From Where I Sit – Pain and Consequences

Do you remember those old westerns where some tough cowboy downed a swig (or two) of whiskey, grabbed some pliers and yanked out his own throbbing tooth? That’s how desperate I felt when the jaw pain that began in August escalated to the point it was waking me in the night. And making me cry. And scaring me. And interfering with my quality of life.

A round of penicillin, salt water rinses and specialty brushes suggested by my dentist seemed initially to be helping. It took four weeks to get the consult with the oral surgeon. Neither man could really see any overt signs of infection yet I felt something was definitely wrong. The culprit appeared to be an impacted lower wisdom tooth.

The surgeon and I jointly decided that despite the increased risks at my age removal of the tooth was inevitable. He warned that my recovery time, bruising and swelling would all likely be worse than it would have been for a 17 year old. Plan for a least a week off work, he advised.

Because of commitments it looked like mid-November would be the soonest I could manage to fit it in. So much for my big plans. My tooth stopped me cold. I got the surgery moved up to the end of October. When over-the-counter medication wasn’t even touching the pain I called the surgeon’s nurse to request a prescription for something stronger that would allow me to survive the two weeks til the procedure.

“If you can get your pre-op medical, EKG and blood work done in the next day or two we’ll make room for you on Friday, the 15th. You shouldn’t wait any longer,” was her reply.

After fasting, arranging for Hilary to be my responsible adult and abandoning the combine, I went under general anaesthetic. By all accounts it seems the surgery went well, except, of course for the nick to my lip that required 3 stitches. I had no nausea, very little swelling and one tiny bruise. My groggy little brain could hardly believe the doctor as he explained that the tooth (totally below gum level) had a huge cavity and was abscessed. No wonder the bugger hurt like hell.

It’s ten days later and the healing continues. I expect my post-op checkup to go well. I anxiously await the return of all feeling in the area below my lip though I do understand that in some cases the numbness can be permanent if a nerve was damaged. I was diligent about the ice packs, hot compresses, soft diet, rinses, penicillin and pain-killers. I wasn’t quite as good in the resting department. Staining and varnishing a media cabinet kit, sewing some cushions and painting the bedroom are some of the projects I tackled while recovering.

Pain is a huge motivator. It can stop you cold, change some well-laid plans, take away your options. I’m just glad I didn’t need the whiskey or the pliers. That would’ve been downright scary, from where I sit.

*Reprinted with permission

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