• Katherine Pan

My Wisdom Teeth Extraction and Recovery

Updated: May 9, 2021

Discovery:

I first knew that my wisdom teeth had grown from a visit to the dentist. It was the first visit to the dentist in three years. Yes, I understand if you are disturbed by the fact that I did have my teeth checked in so long. Seeing food harden and get stuck between the gaps of my teeth triggered my visit. As I could not get the food out, it seemed like the only way to remove it was to go for polishing and scaling.


This was me when I was brushing my teeth extra long to get the harden food out of my teeth. (Source)

At the dentist's, I had my teeth clean and analyzed. The dentist suggested me to take an x-ray to have a clearer overview of my wisdom teeth as he could see it growing. An x-ray revealed that all four wisdom teeth had grown out. The top two wisdom teeth were growing normal, vertically downwards. Yet, my bottom two wisdom teeth were growing horizontally. I had impacted wisdom teeth. When our third set of molars does not have sufficient space to grow or develop normally, it is referred to as impacted wisdom teeth. Its irregular growth may affect our oral health.


My x-ray showing the impacted wisdom teeth.

The dentist suggested that I get them removed within three months because the bottom wisdom teeth were problematic. They cause food to get stuck between the gap from my second molar and it can lead to decay. Decay may have already started. When I heard about this, my heart sank. I was not worried about the quality of healthcare or the cost as I was fortunate to be living in Singapore. Instead, I was worried about the pain and experience because I have never gotten any dental work. I never did braces, had my teeth plucked and I rarely visited the dentist. Thus, visiting the dental felt like I was a lamb designated for the slaughterhouse. I was the poor lamb that was unaware of what was to come. I decided on an appointment for the extraction in two weeks. Before the extraction, I was asking every friend what I could expect. Regardless, there is only so much I can prepare mentally and physically. Before the big day approached, I decided to enjoy some awesome food as I knew that I will be on a liquid diet after the surgery.

The history of Wisdom Teeth:

Source: Sciencehumour on Instagram


Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that usually grows out around the ages of 17 to 21. Molar teeth are our toughest and widest teeth. It grinds and breaks our food into small pieces. Humans will have 2 sets of molars before growing out their wisdom teeth. In the past, primal humans did not cook meat with fire. Instead, it was eaten raw as humans stripped the meat from the bone. Thus, wisdom teeth helped our ancestors to break apart tough meat and animal skin. Over the years, mankind started to evolve with our brains developing and growing in size. Our skulls evolved to adapt to the new larger brain. However, our dental arcade was shortened and there was insufficient space to accommodate the third set of molars. This is because the genes responsible for brain development and the genes responsible for teeth makeup evolved separately. Today, we have to deal with the problem of a crowded mouth due to this oversight. Plucking our wisdom teeth is a rite of passage that most people will go through. It may be viewed as the coming of age as people transition to be young adults.



The surgery:

My dentist told me to open my mouth bigger at least five times through the surgery. (Source: instamemestar1 on Instagram)


My appointment was scheduled to be in the afternoon and I felt like a nervous wreck. Although I dreaded the extraction, I knew that it was in my best interest to have my wisdom teeth removed. Leaving it will lead to additional costs and health concerns, and these reasons were sufficient to convince me that I had to be courageous. After all, courage is not the absence of fear. It is the capacity to act in the face of it. I made my way down to the clinic, signed some papers and it was time for the operation to begin.

The dentist decided to first extract the wisdom teeth on the right side as the growth was more severe. Due to the horizontal growth, the root of my bottom wisdom tooth may be curved. The dentist informed me that a small piece of the curved root may remain lodged in my gum after removal. It was because it will be unwise to remove it due to proximity to my nerves.

Local anesthetic was injected into my upper and lower gums. I started to feel numbness in the right side of my face, and it was a unique experience. I briefly wondered if this was what half paralysis in stroke patients feel like. Before commencing the surgery, the dentist warned that there was a 1 to 3% chance that the numbness will remain permanently. This is the biggest risk of wisdom teeth surgery. I tried not to think too much about it and focused my attention on the injection. When it was verified that I had a sufficient dosage of anesthetic, it was time to pluck my upper tooth. The upper tooth grew out vertically, thus it was a simple extraction. I never had an extraction done before and the pressure I felt was massive. I bit down on the dentist's tool unknowingly! The dentist cautioned me to keep my mouth open or he could not continue the surgery. Well, I had to listen to him because he had tools in my mouth, so I tried my best to keep my mouth open. Finally, the tooth was extracted, and the process was surprisingly fast! It turns out that I have 4 roots in my wisdom tooth, and it was a rare sight. Most teeth have either 2 or 3 roots thus seeing 4 roots and above was exceptional. It is similar to finding a four leaf clover inside your mouth.


My freshly plucked four-rooted wisdom tooth.

Earlier, it was a simple extraction. Now, the surgery begins for the removal of the bottom tooth. I heard stories of the dentist drilling the tooth into two so that it will break apart. While the dentist drills the tooth, one can feel the vibration in their jaw. I was freaked out when I first heard this fact because it sounded terrifying. Drilling my tooth into two?? Over my dead body! Of course, I could protest all that I wanted inside my head, but I still had to go through with the surgery. I felt the vibration from the drill, and it felt uncomfortable, but it was not painful. I had survived through the worst! Thankfully, the curved part of my tooth came out during the removal, and no small bit remains in my gum.

My dentist then stitched up the wound and frankly, I thought this was the worst portion of the surgery. It was not painful but seeing my dentist pull the threads and feeling it against the side of my face served as a reminder. Once the anesthetic wears off, I will experience a world of pain and discomfort. Throughout the surgery, I was having an internal panic attack. While I was battling with my inner turmoil, I was trying my best not to hold back my tears. Everyone in the surgery room could tell how terrified I was, and my dentist constantly tried to assure me. He kept asking how I was feeling and if I was in pain throughout the removal. It was comforting and relieving to know that my dentist has my best interests at heart.

After the removal, my dentist went through the possible side effects. Besides permanent numbness in the jaw area, I may experience pain, swelling, and bruising around my jaw in the coming days. I was glad that it is mandatory to wear a mask out now because no one will see my swollen jaw. I was instructed to take my medication, avoid hot foods and to brush my teeth gently.

Hello chipmunk cheeks. (Source)

Recovery:

As of the time of writing, I am into my fifth day of recovery and it has been going well! After the surgery, expect your gum to bleed until the next day. I had to change the cotton in my mouth every half an hour and I kept spitting out blood. However, do not spit out the blood forcefully from your mouth! From what I read online; it may aggravate the wound and prevent the blood from clotting. Hence lower your head and let the bleed flow out by itself. This meant that everything I ate or drank had the taste of blood, but I had to deal with it.

After the surgery, it was recommended not to brush my teeth on the same day and to brush lightly afterward. Not going to lie, it was disgusting to wake up with a mouth that tasted nasty due to the mix of blood and saliva. For the first three days, I avoided brushing near the removal site. I used mouthwash to reach the parts that I did not clean. Do note not to gargle vigorously to prevent the wound from reopening!

Since one side of my mouth is now incapacitated, I could only bite with the left side. Within these few days, I mostly ate soft foods such as porridge, yogurt, and bean curd. As an Asian, rice is the main staple in my diet. However, I had to forgo it because I was worried that the grains may get lodged in the wound. On the third day, I could bite into solid foods that were cut into small pieces. Yet, I still cannot open my mouth fully without it hurting. It will take at least a week post-surgery for me to eat like before. My friend told me about her wound reopening despite waiting for a week before eating crunchy and chewy food. She got an infection; her wound did not stop bleeding and it hurt a lot for her. Thus, be careful of what you are putting in your mouth post-surgery!


And hoping that I do not accidentally reopen my wound in the meantime. (Source)

Conclusion:

My wisdom teeth extraction was the first time I underwent the knife. It was daunting and frightening to entrust myself to people I have never met. I had to place my faith in them and believe that the surgery will go well. It made me reflect on my physical health and the things I could start doing to future proof my body in later life. After all, Mahatma Gandhi stated, “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver”.

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