Monday, October 10, 2011

Words of Wisdom

I've never had the best of luck with my teeth, but then I'm British. QED.

About eight years ago my American dentist persuaded me that I would have to have my wisdom teeth out. The bottom two were impacted, but he warned me that should I ever get punched in the jaw, or something similar, I may run in to trouble. As I run a busy medical practice, I took this advice pretty seriously, you never know when a walking stick-wielding octogenarian is going to object to their bill and clock you one. Then the dentist said the top two had to come out because there were no teeth opposing them, and that could lead to problems.

Problems like me having to shell out large sums of money to have perfectly good teeth removed.

Like a lot of my English counterparts I only consider oral surgery if there is a medical need. I don't see the point in messing around with scalpels and anaethestic for cosmetic reasons. LK was golfing with a British dentist on our last trip home, and he must have said something like "British dentist = oxymoron, no?" when he was treated to a gently mocking American dentistry joke: a busload of American tourists plummets off a cliff in England - the only way to identify the victims after the bus explodes on impact is by checking dental records. Except, they couldn't identify anyone because they all had the same teeth. I like that. I know there are some quite startling teeth out there in the UK, many a public figure is positively bristling with misshapen molars, but if they're not unhealthy why do they have to be considered unsightly? Why does everyone have to have the same terrifyingly uniform smile? Stepford Mouths abound in this country. I must have been out here too long because now when I flick through the pages of Hello magazine I do see some less than perfect teeth. They look out of place and I notice them, whereas I don't think I did before. I honestly don't think British people care as much. Same goes for eyebrows.

Anyway, off my soapbox and back to my wisdom teeth. On my first attempt I went in for surgery thinking I was to have all four out, and came round to find only the bottom two were missing. Apparently the surgeon had decided at the last minute that the top two were 'viable'. Perhaps the part where he had to break my lower jaw to extract the bottom two proved so time consuming he was in danger of missing his tee time?

Sadly for me each subsequent dentist I have seen has disagreed with his decision. The top two also had to come out. I would have to have another surgery. I put this off for several years with the cunning use of pregnancy - dentists prefer not to operate or x-ray pregnant women, but I couldn't keep sprogging up just to avoid the dentist. It was proving expensive.

In the end I could dodge the knife no longer, and I had my last two wisdom teeth out on Friday - and have yet to talk to a SINGLE person who has not experienced a dry socket. You think people would keep that kind of information to themselves when chatting to someone pre-surgery, but no, dry sockets abound. My father-in-law even saw fit to describe his in harrowing detail in the car on the way to the dentist.

So far I seem to be doing OK. I tried to be stoic, even when faced with a general anesthetic. I have a very early memory of being a small child and hearing someone talk about our family dentist - about how their Mum went in for surgery at his office, and when she got home she realized her knickers were on back to front. Oh, the scandal! Perhaps she'd put them on inside out herself - but, oh the horror, perhaps not!!! I know this is a pretty unlikely scenario, North Yorkshire dentist molests middle aged mother, but you never know. Dentists are a funny lot. My surgeon seemed like a very trustworthy family-man type, but even so, I wore some very tight jeans as a deterrent.

As for the recovery - bloody hell I never realized how much food I consume on a daily basis until faced with a liquid only diet. I am up to here with milkshakes and mashed potato. I long for a steak sandwich on crusty bread. On several occasions I have caught myself snatching pieces of food from the girls' plates, or a little something from the snack cupboard, only to have to return it in favour of something I can gum down to a paste. I live in terror of losing a piece of food in those giant cavernous holes that once housed teeth.

Good times.

P.S. The tooth fairy brought me 'four whole quarter dollars' reported by a squealing Anna the next morning. Hooray, that may be enough for another ice cream.


MsCaroline said...

Well, I wish you'd posted this before the surgery - I could have assured you that I didn't have dry socket and neither did anyone I know.
Hope you awoke with knickers right-way on and have fun with the liquid diet...a little chocolate pudding might be just what the dentist ordered...

Anonymous said...

I prescribe gin and Pinkberry frozen yoghurt, in that order xx

LMM said...

I had all 4 out during college and did not have dry sockets or an infection. Just chipmunk cheeks.

Good Luck!

Arlene said...

I am of the firm opinion that many American Dentists need lots and lots of money. This is also the opinion of my sister who worked as a dental assistant for many years. It's very hard to know when you are financing an expensive house or a new boat or really have a problem

. I once had a dentist who wanted to give me implants (to replace the healthy wisdom teeth he had pulled). I did a bit of research and decided it was not necessary.

I would love to see a study regarding the dental health of people who have not had their wisdom teeth removed. It's almost a given that an American will have theirs out.

Expat mum said...

When the Queenager hit 18, it was considered a rite of passage that she would have her wisdom teeth removed. My English dentist friend hit the roof because they have recently obtained results of a 25 year study that showed that removing wisdom teeth was often more dangerous than leaving them, because of the huge jaw nerve that they impinge upon.
As it turned out, her only W teeth (on the bottom) were impacted and definitely needed to come out.
Since I only had top and my husband had none, I'm hoping the other two have none!

Rachel said...

I had my wisdom teeth removed because for 5 years I felt like I was teething. I also had a surgery for an impacted incisor when I was 13. Although my stitches dissolved too quickly (as stitches always have for me) I had no other problems (I don't know anyone who HAS had dry socket) and am much more comfortable now.

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