 Use an ice pack for your cheeks the day of the surgery, switching sides every 20 minutes. Only do this for the first two days! Then, use a warm cloth on your cheeks the day after the surgery.
The ice packs felt so good. I’d suggest getting the soft ones so they’re more comforting on your face. I didn’t have any so I just used the hard ones in my fridge, but they felt like bricks. Especially when I accidentally hit myself in the cheek with them… so definitely invest in some ice packs that you can get comfortable with, because they’ll quickly become your best friend!
👄 Don’t rinse out your mouth, brush your teeth, touch your mouth with a ten-foot pole, the day of the surgery.
It’s very important that you don’t spit the day of the surgery. Your mouth is attempting to create a blood clot, and the way you have to buckle your cheeks to spit could knock that clot out, resulting in a higher chance of infection. You’re already in a ton of pain and you don’t need an infection to make that pain 10x worse. Treat the area with care and trust me – the pain and bleeding will go away with time.
👄 THE DAY AFTER THE SURGERY WILL HIT YOU LIKE A TRAIN AND NOTHING WILL PREPARE YOU FOR IT.
I went to bed the night of the surgery feeling semi-okay. I could feel the effects of the pain medication slowly drifting away, but managed to fall asleep. The next day, I felt a strange pressure in my cheeks. I looked in my mirror and didn’t recognize myself at first. I was a literal chipmunk – my face looked like a Snapchat filter! I waited for Ashton to come out and say “Hey, you’ve been Punk’d! This isn’t your life right now!”, but that moment never came, and I was forced to accept reality as is.
The day after the surgery was so painful. I still didn’t have full mobility of my jaw, plus my cheeks were swollen. I still couldn’t eat anything I liked, so all three of my meals that day consisted of chicken and stars soup (since even the noodles proved impossible for me to eat). It was miserable to just sit there and do nothing but be in pain.
👄 Don’t skimp out on your pain medication.
I swear, this is the only thing that got me through the first few days post-surgery. I took Ibuprofen every 4 hours or so to mitigate the pain, but I also got prescription medicine just in case. Luckily, I never needed to use it, but I did have to take medication consistently for about 3 days after my surgery.
👄 Plan ahead and figure out which soft foods you like and buy them in bulk, because that’s all you’re eating for the next week and a half.
A few hours after my surgery (while part of my lips and tongue were still numb), I attempted to eat some chicken noodle soup because I was hungry. Bad idea. I couldn’t chew anything and neither the noodles nor the broth would stay in my mouth; everything spilled out. It made me really sad since I love food in all its forms. After a few days had passed since the surgery, I was able to enjoy a couple of softer foods. My favorites were:
- Mashed Potatoes
- Strawberry-Banana Yogurt
- Chocolate Pudding
- Club Crackers (softened from chicken broth)
- A ridiculous amount of soup 🙂 I suggest Chicken and Stars just because the pasta is tiny and easy to swallow without chewing, and cream soups that are thick and can fill you up.
- Ice Cream (but especially Phish Food 😉 although eating the fish candy was really painful the first day. So you can replace this with your favorite Ben and Jerry’s flavor.)
👄 Also, no sipping drinks from straws.
So think twice before you order something from Dunk’s or Starbucks the week of the surgery. You’re allowed to have coffee, but you’re not supposed to drink it the day of the surgery (which I found about after I drank it… oops). I had gone back to work a few days after the surgery and ordered my favorite Dunk’s drink – a hazelnut swirl iced coffee. I caught myself drinking from its straw and cursed internally. Every time afterwards, I had to pop the lid off and sip from the top. It was embarrassing to have to explain to my coworkers.
I learned that apparently the sucking motion that your mouth does when you sip out of a straw could inadvertently knock the clots out of the back of your mouth where you’re healing. #TheMoreYouKnow So be careful the week after surgery when you want to treat yourself!
👄 Salt water is a godsend, rinse out with it after every meal.
One of the best feelings post-surgery was rinsing my mouth out with warm salt water. You put a teaspoon of salt in with some warm bathroom sink water, then use the whole cup of water to rinse. The salt acts as a cleanser and cleans the stitches, wounds and clots in the back. It also helps knock out excess food that may be trapped in the gums in the back, because reaching back there to clean and accidentally touching the stitches themselves is a big no-no (I did that too… oops, again). I also brought a small salt shaker and teaspoon to work with me every day. Super embarrassing to have to explain this to my coworkers, again.
👄 Find something to watch on TV, Netflix, or gather some movies, because all you’re going to want to do is sit and do nothing.
I was lucky in that the weekend I had it done, there was a Harry Potter movie marathon playing all weekend. It was great just to zone out and take my mind off of the pain I was feeling watching the movies. Shoutout to Freeform for making my wisdom teeth experience a little more bearable!
So, there you have it – my wisdom teeth surgery and post-op experience in a nutshell. Here’s to hoping I never have to go through anything like this again.
To anyone else who’s gone through the surgery: what advice would you give someone preparing themselves for (or worrying about) their wisdom teeth surgery? Let them know in the comments!