Oral Surgery #14

Last week I had oral surgery. The 14th in a series. In fact, I have been having oral surgery as often as some women have pedicures. In fact, I have it so often you’d think it was my secret obsession, my clandestine vice. It’s been close to five years now. Maybe more. I’ve lost count.  Perhaps I should have been keeping a scrapbook, marking all the procedures I’ve had done and carefully labeling all my x-rays. Indeed, when you consider all the money I’ve invested in this mouth of mine, thanks to these procedures, I probably should have had it long ago insured by Lloyds of London.

Dustin Hoffman gets some work done by his own Dr. S. in The Marathon Man.

So my gums are a mess, which is crazy when you consider how often I brush my teeth (about eight times a day). And I also floss nightly. Yet my gums are too flimsy to withstand the test of time inflicted by my chompers and the trillions of bites of morsels that have passed through these lips.

I know this because of something to do with an examination that dental technicians perform on gums. You know, the one where they stick a pointy instrument into your gum to measure its depth. Apparently, 3’s are good, but 4’s or higher are really, really bad. The max you can score is a 6, but I think I had nothing but 10’s. Off the charts, if you ask me. Let me put it this way:  If we were measuring it in terms of terrorist threat level to our national security, my gums were  in the red or “Severe Risk of Terrorist Attacks” level.

I measure the health of my gums by the national security threat level barometer.

I really don’t know what exactly is wrong with my gums, let alone what is being done to remedy them.  All I know is that my long-time dentist, the handsome and debonair Dr. T, once told me that I needed to have this surgery done. His gleaming white teeth and movie star good looks gave me no choice but to believe him. So he referred me to a stodgy, old periodontist, Dr. S., who confirmed that I needed the surgery and needed it desperately.

Dr. S., reminds me of Laurence Olivier when he played Dr. Szell, the nefarious dentist who worked on Dustin Hoffman’s teeth in Marathon Man. He actually grimaced the first time he looked inside my mouth, staring at my gums as others might stare at a 52-car pileup on the freeway. I saw the revile in his eyes–the look that told me he would condemn me forever if I didn’t have my gums repaired. So I scheduled my first appoint and kept my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t suffer too much pain at the hands of this menacing periodontist.

In order to prepare me for surgery, Dr. S. started me off with a cocktail of three acetaminophen and two ibuprofen. Full disclosure:  I hate swallowing pills. The thought is enough to make me gag.

After I take the medication, Dr. S. gives me five different shots of numbing solution. I need five because, now that I’ve had surgery so often, I’ve built a tolerance for the stuff and it takes much longer for the numbing to take effect. When it finally does, Dr. S. spends the next 90 minutes cutting, digging, shoveling, grinding, scraping, pulling, shoving, grafting, and stitching the gums in my contorted mouth until finally, he finishes with the pièce de résistance: a gray mass of goop that is plied around the wounded, tormented area of my mouth. The goop tastes delightfully like a mixture of water, glue, cornstarch and shredded newspaper. In other words, papier-mâché, and I’m supposed to keep it on for two weeks.

At the end of the surgery Dr. S. reviews the “At Home” directions—all 12 pages, which I pretty much know by heart: I must sleep in an upright position for a week, gargle with antiseptic, followed by a medicated solution, followed by salt water. I must apply an ice pack for six hours to prevent swelling, and Lipton teabags to avoid bleeding. No straws, no spicy or hard foods, and no smoking. Furthermore, no probing the affected area, no stuffing popcorn kernels in my mouth, and, definitely, no sticking poppy seeds between my teeth.  When Dr. S. is assured that I know the rules, he sends me home with a cocktail prescription of Vicodin, Tylenol Codeine, and a 10-day supply of antibiotics. Great. Just what I need. More pills to swallow.

I did receive some good news at the end of last week’s visit. Only one more procedure and then all the work on my gums will be complete.  It is the light at the end of the tunnel.  Or, in this case, the green light at the end of the threat level tunnel.

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18 thoughts on “Oral Surgery #14

  1. Pingback: I’m Featured! | Monica's Tangled Web

  2. nice post..it brings back memories of when i had a rotten tooth and it was REALLY BAD! after the whole dentist procedure my mom took me out for ice cream lol…also there was a time when my brother hit the scooter near mouth, luckily my mouth was wide opened and instead of breaking skin My front tooth chipped! I was horrified when the dentist had to get rid of more than what was left of it to put in a fake teeth…haha

    • Ouch! I can relate to the chipped tooth incident. When I was a teen I fell off my bike and chipped my front tooth. For years, I had this chipped tooth, visible to all. Then one day, a dentist said he could add some sort of filling to make the tooth look whole again. And it worked, but lately the “filling” has been fading so it’s a different color from the rest of my tooth and kind of looks strange. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting! 🙂

  3. Parallel lives, Monica…parallel lives.

    I, too, am a fanatical brusher sadly born with bad gum genes. And I am heading to the harbinger of death — I mean, the dentist — in just a bit.

    Wish me luck. I’m already hopped up on my ibuprofen/acetaminophen cocktail. Good stuff — if only I could also drink wine! 😉

  4. Que bueno que se va a terminar pronto!. Realmente los odontólogos son un mal necesario y sobre todo para las personas que no tienen suerte de tener buena dentadura. Espero te mejores pronto y definitivamente no tengas que volver, sino cada año a tu limpieza habitual!.

  5. As a fellow anti-dentite with two years and five oral surgeries under my belt, I can honestly say that I literally feel your pain. And like you, I never thought I’d be done but I can attest to the fact that it really does finally end. Hang in there.

  6. After a recent visit to the dentist, I complained of how sensitive my teeth seem to be and the dentist recommended I buy an electric toothbrush and toothpaste for sensitive teeth, as well as give up the whitening mouth rinse I’d been using. Amazingly, these things worked! I like when there was a simple solution….as well as one that didn’t break my wallet!

    • Do it. Get it over with! You’re probably fine, but you need to know. For all my complaints, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t want pockets so deep in my gums that I can use them for storing my house keys! lol

  7. Monica,

    Thanks for the lovely comments on my Vulpes Libris piece – I cannot believe so many people read it and commented! It’s like getting a whole new circle of friends. I sympathise with your piece about dentists. I get so het up about having work done that the last time I went, when I had to have a tooth removed, my dentist sent to me to the Dental Hospital in Birmingham. Afterwards everything swelled to enormous proportions, and I couldn’t eat or talk for three days!

    • Becoming Freshly Pressed is one of the most highest honors around, even more so that the Pulitzer Prize or even the Oscar! Yours was such a poignant and inspiring piece, I’m not surprised you had so many visitors. So good, I’m putting the link here in case any of my readers want to check it out, too: http://vulpeslibris.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/a-bookish-family/.

      I’m not keen on swelling, but I don’t mind a little bit, which I often have after these surgeries because as much ice as I keep on my cheek, it never seems enough. I’d be better off sitting in a walk-in freezer for a few hours. Maybe that would help. Yikes.

  8. I always think of you when I go to the dentist, fearing they’ll tell me this is it. It’s gum surgery or bust. I have quite sensitive gums as well, despite my brushing and daily flossing. Here’s to keep hoping I stay at 3 or below!

    • I suppose I’m the kind of patient that every periodontist dreams of–one that keeps coming back for more and more treatments, grafting or whatever it is they do. To me, my gums look the same. To them, I’m just another cash cow! lol

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