Making sense

Anne Lamott, on writing ...

"We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.”

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Don't Dry Sock-et to Me ...

If you have ever had the misfortune to possess a dry socket, you know the misery that lives inside me.
If you have no knowledge of the dry socket, let me educate you.
A dry socket is a dental term. A bad dental term, as in hope-you-don't-get-a-dry-socket-because-it-hurts-like-a-mother. The kind of pain that can reduce a burly man to his knees; the kind of pain that can make a mother profess that she'd rather have a baby sans epidural and push for twelve hours than go through dry socket pain for one day.
I am hear to tell you that I gave birth three times naturally, without even a single Tylenol, and I disagree passionately with those who prefer childbirth to dry socket pain. Expelling a nine-pound human being out of my vajay-jay was the most painful physical act I have ever endured (but that is another post). For pain comparison, I would rather, let's say, have a dull headache for a week than live with a dry socket; I would rather have pink eye for a month that deal with the dry socket issue; I would even rather have two paper cuts on every finger for 24 hours than go through the jaw debilitation that a dry socket has brought into my mouth.
How did I get such a thing, you ask?
Wisdom tooth. Lower left. That tooth burst through when I was about twenty years old. I was married then, and pregnant with Offspring #1 when I started teething and drooling, tugging at my ear. I remember this because my husband thought it was hysterical that I was getting a new tooth and a new baby all in the same year. "You can teeth together," I remember him saying.
For twenty-six years that tooth hung out in my mouth, gathering pieces of pulled pork and popcorn kernels, a type of oral compost pile. That tooth saw a lot of floss in its day. A lot of toothpicks. (I have never gotten the hang of using a toothpick, but that too is another post.)
And then one day about a month ago it got all stubborn and decided not to hang out all chill and relaxed in the back of my mouth. It started to protest and get all pissy and I put up with it for about two weeks, thinking a sesame seed had taken root (damn you, Big Mac), and rather than go around digging for it and causing bloody drool, I thought, what the hell, I'll just go to the dentist. I called my trusty dental office at 9 a.m. Monday morning, and wouldn't you know, they had an opening that very afternoon! (This was not a great comfort, as I usually need about ten days' notice to psyche myself up to go to the dentist.)
But I said, Sure, I'll be there, and five hours later, the dentist took a look at the X-ray and said, Number 17 needs to come out, which really was instruction to his assistant standing there with her clipboard, and when I said, Oh, that rear wisdom tooth, right? he shook his head and told me he was referring me to an oral surgeon. He then told his girl to see if I could get in that very afternoon (what!??!?!?!?), and when she came back and announced, She can't get in until Thursday, my heart palpitations went away and I calmed down a bit. I don't know about you, but I would rather have a baby than go get a tooth pulled. Not really (see above), but you know what I mean.
After dozens of Our Fathers and Psalm 23 recitations the night before and morning of, I ended up in the oral surgeon's chair at approximately 3 p.m. on Thursday, June 7, 2012. It is important to note the time I lowered my shaking body into the chair because I had a 1:30 appointment, which means for 90 minutes I had to sit in that ugly little waiting room worrying myself into diarrhea cramps. (Side note: Oral surgeons make, what? $250,000 a year, and they can't provide magazines published after 2009? They can't purchase new chairs? They can't dust droopy silk flower arrangements?) Fortunately, I dragged my husband along, and I launched into my Goofy Waiting Room Patient routine, first with him and then a Diana Ross look-alike sitting catercorner to me, just to Start Conversation, to Think About Something Other Than Having A Huge White Wisdom Tooth Pulled Out of My Head. My husband was a good sport for about thirty minutes. Tops, 45, but as I already complained, an entire 90 minutes transpired before I was called back. Fortunately, the lady across from me had good humor, and she and I talked about our kids' wisdom tooth extractions, which, somehow, made both of us feel better. (She was there to have a front tooth pulled. Oh. My.) The longer I talked with her, the more she reminded me of Diana Ross ~ not from the Supremes period ~ but Diana from "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" era. I was just getting ready to ask her how often she'd been told she looked like Diana Ross when the ugly brown warped door opened, and a woman in pink scrubs called out, "Katherine? Katherine Stander?"
Well, my name is Kathleen, but my last name is Stander, so surely she meant me. I felt annoyed, and, to be frank, a little scared, that this person did not have my name down right, which immediately made me think, Uh-oh, impending medical mistake, they're going to extract #32, but then she self-corrected and snorted a little and said, "Oh, my apologies," and I followed her back, a little pale lamb (with a menopot and a chipped pedicure) being led to slaughter.
Amazingly, ten more minutes went by until an assistant came into the room and complimented me on my purse. (It is a very nice bag.) She then got out the blood pressure cuff and started asking me how my day was going, and I'm thinking, Are You Freaking Kidding Me? I Am A Nervous Wreck, Wait Until You See My Blood Pressure, but then she said, Wow, 120 over 58. Excellent. But then I freaked, because 58 seemed way too low, and I was contemplating passing out when in walked the oral surgeon, a little dark-haired man who wore ~ I am not making this up, I promise ~ who wore a Hitler mustache. No shit. Litty tiny black thick mustache. Very Hitler.
However, he immediately apologized for making me wait, and he had a sexy, Wolfman Jack radio voice (which took me by surprise; I expected him to have a German accent), and before I knew it, I liked him. I trusted him to extract a tooth that had been my constant companion for 26 years.
So there was a gross tasting concoction on a swab and then an enormously long needle and then "Now this is going to stick a bit," (it DID) and "Well done, Kathleen, you're doing great," and next thing I know, they both leave me and it's just me and my awesome purse and a mouth that is growing very numb and tingly. My chin began to feel very Jay Leno. (Side note: I do not think they should leave you alone after administering the numbing stuff. What if you had a very, very bad reaction? Something anaphylactic? Something that meant your throat would swell up, close completely, and you would not be able to breathe?)
Turns out I am not allergic to the numbing concoction.
Within ten minutes, Wolfman Hitler and his assistant returned and within two, three minutes, the doctor was nearly on top of my body, tugging and pulling with all his might. My jaw felt that it might just give up, become unhinged. (I could lose weight then, I remember thinking ~ ) More tugging, pressure, and then there was a truly heinous crunching sound and then the doctor said, Well, there you are, and next thing I know, he's helping me stand up and his assistant tells me to go to checkout, to have a nice day.
Which I do. I check out. I get a little pamphlet explaining post extraction dos and don'ts, and then my husband drives me home. I feel jubilant and strong for having survived my extraction without shitting myself. A few hours later, I send my daughter to Price Chopper for deli macaroni and cheese, which is exremely delicious and extremely fattening, but oh-so-soft and just what the doctor ordered.
So, where does the dry socket come in? Dry sockets occur when the extraction doesn't heal well. Smokers tend to get them because of the inhaling/exhaling and the subsequent drying out of the mouth. Poor dental hygiene can cause a dry socket. Used to be, straw suckers got them too, only my oral surgeon's assistant said straws were allowed. (Haven't you heard your entire life never to drink from a straw after getting a tooth pulled? Turns out you can ... .)
Let me say now that I am not a smoker and I have outstanding oral hygiene. (I enjoy flossing and brushing.) And I got a dry socket, which became apparent when, on day four post-extraction, my tooth hole throbbed right along with my entire jaw. Even my left eye started to burn. The pain on the 1 to 10 scale? An 8. Easy. Maybe even a 9 at times.
An educated person, I turned to the Internet and self diagnosed the dry socket.
I called the oral surgeon's office. I think I have a dry socket, I said. Come in at 3, the person on the phone said.
This time, three o'clock meant three o'clock, and what happened? A different oral surgeon took one look, said, Oh, dry socket, and then handed me a pink vomit pan, which scared me, but then he put something atrocious tasting in my mouth, said Spit, and then put something in my mouth hole ( a packing) that tasted very strongly of cloves, which, is not entirely unpleasant, and then, within ten minutes, the pain went away. Vanishment!
Until the next evening. But I'd already made a follow-up packing appointment, which is where I went today, at 11:30. More clove packing. More pain relief. (I will never look at a clove in the same way. Which may or may not ruin the decorating of the oranges come Christmastime.)
I am to return to the office this Friday at 8 a.m. For more packing. Turns out that a "person my age has a 1,000 percent chance increase of developing a dry socket post extraction." Doctor told me today that I might need 8 or 9 additional packings. Just what a gal wanted to hear.


Seth Champion said...

First of all, getting dry socket without smoking does not compare even remotely to getting it with smoking. Getting dry socket from smoking an hour after leaving the dentists office because the dentist decided not to tell you not to smoke, is equivalent to inserting a 1/32 of an inch needle 2 inches deep into the tips of all of your fingers, (where all of those nasty little nerves are). Which is also a type of torture. Having this done hurts A LOT more than having a baby.

Kathleen Stander said...

Ohmygod you poor man. Just now reading your comment, or else I would have felt bad for you weeks ago.
Your dentist was/is a douche and he should be reported for not properly advising you.
P.S. Don't go back to that dentist.

Unknown said...

I have dry socket and came across your article while googling it. I have to say it made me laugh out loud ( I really needed that after the week I've had!)
I smoked straight after it too and two hours later OMG horrendous pain! I've had four children, two were sections and I'd rather go through all the labours/sections in one go that go through dry socket again!! The pain was incredible and I think I cried most of that day and night. Even my four year old was like ' oh god mammy is crying again' lol I'm surprised I didn't actually od on painkillers I was taking that many as nothing would shift the pain. I managed two days of crawling the walls and rang to beg the dentist for stronger stuff. They got me in, rinsed out the socket and put this paste stuff in and I have to say the pain lessened immediately. Still painful but it took that sharp edge off it. I'm a lot better today with just a touch of earache and thank god I'm still alive after all the painkillers I've consumed this week. I'd urge anyone who thinks they may have a dry socket to get it checked straight away as you don't want the pain to worsen which believe you me if you leave it, it will.
Thanks again for cheering me up Kathkeen :)

michelle neasham said...

I felt your pain.... Literally and I agree. Child birth was a walk in the walk compared to this.