Opinion: Getting a Tooth Pulled Wasn't as Bad as I Expected

Sherry McGuinn

Photo byjanwillemsen

Consider the following a public service announcement.

Doesn’t it stink how your body can turn on you in the blink of an eye? Much like people.

I’ve always taken scrupulous care of my teeth. I probably sound like a stone-cold weirdo, but I love to floss! And it should never be taken lightly as digging out all those random bits of food is essential to a healthy mouth.

That said, genes, as they will, come into play, and mine, as I’ve shared before, are truly wonky. Translation: We can do the best we can but sometimes, that's not enough.

A few months ago, I was taking an afternoon popcorn break when suddenly, I was chomping down on something decidedly not corny. Turns out, it was part of a tooth that broke off while I was happily munching away.

Horrified, I started running the numbers in my head as to what this was going to cost. Our dentist is the best around but all that expertise comes at a price.

Thankfully, the tooth is in the upper left area of my mouth, so not visible unless I take pains to reveal it.

You can’t mess around with a broken tooth so I went to our guy right away and he repaired the chip. I was so happy to have it done that I completely spaced when he told me that there was no guarantee the fix would last, and from the look of it, would probably have to come out at some point.

Oh boy.

Sometimes the mind will not accept what the mind must.

A couple of weeks ago, his portent turned out to be true as one morning I awoke with a searing pain in my jaw, unlike anything I’d ever experienced.

Stupidly, I did my best to ignore it for several days and treated it with a cocktail of home remedies like salt water rinses, peroxide, aloe vera gel, and the like.

The pain increased to such impressive proportions that I couldn’t eat or sleep. Plus, I could barely suck down a glass of wine and that’s saying a lot.

I called our dental practice and they managed to squeeze me in so our guy could take a look. He’s a one-man-show so the office is always crazy-busy.

He took a look, told me again that it might have to come out, and sent me home with a script for an antibiotic and instructions to take two of both acetaminophen and ibuprofen every six hours. Yeah. Like I was going to be able to wait that long!

The OTC stuff worked for about two hours and then I was back to searing pain. I had one good day where I believed the antibiotic was kicking in. Hurray! No extraction for me!

Or, so I thought.

After a couple more days of this, I was ready to take anything and do anything to stop the oral torture.

Monday night the office called me. Could I come in at eight the next morning?


But, hustle in, I did. As I waited for the dentist, his assistant did her thing: Checked my blood pressure which spiked dramatically, hooked the bib around my neck, and gave me a solution to rinse and spit.

Let me be clear: I didn’t think any actual work was going to be done because as usual, the office was jumping and I figured I’d just get a look-see and then make another appointment.

And then, the gal told me, “So Dr. R. will be extracting your tooth.”

Wait a minute. Huh?? I’d only taken one Xanax to prep for this!

I started to hyperventilate while trying to form a response.

She told me that it “had to go.”

We discussed my options as far as making the “experience” as comfortable as possible.

Novocaine. Ugh. Halcyon. Heck. It would take at least an hour to kick in and we didn’t have that kind of time.

Then she said I could be full-on sedated if I hadn’t eaten that morning, which I hadn’t.

Panic set in. I knew, or kind of knew what the IV would cost as I’d had it before. It turns out that the price was a lot more than I’d remembered.

The assistant assured me that I would be perfectly numb with novocaine alone, but the pain wasn’t the issue.

I just looked at her like Bambi in the headlights.

She told me that most patients had a problem with the “pressure.”

"Pressure!" Oh, lordy, what was I going to do?

Then the dentist swept in, took one look at me, and said, “I can sedate you. The charge is $800. And we’ll have to call your husband to come and pick you up.”

I got my answer! Novocaine it was!

To be fair, I must say that this is an excellent group of healthcare professionals. They truly do everything possible to keep their patients from jumping off the proverbial ledge, but, when full-blown anxiety takes hold, as it did with me, there’s not much they can do.

But, I didn’t want to embarrass myself, even though I was close to bawling like a baby.

They gave me a pair of shades to shield my eyes from the glare of the overhead lamp and covered me with a spotless blankie because the office was cold and well…I looked like I could use a blankie. I would have taken a pacifier if they’d offered one.

My body was as tight as a snare drum and my dentist had to repeatedly tell me to relax my shoulders and sink into the chair. He also cautioned me to breathe in and out slowly through my nose as I was gulping air through my mouth like a guppie.

It must be said, that our dentist has such a deft hand, is so skilled, and has all the latest bells and whistles that I didn’t feel the shots at all. Not even the one to the roof of my mouth, which is usually the killer.

Now here’s where things got iffy. I’d mentioned that the assistant referenced the pressure I would feel in loosening the tooth for extraction. Let’s call it what it was: A jackhammer breaking ground…for a shopping mall…in my mouth.

The sound and the vibration together had me practically levitating from my prone position in the chair.

I don’t know how I can have a tooth left in my head after that!

But you know what? It worked. Apparently, the best outcome was for the tooth to break in half during the excision. And mine did.

It might have been a rotten tooth, but it was a very agreeable rotter, as the Brits say.

During the whole procedure, my dentist and his assistant kept telling me how good I was doing, presumably because I didn’t pass out or wet myself.

Truth be told, for a dentalphobe like myself, I pulled up my Big Girl Pants and came through it like a champ.

As soon as the tooth was out my dentist bounced, after telling the assistant to explain “aftercare” to me.

That alone set my head spinning. They gave me a very nice swag bag with all sorts of soothing stuff in there and an instructional pamphlet explaining what I should do so as not to mess up a very expensive procedure.

In a nutshell, yesterday, it was cold, soft food. I didn’t eat until around 7 pm and then I had plain Greek yogurt and three hard-boiled eggs mashed to a pulp. YUM!!

Today, it’s warm, soft food. As of 3:30 CST, I’ve eaten nothing but a crust of bread. I am starved for real food, but, I must toe the line and listen to what my guy says.

Tonight, I am having mashed cauliflower, which I love, with some melted cheddar and green peas. Okay! I’m down with that!

I was also told to “take it easy” for a few days, something I’m totally unfamiliar with as I never take it easy. If I’m not writing, I’m moving. Of course, when I got home after the procedure, I didn’t feel like doing much but today, I pushed it and went outside for a walk.

Also in my goodie bag: A long syringe with a curved tip filled with some kind of pain-relieving aloe vera mixture. I’m supposed to aim that thing toward my new gap and give it a couple of squirts. So far, I’ve missed each time and the goo dribbled down my lips.

This is supposed to help prevent the dreaded DRY SOCKET. Just that moniker alone makes you cringe, doesn’t it?

Here’s the deal: After an extraction, blood clots form to protect the cavity. It’s the body’s first line of defense and it’s a good thing. You want those clots.

Dry socket occurs when a tooth is pulled and the pull-ee doesn’t follow the extensive instructions in the manual. These include no drinking through straws, no probing around the gap with your tongue or fingers, no spitting, no smoking, and a bunch of other no-nos. In fact, any instance where you must purse your lips for an extended period could present a problem.

If you don’t toe the line, the clot is dislodged and the nerve is exposed.

I’m telling you all this as a PSA, in the event you find yourself in the same position I was: On your back under a bright light with your fists clenched and your stomach in knots.

From what I’ve read and was told in the dentist’s office, a dry socket is really painful. I mean, curl up in a fetal position painful.

So, I am going to do my very best to keep my gap as moist and as pristine as I possibly can.

All in all, this whole experience wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. The mind will play tricks on you if you let it, so just know that if you find yourself in a similar position, relax. It will be okay. And, so will you.

© Sherry McGuinn, 2022. All Rights Reserved.

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My goal is to educate, entertain, make you laugh, and above all, make you think. I will be running the gamut as far as my articles go because I have a restless mind and I allow it to ramble where and when it wants. I hope you enjoy what I'm looking forward to sharing with you. If so, I'd love for you to follow me. Thanks for reading.

Chicago, IL

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