Sunday, January 15, 2012

on broken jaws & facing fears

{these are my teeth close-up.  bet you never thought you'd get this view of me.....i have no upper lip when i smile.}

so there i was, sitting in the chair.

i had been extremely nervous up until the time i actually sat down, but for some reason as soon as i settled in, i became surprisingly calm.

sarah mclachlan's album "building a mystery" was on in the background.  they said i could listen to anything i wanted to, and i picked this album because she kind of whisper-sings and i thought it would be appropriate as i drifted off to sleep.

"you ready?"  he asked, but i could only see his eyes.  the rest of his face was masked.  he was holding up metal tools, one in each hand.

"um, sure," i said, my eyes darting back and forth between his masked face and the masked face of his assistant.  the nervousness had returned.

"okay, we want you to count backwards, starting at 10.  when you wake up, it will be all over with.  nothing to be worried about," his voice was reassuring.  he placed the plastic mask over my face and the air started blowing into my nose.

"ten....nine.......eiiiiiiighhhhht..........seeeeeeevvvvvv," i said groggily, as sarah's lilting voice carried me away to blackness.

suddenly, my eyes popped open.  something was wrong.

i could hear the music, and tried to focus on it to take me away again, but something was louder, drowning out everything else.  it sounded like darth vadar was right next to me, and he was running.  fast.  panting.  what was that noise?

i could feel pulling.  HARD pulling.  on my face.

darth vadar started running again.  then he made a strange sound, like a whimper.  since when did darth vadar whimper?  where am i?

then i heard,

"she's waking up.  give her more gas," from a male voice floating above me.

only then did i realize that darth vadar was me.  it was my labored breathing, i was panting.  i was whimpering.

i was awake, and something was wrong.  of course, i realized this just as the air in my nose became stronger and i floated back to nothingness.

when i woke again, i heard voices.  familiar ones, telling me to wake up and that everything went well.  i was helped up, helped into the car.  i couldn't move my mouth, and felt like i had swallowed 20 cotton balls.  my face was numb, but that numb feeling when you know it's going to hurt soon.  the pain was just around the corner, i could feel it.

i tried to remember what was going on when i had woken up in the middle of my wisdom tooth extraction, but the details were fuzzy.  did that really happen?  it felt real, but i was pretty out of it so i wasn't sure.

the next couple of days were a blur, except for a couple of things.

one being the time i threw up.  i knew it was coming, and tried to stop it because i was so scared of how much it was going to hurt.  i screamed as i vomited, because every time i opened my mouth more than 1/2 an inch wide, pain seared through my face and head.  as i threw up i had no control over how to not open my mouth further.  so i screamed and threw up through the pain.

i also remember that on day 3, i could not even fit my toothbrush in my mouth without crying and tears streaming down my cheeks.  that was when a phone call was made, with a decision to bring me back in for x-rays.

i returned to the chair after x-rays, only to hear him whispering on the phone in his office.  things about surgery, and liabilities.  i didn't understand, but soon would.

"your jaw is broken," he said, and explained that this is one of the risks you take when you sign that paperwork.  one of the teeth had been impacted, but he had made the decision to continue on with the extraction.  "you need to see an oral surgeon immediately, and he is going to wire your mouth shut in order to fix the broken bone."


i was confused, angry, scared.  and realized that as i had woken up mid-surgery it was most likely when they had broken my jaw, the whimpering and fast breathing because of feeling pain i couldn't express.

being 19 and in the middle of a semester at college, and a waitress at a restaurant where i talked to people all day wasn't the most ideal situation for having my mouth wired shut.  it was only supposed to be for 4 weeks, but then i somehow contracted an infection in the broken bone, so it turned into 6 weeks.  i had to drop out of school, request for my boss to hold my job for me, and tried to learn how to enjoy food through a blender.  {which never happened, even with my handy-dandy cookbook handed over by the oral surgeon on my way out the door after surgery.}  my friends who came to visit me couldn't help but laugh as i tried to talk through clenched teeth, which then made me laugh at myself, which made them laugh harder.  it was a pathetic and funny cycle.

i survived the experience, unfortunately gained back all of the weight i had lost on my liquid diet once i was able to consume pasta again, and tried to chalk it up to experience.  because what else can you do, right?

thanks to groupon, after over 9 long years of not going to the dentist, i sat back again in one of those chairs last friday.  i was surprised at how freaked out i felt, not necessarily thinking that my jaw would be broken again, but because i remembered the pain that can come by "routine procedures" and i knew full-well that i had a couple of cavities.  i could feel them, and was nervous that i would be told i have to go under again to have them taken care of.  i prepared myself for the worst news.  root canals, extractions.....would i walk out with a mouth full of dentures?

5.   five cavities, all in their beginning stages.  not awful, not great.  i'll tell you what though, the anxiety of getting them fixed is pretty high, even though rationally i know it will probably be fine.  i'll set up my appointment in probably....another 9 years??  okay, just as soon as i can talk myself into getting anesthetic again.

am i alone here?  anyone else have an awful experience with the dentist??


Lindsay Jane said...

I'm totally with you on this one sister! I went 10 YEARS without going to the dentist. After a bad experience with a gum graft (Scrapping a layer of gums off the roof of my mouth and sewing them onto my lower teeth gums) that was the end for me. I should tell you now that I'm back, it's been a much better experience and I go every 6 months. You can do this. Just remember there is no procedure that the dentist does that requires you to take your shirt off. (wise words from my mom)

Skye said...

Oh Lynsey! That sounds like a terrible experience. I haven't been through anything like that, but I have severe dentist anxiety. I had to get 2 crowns recently (I waited too long because I was busy and scared) and had them give me the laughing gas....a child dose put me to sleep which was nice but still nerve wracking (especially painful when they put the crowns on a few weeks later) and made it possible to get through the hours of work they did. I went back a few weeks later to take care of a small cavity-it took all of 10 minutes and I survived :). I will never miss my check-ups now because the crown experience was pretty rough.
Anyway, my point here is that i know you can do it! Make sure you have a dentist that you are comfortable with and that cares. My dentist advertises that they 'cater to cowards', that pretty much was the deciding factor for picking him :)

Christy said...

Ugh! I remember this. Didn't your dentist say something like, "Yeah, I thought I heard a cracking sound..." but never bothered to say anything to you?!
I HATE the dentist. I think it started with the old dentist we now lovingly refer to as "the butcher." I've had most of his work re-done because it was causing me so much trouble. I thought I was over the dental fear, but last year I spent nearly $3,000 on dental work instead of going on vacation. Pain in a new way. I cry during routine cleanings because I hate it so much. Good luck my dear!

Rachel Holloway said...

UGHG!NO WAY! That is soooo crazy--and I too would have MEGA fears. My mom had a terrible experience at the dentist when they used the numbing stuff, and she refuses now to have any pain meds. YES, YOU HEARD ME RIGHT. She goes through cavities being filled, even a tooth being replaced without any numbing. (I CRINGE). But clearly goes to show the effect a bad experience can have on you.
My bad experience was with a dentist speaking nicely until he realized I had medicaid (when we were in school). After that he was a total jerk and treated me like scum--even going so far as to insult me with comments about how I probably wouldn't even come back for my 6 month checkup. I was humiliated...and he was right. I didn't go back for 4 years...and chose a totally different dentist.

Valerie said...

When I got my wisdom teeth removed, I was also 19. I didn't end up with a broken jaw, thank goodness, but following the procedure, they couldn't get the bleeding to stop. My heart was racing & causing excess blood loss? All I know is that my pillowcase was soaked in blood, which wasn't pleasant. I had to stay in recovery forever. & that night, I also had the pleasure of throwing up & it reopening stitches. Ick.
And to sum up my ramblings, I don't like going to the dentist. At all.

Lauren Horsley said...

I couldn't even read the full description of your jaw getting broken because just thinking about the whole situation makes me ill. I still remember your screaming as you threw up through your wired-shut jaw - "my sister in excruciating pain" was the worst sound on the face of the earth to me and I cried because I could do nothing to take it from you.

I'm proud of you for going back!

ohmylanta said...

Oh yes my dear!

I am allergic to the epinephrine (spell?) that is in the anesthetic. Epinephrine is naturally produced in our bodies in the form of adrenaline, but for some reason that little extra in dental shots sends me into a frenzy. Three seconds later, I am overwhelmed with a "Feeling of Impending DOOM" No joke.

Our best friend from college is our dentist. Being the good friend that he is....... he encouraged me to give it a try after a ten year break. I told him I was willing to try it, but that I wasn't going to say "I told you so".

Three seconds later he was almost cradling me as my body shook uncontrollably and tears rushed down my face.

It took a couple minutes for it to pass and he promised me he would never do that to me again.

Only problem now is the fact that he lives in Idaho and we are out in Minnesota. Now I have to try to explain my silly reaction to some other deamon dentist.

But honestly....... what an awful experience you had. I would be terrified to go back. EVER.

*just remind yourself that having a root canal done is much worse than having a cavity filled. GET er DONE.