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Losing Wisdom Teeth and Consciousness

publication date: Feb 8, 2017
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author/source: Marcus Counterman

I had to have my wisdom teeth pulled. My dental professionals have always been contradictory with their advice to me based on their varying degrees of honesty. First, the orthodontist ran an x-ray and said, “Congratulations––you’ll have enough room in your mouth to keep your wisdom teeth." A couple years later the dentist said, "Ok, let's schedule a time to get those wisdom teeth out." Wait…wha? And of course, I didn't. Another dentist said, "Yeah, you're good." The next tried to schedule a wisdom tooth removal appointment. Great! 2 out of 4 dentists hadn't paid their student loans off yet. Good to know. I really never felt inclined to pay a grand for preventative surgery. I mean, my wisdom teeth hadn't even come in yet and they were trying to get them out. So after all that, my wisdom teeth actually started to come in. And they fit. And I always felt good about my decision to not have them removed. Except for the part where I was teething as an adult. "Why are you so cranky?" "I'm teething." …"Oh." But overall, good decision. I got one over on the dentists and saved $$$.

Fast forward several years. I've got all three wisdom teeth completely in. That's right: 3. Turns out there was a design flaw in my DNA. Unless I still get the last one in the future, in which case, this story gets a whole lot better. I'm surprised a dentist hasn't told me to get an implant for the fourth, just so he can pull it.

Discussion Question: Should test tube babies be genetically modified to not grow wisdom teeth? Discuss why or why not.

Now even though I only have three extra teeth, and even though they fit, it wasn't like there was a lot of extra room in my mouth. Very tight. Very. So tight that if food got stuck, I couldn't touch the back side of my wisdom teeth with my finger. Or a toothbrush. Uh oh. Here's where the story takes a disgusting turn for the worse. As it turns out, keeping all your teeth clean and properly brushed is highly recommended. Having an 'unclean' area in your mouth can cause an infection; which is exactly what happened to me. It started with some tenderness in my gums, then my jaw was sore. Then I woke up one morning and the pain was so bad that I could not open my mouth more than a slight crack. "I cand o-pen my mouf. It nah funn-y. Top laugh-ing." We had pancakes for breakfast and I had to cut it into skinny pieces to fit into my mouth slit.

I was absolutely miserable. Let me say this, the mouth is such a strategically bad place for pain. Maximum inconvenience. You can't talk. You can't chew. Not being able to eat definitely adds insult to injury. I'm in so much pain and now I have to be on a diet? Lame. It's like my mouth is my achilles heel. Hey-Oh. So I'm miserable. So miserable that I call the dentist and set an appointment. And I'm excited about it. When was the last time you were excited to see the dentist? If you're excited to see the dentist, something has gone terribly wrong.

So I go to the dentist and you know what he tells me? You guessed it. My wisdom teeth are causing an infection and they need to come out. But now, I'm ready to hear it. Cost doesn't even matter. "There's a cure?! Great! When can we get them out? It costs how much? That's ok. That's why I have two kidneys. One of them is like an emergency fund." So we set an appointment a week out. On a Thursday. And I'm so pathetic in that moment that it sounds like a four-day weekend/medical vacation to me. Ohh yeahhh. Sounds like fun. The dentist tells me to take ibuprofen until my Norco prescription fills.

Fun Fact: The dentist told me it's ok to take 800mg of ibuprofen up to four times a day. Good to know. I was always under the impression that if I had a combined 800mg of ibuprofen in a 24-hour period that I should Google 'poison control' because my kidneys may start bleeding. Also, did you know that 3,200 mg of ibuprofen a day makes the pain of an oral infection completely go away? I'm not going to lie, I had to do the math to see how long the break-even point was in cost between getting my teeth pulled versus going through three bottles of ibuprofen a week. The side effects of prolonged usage (bleeding kidneys) put me back into the 'pull' camp. The Norco was great. Norco can make you a narco. We'll get into that a little bit later. So the meds help me get by that week and then the big day arrives.

Laughing gas certainly changes the tooth extraction experience. It's really the difference between a routine procedure and torture. Thank you Geneva Convention. They said that the gas I was breathing had oxygen in it and they could control how much oxygen I got. More oxygen = less laughing gas and vice versa. When the procedure was over they would crank up the oxygen to get the laughing gas flushed out of my system. I was breathing it in via a gas mask, which was really just a piggy snout with tubes connected to the gas tanks. As I was wondering what it would be like, I started to get a headache. A headache? Discomfort is not supposed to be a result of this stuff. Then I realize it's not a headache. It's my mind-expanding. Dude. And I feel good. The dentist came back in the room and said, "Hi." My brain made the decision to say, "Hey" but the laughing gas overrode that command and made me say, “aaayyyyyy.” Like Fonzarelli. That's the thing about it. My mind was still sharp the entire time. It was the rest of me that was sloppy. So he starts talking to me about what he's going to do and I'm following along, but making responses like a complete moron. "Okaaaaay." Then he starts the procedure. And it's strange. I have to open my mouth so wide, to fit the pliers (and his fist) in the back of my mouth, that I can feel my lip split. But there's no pain. And of course he's talking to me the whole time. He's asking what I do for a living––and I'm telling him––as I see my blood all over the bib. It creates such a surreal moment when you're having a polite conversation with the guy that is currently using pliers to rip your teeth out of your head. Then all of a sudden everyone’s voices started to echo. Everything that they said, I heard on repeat. "Hello-Hello-Hello-Hello-Hello." Each time played faster and higher pitched. Just like the psychedelic scenes in the movies. Then I felt like I couldn't breath. My brain told my hand to pull off the piggy snout. But it didn't happen. My hand didn't move at all. The sense of asphyxiation grew more intense. I heard the dentist say, "Give him oxygen!" And then everything was gone. Silence. Pitch black. No body––no physical feeling at all. It was as if my body was completely gone, but my mind was still there. That's all. Just my consciousness existed. "Am I dying? Did I just die?" I said a prayer. But not a begging, pleading for my life kind of prayer. It was more just saying thank you to God for my life and Him being good to me and all. I'm happy to report that in that moment I didn't panic. I had no fear. I'd like to think that's because I'm so spiritual, but it was probably because I was high.

The piggy mask.  Soon you won't feel self conscious.  In fact, you won't feel anything at all.

"Open your eyes" I hear. I look and see the dentist and assistant staring back at me. I lived. Or I died and went to Hell. Apparently the oxygen kicked in before I got too far into my Inception dream world. They told me that I knocked the piggy snout off as I was moaning. Good to know that I've still got it. They continued the procedure with less laughing gas/more oxygen. Probably a good thing. One tooth out. Then two. Then three. All done. Infection gone, wisdom teeth gone, best thousand dollars I ever spent. They flushed the drug out with oxygen and I drive myself home. Luckily their numbing meds were still in effect. Have you ever had to wad up gauze and keep it in place in your mouth when you can't feel anything in your mouth? That and numb-swallowing Norco could be an Olympic event. The Norco was a life saver when their meds ran off. No pain and I slept like a baby. The downside? I'm one of those people that gets major nausea and headaches with too much Norco in my system. The good news: 3,200mg of ibuprofen a day takes those unwanted side effects completely away! And thus concludes the story of how I got my kidneys to bleed.