Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Extraction Distraction (or, Life After Tooth)

I had one of my molars extracted yesterday. The definition of the word "extract" in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is "to pull or take out forcibly". That is, "extract" is a happy word for ripping something out with brute force that is supposed to be permanently embedded, like a tooth in a skull.  In reality, there's very little that's happy about it.

I've been through some pretty icky things in my life and haven't flinched. Through all those hours of electrolysis, both on my face and down"there", I had no pain killers and it wasn't all that big a deal. I've been awake during procedures that would curl your hair, and I've got the photos to prove it. I've had crowns and a root canal and all kinds of things going on in my mouth - no big deal. The one thing that creeps me out, for whatever rational or irrational reason, is having teeth pulled.  Or, "extracted".

Nobody likes to have a tooth pulled, I suppose, but the emotional energy that I expend on the entire ordeal - and I do mean ORDEAL - it is significant. I've had all my wisdom teeth "extracted" at various times and survived each of those so I'm no rookie to this stuff. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure if having been through it before makes it better or worse but in the scheme of things it really doesn't matter. My mind HATES the entire process from the pulling to the disgusting bloody gauze in your mouth to the ooze that seems to permeate your mouth for days to the general discomfort of it all - there's absolutely nothing about it that makes it palatable in my world. In other words, it's a last choice.

In this case, it was indeed the last choice.

A dying tooth has all kinds of health issues associated with it. I've been on antibiotics for a couple of weeks now which has ripped up my insides. Apparently, there's bacteria involved that can affect the heart, as well. It's amazing that a small, localized area in the mouth can hurt a whole lot and although I've got a significant threshold for pain dealing with it for weeks on end wears you down. And that's not even to begin to mention the financial implications of it all.

So, this past Monday was E-Day (Extraction-Day) for my #15 tooth - the 2nd molar on the top left. I'll say before I get too far into this that my friend Kimberly has been a Godsend through it all. She drove me there, drove me back, didn't think that it was wise for me to be alone for the first 24 hours so she let me stay with her, and she took wonderful care of yours truly. It's amazing how much you appreciate relatively simple things in your times of need and although i'm used to dealing with these kinds of things all by myself, her care was much appreciated and will not be forgotten.

I was up at 6:30 yesterday morning and spent a half hour pacing from one end of the house to the other before deciding to go for a drive to kill some time and take my mind off things. I don't get that agitated for ANY of my other procedures - in fact, there's often a calming effect before it happens - so waiting for this particular thing to happen was NO fun.

When we arrived at the oral surgeon's office shortly after 10 things happened mercifully quickly. The surgeon was professional and businesslike. He looked at the X-Ray and peeked in my mouth and it was a done deal. They explained my options with regards to sedation and we all agreed that given my general anxiety level going to sleep was best. The doctor explained some of the risks - that removing this tooth involved rocking it back and forth which might affect the tooth next to it, and that the deep root might go all the way into my sinus cavity. I just wanted it to be over.

Before you knew it I was in the next room with some "laughing gas" to inhale. Maybe it's just me but I didn't notice any difference in anything whatsoever from it. It didn't lower my anxiety, didn't make me feel better, didn't seem to affect me in any way. The doctor came in and inserted an IV into my left arm and told me I'd begin to feel relaxed. I didn't feel relaxed, and I remember everything perfectly until about 30 seconds after that.

My memories of the next few hours are sketchy. I remember that they wheeled me out to the car in a wheelchair. I remember going up the stairs and climbing into bed at Kim's house. I remember waking up and spitting out the disgusting blood soaked gauze, and Kim coming to check on me from time to time. At first things didn't hurt. But when I woke up after a couple of hours it was VERY uncomfortable from my jaw all the way up into my cheek.

Now that it's a day later the bleeding has stopped but there's still unpleasant oozing and seeping going on up there. Ooze is another one of those words that I think is pretty unpleasant no matter what context you use it in. Yuck.

I slept a lot yesterday and last night. I find that when I'm vertical for any length of time the area tends to hurt, but when I'm lying down it's not as bad. I'm not swollen on the outside as far as I can tell, and the surgeon told Kim that everything went well. I even have the tooth as a souvenir.

A highlight of the day yesterday was feeling good enough to go out for some frozen yogurt last night.  Soft, mushy foods will be my friends for these next few days, as will pain meds and antibiotics.  And, hopefully, some rest.

The good news is that I'm in good spirits.  Despite what it might sound like I'm pretty good at resigning myself to things that need to happen and dealing with them in a pretty business-like way.  Whether you like them or not isn't the issue - they key is taking care of business and moving on.

In other parts of my life I'm about to cancel my cable TV service.  I remember a time when people laughed at the thought of paying for something that most people got for free - the same way they'd probably laugh at the fact that we pay for bottled water these days without so much as a second thought.  But I really don't watch enough TV to make it worth my while, and I can get things I need, like local news and weather, from a simple digital antenna.  I've paid for cable TV since the early 80's so it'll take a little getting used to, but in reality there are other options.  One thing I won't give up is my internet connection.  That's the one thing I'll continue to over-pay for....

I'm also taking a bit of a break from my usual physical training regimen.  I've been working myself so hard for so long I've just gotten weary from it and need a bit of a break.  That's not to say I'm going to turn into a couch potato and get fat.  But all of this recent "stuff" has provided a good opportunity to hit the breaks a bit and cut down on it all.  I hiked Squaw Peak this past weekend and it was more of a chore than usual.  That's ok.  With everything else that's going on I deserve it.

All things considered - I'm healing up and will be ready for SCC next week.  If you're going - I'll see ya there!