By Erin Kirsten Stein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 3, 1998

The wisdom in your mouth


Arizona Daily Wildcat

Erin Kirsten Stein

You're sitting in the chair, breathing shallowly. Pop music is piped in and you try to sing along and glance out the window, but your gaze is drawn back to the machine in the corner. It's beeping at you . . . faster, slower . . . beep, beep. Its peaks and valleys startle you with their rolling depth. It's mesmerizing. Every five minutes the cuff on your arm jerks and begins to squeeze.

Is it over yet?

Over winter break, several of my peers and I experienced one of those "rites of passage" doohickies.

We had our wisdom teeth taken out.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to be blessed with such useless accessories, but I am one of the chosen.

I knew something was going on back there last spring and I forced my mother to take me to the dentist.

("Why do you need to go to the dentist?" she asked, "You just went six months ago!" This is my mother?!)

They took X-rays. "Yup. You got 'em." Brilliant diagnosis.

So, I have to have surgery (AAAAH!) but I'll get it done over the summer and have plenty of time for recovery, right? Wrong.

There's this nuisance called dental insurance. It's nice to have, sometimes.

My step-dad transferred divisions a couple of years ago, and when he did they restarted his insurance. Well, according to our dental plan, surgery is not covered until you've been on the policy for two years.

Two years came around this past Jan. 1.

So, I have four impacted wisdom teeth; two are impacted in the bone, which could damage my back molars by pushing into them. The top two are pushing up toward my sinus cavity. On the bottom, one has grown past the nerve and one is resting right on it.

The longer I wait, the worse it gets. "Help! Help! I'm bein' repressed!"

So I wait. I can feel them coming in.

Winter break finally comes and I visit the oral surgeon. He gives me the worst-case scenario: I could die. I could have a permanently numb jaw and tongue. I could have damaged teeth, or they may have to pull out more teeth. I could have a hole in my sinus cavity requiring more surgery.

Gee, sounds great doesn't it?

Then he asks, "Do you want to get all four out at once?"

Um, duh. Yes! I don't want to go through surgery more than once!

"Would you like to be put to sleep?"

Um, duh again. I have a problem, a big problem with needles. Do you think I could handle scalpels and such in my mouth?

I don't think so, buddy.

Anyway, I have surgery, something I have never experienced before. I keep telling myself that's what it is: a new experience.

I'm awake from the anesthetic and in the car going home in less than an hour. My mouth is full of blood. Ew, double gross.

Here's the best part: They tell me not to rinse my mouth for eight hours after surgery. How do I swallow the painkillers? How do I eat my mashed potatoes and Jell-O?

The best part number two: I am given a mouth rinse to use twice a day. The bottle says not to swallow any of it. The oral surgeon says not to spit because the suction could pull out the stitches. Do I just let it drool out? Ew, gross.

I avoid chipmunk cheek on one side, but my left wisdom teeth must have been temperamental, because that side swells up and bruises and aches for a week.

And then, I'm fine.

Now I have a hole in the back of my mouth and food gets stuck in it. Since I'm not a squirrel packing for the winter, I find it slightly annoying.

My dad says I'm dumber since they too out my wisdom teeth. Ha ha. Good one.

The moral of the story is, it really isn't that bad. Well, I did hear about a guy who went into a coma for a week. And my friend had to have a root canal at the same time. But they're the exceptions, right?

I heard an ad on the radio today looking for people who need to get their wisdom teeth out.

The number to call is 790-PAIN.

Erin Kirsten Stein is a senior majoring in creative writing, journalism and general fine arts studies. Her column, "Shaken, Not Stirred," normally appears every other Tuesday.

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