Wednesday, November 16, 2011

let's talk about wisdom teeth.

Like many young adults, I knew that I had to get my wisdom teeth out. Unlike many young adults, I wasn’t too worried about it. Going to the dentist was never a problem for me, even though my dentist tended to try and save your eternal soul during dental exams (which is a story for another day).

My parents and I decided that I’d get my wisdom teeth out during my first week of summer break after my freshman year of college. I was unfortunate enough to have all four of my wisdom teeth, and all four of them were impacted. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with wisdom tooth lingo, it means that my wisdom teeth were stuck underneath my gums, meaning they couldn’t just be pulled – they had to be cut out. Blech!) Not only were they impacted, but a couple of them were actually sideways. The dental x-rays were bizarre, to say the least.

As we live in the middle of the South Dakota prairie, there are no oral surgery places nearby, so an appointment was made in Sioux Falls. My dad, ever the kind, nurturing father, couldn’t resist telling me the story about when he got his own wisdom teeth out. He waited until he was 28, so they were a little more difficult to remove. In the middle of the appointment, my dad woke up from his anesthesia. As if that’s not horrible enough, the dentist had his knee on my dad’s chest, and he was yanking with all his might on one of the wisdom teeth. “Oh, but I’m sure you’ll be fine,” my dad cackled. “Heh heh heh.”

The day of my appointment rolled around, so my mom and I got up extra early and made the drive. The procedure itself was uneventful enough. I remember a giant waiting room with TVs on the ceilings, and I remember being relieved that my mom would have something to watch while I was getting my wisdom teeth out. I’m not sure how long the operation took, but it seemed like just minutes in between when I went in and sat down in the chair until I woke up in a druggy haze.

I’m pretty sure they put me in a wheelchair to take me out to the car. Until that point, I had never had surgery for anything, so I was kind of enjoying the fuss. They wrapped my face up in one of those goofy Velcro things that holds ice packs on your cheeks. Mom was instructed to feed me some ice cream so I could take my first pain pill, so to Dairy Queen we went. I got a chocolate shake, but I’ve never had to work harder at anything in my life than I had to work at eating that shake. I think my mom had a good time watching me try and wrestle that little plastic spoon into my mouth. I spent the rest of the ride home asking Mom if I was drooling.

When I arrived home, I had received instructions to rest. I had taken three days off from my two summer jobs, but I didn’t want to waste them by sitting around on the couch. Ages ago, I had made plans to go shopping that Saturday (the day after wisdom teeth removal day) with my friend Bob. Bob also held down two summer jobs, so it was more or less impossible to coordinate a day when both of us were free. We had each taken this day off from work and were planning to have a great day, and I wasn’t going to let something as slight as oral surgery ruin it.

At this point, I was 19 years old, and my parents didn’t want to tell me what to do. They gave me their best “are you SURE this is a good idea?” faces, but I insisted that I would be fine. I took a bunch of extra-strength Tylenol (I never got any of the really strong pain relievers, which may have contributed to my upcoming issues) and went to bed.

The next morning, I woke up in a cold sweat. I felt like I was dying. My face was swollen to freakish proportions and already starting to bruise. I desperately wanted to go back to bed, but darnit, I needed to prove my parents wrong. I dragged myself out of bed, somehow made myself presentable (as presentable as possible) and drove to Bob’s house. Upon arrival, I informed him that he would have to drive to Sioux Falls, as my vision was a little less than optimal thanks to my continually swelling face. Bob agreed, and that gave me the rest of the drive to relax with my ice packs.

In Sioux Falls, I was miserable. Poor Bob had to wander around with a person who was beginning to look like the Elephant Man, but he was a good sport about it. I had to walk slowly and smoothly with many breaks to sit down and try to remain conscious. I eventually gained the courage to try and eat something, only to find that I couldn’t open my mouth wide enough eat my potato olés. I don’t remember how long it took us to call it a day, but I’m sure we cut our trip a little short. And did I mention it was pouring rain and about 50 degrees?

The next day was Sunday, and not only was it church day, but Father’s Day as well. I felt better than I did the day before, but still pretty crappy. I was sure that I’d be just fine. And I was… for about half an hour. Luckily, most of the service was spent sitting down, so I just had to concentrate on making sure the pew didn’t spin too much. I survived up until the last ten minutes of church. We were standing for some prayers or a hymn or something, and I suddenly felt incredibly hot. My knees were shaky, so I steadied myself with a death grip on the edge of the pew. My mom gave me a sideways look, and just as my vision started getting a little wacky, church was over. “Uhh… are you ok?” said my parents, staring at my pale, sweaty face. I slogged outside, took a few lungfuls of fresh air, and I was pretty sure I was going to live.

Since it was Father's Day, I let Dad take this picture with me. He was having a great time.
I had to go back to work the next day, and I did just fine. However, after a few days, the bruising really started to set in. My cheeks were several unpleasant shades of yellow and greeny blue, and they were still as swollen as ever. My two summer jobs were in a church camp kitchen and an ice cream shop, so there was plenty of customer interaction. I got a few concerned looks from people, but all I had to say was “wisdom teeth” and they understood.

According to the oral surgery people, the bruising and swelling should’ve lasted a few days, tops. But in my case, “a few days” ended up being close to a month. For three weeks, I couldn’t eat anything harder than mashed potatoes, so I lived mostly on a diet of nutrition shakes and Jello. So if you’re trying to lose weight, I’d recommend the Impacted Wisdom Tooth Diet. 
This is my friend Tiff and me, two (or so) weeks after my
wisdom teeth were removed. See how fat my face still is?
This was the first time I tried to eat pizza after the surgery.
A painful mistake, indeed.
My face was not only swollen, but it HURT. My wonderful family loved to come up to me and pretend like they were about to slap my face. Nothing strikes more fear into the heart of a recent wisdom tooth victim than the sight of a hand coming at your giant, throbbing face.

Obviously, I made it through that harrowing month. Five years later, here I am, free of wisdom teeth and with normal-sized cheeks. I know those teeth had to come out, but at the time, it sure didn’t seem worth it. If you have yet to have your wisdom teeth out, I’m sure you’ll do fine. Just remember: no matter how much you want to, going shopping the next day is a terrible idea.


  1. I loved the story...If you like the impacted wisdom tooth diet, my sister was on the Jaw Wired Shut for 4 weeks after oral surgery diet. She had to blend all her food and shoot it into her mouth with a syringe, all over Christmas break one year. We teased her so much, she cried and my dad told us to stop!

  2. WHOA! That sounds like an awful time!!!

  3. We definitely have something in common. Hehe. When I had my wisdom tooth extracted, I also craved for pizza. I was wishing I could eat even just a single piece that time, but it never happened because my mom watched me 24/7. Anyway, you're so lucky because, even though it was a painful mistake, you had one. LOL. ;)

    1. Yes, eating pizza was definitely painful - but after such a long time eating only soft foods, it was almost worth it! :) Good thing we never have to go through that again!

  4. It must have been a terrible month you had after the wisdom tooth removal. I feel sorry that you had to experience pain that long. Well, I’m glad all your wisdom teeth are finally removed. Getting those removed was definitely worth it, if only for the fact that it relieved you from the pain.

    1. Thanks, Kaley! I am glad to have it over with, but it sure wasn't pleasant!

  5. “Since it was Father's Day, I let Dad take this picture with me. He was having a great time.”--- Haha! You two looked cute on that photo. It’s funny that your dad tried to put on a swollen face as well. :’) Nice one!

    1. My dad has never been one for sympathy, can you tell? :)

  6. I actually have 3 wisdom teeth growing at the same time. It's feels really awful, I'm still to schedule a visit with my Austin Dentist this weekend. Do you have any advice you can give so I can prepare myself from the surgery, something that can take the anxiety away?