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Some hopefully humorous reflections after oral surgery

This week I'm recovering from some (apparently) minor dental work. I'd like to offer some observations on day two that you may find helpful. Additional contributions in the same vein (and I do mean vein) are quite welcome!

On the procedure itself: I found that vigorous rough scraping sensation on my palette, while not painful at the time (thank God for Novocaine), was strangely unsettling. I had to wonder: Did the dentist decide to use a cheese grater instead of a knife? I mean - How hard can it be to just slice a nice, clean (preferably mini) beef-jerky slice off for the gum? The gum is kind, it is gentle, it DOESN'T NEED MUCH!

On the reasons people in public think you're not talking to them:
  • jerk
  • addle-minded
  • jerk
  • recovering from re-start of frontal lobotomy work in your area
  • simple
  • deaf
  • thinking about something important (rare)
  • jerk
A fun in-procedure tip: While getting your work done, pass out for a bit - you should see the looks on their faces when you do! (Of course you can't see the looks because you're blissfully unconscious. It's like your body says - "They're not using general anesthetic? Time to kick it old school...") Safety tip: Come out of it in 5-10 seconds. Otherwise they'll take you to the hospital which, while much more pleasant than what you're leaving, means you'll have to come back and do the whole thing again (there is no "bookmarking" in surgery).

On things that are more difficult to do without the use of your mouth:
  • talking
  • sex (varies)
  • eating jello through a straw
  • whistling (yes, even with chewed up crackers in your mouth)
  • saying "I was born on a pirate ship" while holding your tongue
On not talking after: Gives me a new appreciation for New Englanders whom I thought were being unfriendly. It turns out they are almost all having tissue grafts. All the time! I find I have much more compassion for them now, though I still can't explain those who have some other excuse. Stuck suppositories, I'm pretty sure.

On how to keep your mouth smelling fresh-as-the-sea when you're prohibited from brushing or rinsing:
  • fire
  • cool mint tea (don't chew!)
  • diluted hydrofluoric acid. (Remember, a little goes a long way!)
  • Clorox and a scouring pad.
  • gentle brushing of the tongue (preferably your own)
On the time of the year: Depending on the date you have your work done, you can get some good humor mileage by leveraging holidays. For example, on Halloween (of course): what says "happy fun" like real sutures and blood. Safety tip: Use sparingly.

On what not to eat:
  • popcorn (esp. unpopped)
  • thumbtacks
  • scalding hot cheese pizza
  • sponges (unless properly moistened beforehand)
  • toast
  • scalding hot soup
On playing with your very active almost-six-year-old: Don't. The problem is that, even though you're not talking, your face and mouth appear relatively normal from the outside, inviting the usual amount of direct impacts via knees, chins, and projectiles-masked-as-toys of all sorts. Parenting note: You should probably go ahead and play anyway, 'cause you love her so much. Just bring an old rag.

On the side-effects of Penicillin that you're sure you're experiencing:
  • anemia
  • black, hairy tongue (my personal favorite)
  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • hives
  • nausea
  • skin eruptions
  • stomach upset or pain
  • swelling in throat
  • vomiting
  • severe agitation
  • anxiety
  • confusion
  • fear of impending death (probably warranted)
  • feeling, hearing, or seeing things that are not real (may not be new for you)
  • white patches on the tongue (thrush/yeast infection)
On pleasant surprises during the procedure:
  • hip green "orthopedic" laser-protecting glasses (no, you don't get to take them home - I asked.)
  • almost total lack of burning meat scent (yours) during cauterization
  • how much the gentle tugging of the sutures reminds you of when your mom used to sew clothes around the fire. but of course she wasn't sewing through your gums.
And finally, on when you'll know the practice of dentistry has matured:
  • all work done with sprays and pleasant-smelling patches
  • the worst words that you'll hear from the dentist is: "This spray may feel a little cool."
  • the tools used are smarter than the users
  • posters of Eric Drexler adorn the office
  • the most painful part is when they take a DNA sample to grow your own skin and bone - in situ
  • you really understand what Clarke meant by (paraphrasing):
    "If technology is distinguishable from magic, it is insufficiently advanced."

Reader Comments (10)

Matt - I feel your pain! Well, not at the moment, but I have in the past. I could be a walking talking catalog of modern dentistry. I currenlty have metal and porcelin fillings, crowns, a bridge, an implant, and a lower partial. :o) Hang in there. At least it's nice to see that you have a good sense of humor about it.

July 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRicky Spears

Thanks, Ricky! You are ahead of me on the curve, here. I appreciate the encouragement.

July 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Urgh! Sounds tough. I had knee surgery once and it wasn't fun. Take it easy :)

July 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAlvin

Thanks, Alvin. It's slowly getting better.

July 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

how timely! i just got a crown on the only cavity i have (which turned into a root canal). it has been awful! we're not sure exactly what the dentist did, but my jaw has been in pain (which created neck pain and headaches) for the past three weeks! trying to eat has been ridiculous. finally, though, it's starting to heal. ugh! so, matt, i can relate!

July 17, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterrainier

Rainier - sounds nasty! I hope you feel better soon.

July 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

I tripped on your blog in a searh of the words "death" and "dentist."

I was reading, via audiobook, Updikes's Terrorist," while on a lonely bike trail. He had some sort of quote from Emerson that went like, "death means you're done with the dentist," which I thought was quite humorous. I was looking to see if the quote was real, paraphrased or poorly understood by me.

Akron, OH

October 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Hey Fred, thanks for the quote! I'm glad you made it here.

October 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

I too feel your pain - or rather mine - and I really do sympathise with you.

I was suffering from an abscess at the beginning of December. After one course of Amoxycillin and another of Metronidazole, a hole drilled in the back of the tooth (which is one of my top front ones) in a (futile) attempt to drain it and packing with antibiotic paste I am STILL suffering from an abscess.

The pain was so bad this morning (2nd January) that I phoned my dentist at 9, told them I really could not wait till my next scheduled appointment on the 18th and they managed to fit me in just over 2 hours later. After another session of drilling and temporary packing, I was turned out into the cold and I had to get back home on the bus. Since the name of the bus stop in my home area has a lot of letters which are difficult to say with a numb mouth, it was not easy either for me or for the driver but when I explained my situation he was very nice about it and even sympathised with me.

I'm 56 years old, no raving beauty and I've never been particularly vain but the prospect of having the tooth extracted and wearing a temporary denture for at least four months till I can get a bridge fitted does not fill me with boundless delight.

January 2, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSunflowers

Hi Sunflowers - I'm sorry about your dental issues - ugh! Your story about trying to say the name of your street really made it clear. I wish you all the best.

January 2, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

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