Friday, September 07, 2012
[My good buddy, Buck, is having dental surgery. He's having six teeth removed, then having some implants done. I know from experience that it will not be great fun.
I suggested to him (in the comments THERE) that he should consider writing a post while under the influence of pain medications. I told him I did once, and the following re-run is the proof. In solidarity with Buck's pain, I present, once again...]
ADVENTURES IN MODERN DENTISTRY
THURSDAY, September 23, 2010 – 11:44am
With luck, the Percocets will kick in any moment and my writing skills will deteriorate rapidly. Therefore, I’ll write about my dental work while I still can.
(That’s a joke, of course. My writing isn’t affected in the least by the ingestion of mind-altering drugs. Whether that says more about my writing or my past, I’m not sure.)
My mouth is finally complete. I have a full set of implants on the top. I have a full removable denture, anchored by two implants, on the bottom. Here’s a photo!
Not bad, eh? If I hadn’t incessantly gone on about my dental procedures – HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE – no one would be any the wiser. Heck, I’m not any the wiser, so why should anyone else be?
This morning, I had the final three remaining real teeth removed from my bottom jaw. That took about twenty minutes and was a relatively pain-free procedure. I was novocained to the gills, and the teeth weren’t exactly immovable objects to begin with, so all I felt was a sensation of heavy pressure as they were yanked. Oddly enough, the real pain began AFTER the extractions.
(Before I tell you about the pain, I want to make sure that you know how magnificent my dentist is. He’s Dr. Domenic D’Amico, of Watertown, and he’s done all of my dental work over the past eight years - excluding the two sessions of implant surgery, which were done by a specialist - and I wholeheartedly recommend him should you find yourself in need of anything similar to what I’ve had done. He’s a caring and skilled practitioner, and I consider myself blessed to have him as my dentist. Whatever descriptions of pain follow, I don’t want my florid prose to give you the mistaken impression that any of it was due to less-than-wonderful service by Dr. D’Amico or any of his friendly staff.)
(No, I was not paid for that endorsement. I really like the guy, and I don’t think anyone could have done a better job than he has. Of course, if he reads this and wants to give me a kickback, I won’t complain, but he’s so damned good at what he does, I… well, hell, it almost makes me sad to have no more teeth to pull.)
As I said, the real pain began following the extractions. And there were a fair number of interesting procedures involved. Let me tell you about them.
SUTURING – Why is it I could have three teeth yanked with a minimum of ouch, but it felt like there was a needle being pulled through my gums afterward? Oh, wait. It’s because there was a needle being pulled through my gums afterward. For some unknown reason, this hurt like hell. I guess I’m just the sensitive type.
COLLAGEN – The good doctor decided that I had lost a bit too much bone, on either side of the implants, since the time of my most previous extractions. As a precautionary measure, he inserted some collagen into the gums prior to suturing. As it was explained to me – or, at least, as I absorbed it, which may be another thing altogether – the collagen, once blood flows into it, begins forming bone tissue. If I have that wrong, then I have no idea why he did it. In any case, he didn’t charge me for it, so combine that with my ignorance and I have no reasonable grounds for complaining.
LASER – On the other hand, there was a bit too much gum tissue surrounding one of the implants, so in order to be able to get at it more easily, a laser was used to burn off a small portion of my gums. During this part of the procedure, I was given huge green goggles to wear. I suppose that was in case, say, he sneezed and inadvertently jerked the laser into my eyes, then it would make it less likely that I’d be permanently blinded. Either that or it made me look really goofy and broke up the morning for he and his assistant. Or both.
FITTING OF THE PROSTHESIS – I have to explain something about the various bridges, temporary dentures, implants, and whatever other oral junk I’ve been wearing during the previous eight years. None of them hurt in the least. This new denture, however, when placed into my mouth for the first time, was very painful. That surprised hell out of me, and while having hell out of you might sound like a pleasant thing, this wasn’t. It was excruciating, actually, and I began wondering if I had made a terrible irrevocable decision to allow those final teeth to be pulled.
I winced and the doctor noticed. Actually, his first clue to my discomfort probably came when I said, "Holy Fuck! It Feels As Though You Dumped Fire Ants Into My Mouth!" Actually, with the missing teeth and whatnot, it came out as, "Hoy Fug! Id Feezadooya Dund Fianz Ihmehmou!" In any case, he got the message, even though I didn’t actually say that, so he set about correcting the fit of the denture. This took about an hour. I know because I watched two episodes of The Office while it was happening.
(One of the marvels of this modern age of dentistry is that you don’t have to just sit there being… well, I wouldn’t normally choose the word ‘bored’ to describe the experience, but I can’t think of a better word at the moment, so it will have to do. Instead, if your doctor has a notebook computer, you can watch a movie, or some cartoons, while parts of your body are being removed. Or, if your first choices of entertainment are unavailable – in my case, The Three Stooges and Phineas & Ferb – you watch a few episodes of a sitcom. Here is as ringing an endorsement as could possibly be given to a comedy series: At the exact moment when one of my teeth was yanked, a scene involving the characters of Jim, Michael, and Dwight literally made me laugh out loud. I kid you not. My bloody incisor was in front of the screen, but I was laughing. Amazing.)
Anyway, Dr. D’Amico filed down a bit of the prosthesis and then placed it back into my mouth. It still hurt. He continued to place it in, ask me exactly where the pain was, remove it, do an adjustment of one sort or another, and then rinse and repeat. After perhaps twenty-five repetitions, it fit without any major discomfort. And, since the Percocets have now taken over my brain, it still doesn’t hurt too much. I hope this remains the case as the weekend wears on.
PHOTOGRAPHY – Throughout my various procedures, Dr. D’Amico has, at intervals, taken photos of the work done. I assume he may have written an article for a dental journal, or perhaps he just keeps a scrapbook of particularly grody mouths. Whatever the case, it doesn’t bother me to have him take the photos. I know for a fact that he’s not charged me for a few things over the years, and I consider that good payment for being a dental model.
Below are the shots he took of this latest procedure. They are VERY graphic, and may be unsettling to some of you. Therefore, I’ve left a safe white space between here and the carnage. If you have a weak stomach concerning dentistry, you probably shouldn’t look. Scroll down with eyes closed and hope you stop where I begin writing again. Those of you not bothered by oral gore, enjoy!
Lovely stuff, eh? Actually, the dentist didn't upload the photos to me yet. I'll have to show you the grody stuff in my next post.
[2012 note: I did. If you really want to see the gore, you can go search for it. I'm not going to gross out everyone here today. OK, back to 2010...]
I’m going to kick back and enjoy the buzz now. See you later.
FRIDAY, September 24, 2010 - 11:12am
Here’s a valuable thing to remember: The physical act of smiling will make you happy.
Now, that probably sounds dumb, but it’s the truth. If you feel down, depressed, dour, or a whole bunch of other things beginning with "D", just smile. After a short time, you’ll find that your forced smile has become a real one.
I don’t recall where I first heard that advice, but I do recall that it had scientific testing to back it up. When you use the muscles that make a smile, your brain starts producing dolphins. Or maybe it’s endorphins. Anyway, then you feel happier, which results in more of whatever they are being produced, which leads to a real smile, and so on.
If you don’t believe me, try it.
Oh, come on! Don’t do it for just a couple of seconds and then tell me I’m full of shit, unless telling me that will make you happy, in which case I’ll have accomplished the same thing for you. No, you have to keep on smiling for a minute or two. It helps if you look in a mirror while you’re doing it. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
See? It really does make you feel better, doesn’t it? Yes, it does.
This bit of trickery is, unfortunately, something I tend to forget. Maybe now that I’ve written it down, I’ll remember it more easily. Anyway, I had reason to use it this morning, it made me feel good, and I decided to pass the magic on to you.
The reason I needed it was because I didn’t sleep well last night, and I was also in pain.
The problem with having had dental surgery, and then having a wonderful drug such as Percocet given to you to alleviate the pain, is that Percocet screws up your sleep patterns. Well, I suppose I should amend that. It screws up my sleep patterns. Your mileage may vary. In any case, while I found myself to be very tired, and hardly able to keep my eyes open by 1 am last night, I found that when I lay down to sleep, I couldn’t. Here are the reasons…
1 – Percocet tends to give me a dry mouth. Therefore, I drank a few gallons of water throughout the day and had to pee every hour or so. This continued during the night, so a full bladder awakened me whenever I drifted off to sleep, which wasn’t often because…
2 – Percocet, while making me pleasantly yawn-filled and hazy, also adds an element of jumpiness into the mix. The mind tends to jump from one thought to another, all of them extremely interesting. It’s this combination of being an upper and a downer that delights me so, much as I once adored the combination of cocaine and alcohol. It does, however, make real honest-to-God sleep almost entirely unattainable. So, in order to get the sleep I desperately needed, I stopped taking the drug, which led to…
3 – Pain.
So, I had a choice. I could stay off of the pills and have pain, but pain doesn’t help one to sleep. Or I could take more pills, which would alleviate the pain but, again, make sleep impossible. Meanwhile, I had to take a pee again. All of it was working against me getting any significant sleep, so I decided to take more pills. If I was going to be awake anyway, why be in pain?
If you’re a regular reader of mine – and why wouldn’t you be, aside from having to wend your way through crap like this? – you may be experiencing a touch of déjà vu. That’s because this convoluted mess about sleep and drugs probably reminds you of THIS OTHER CONVOLUTED MESS ABOUT SLEEP AND DRUGS.
(If you go to that link, you’ll find a story about me being aided in my attempts to sleep by a bug crashing into my Venetian blinds. It’s actually a good story, in my very humble opinion, and features God as my co-star. I’d usually end a parenthetical such as this with some sort of snappy joke, but if blasphemy and a complete lack of humility didn’t already make you laugh, there’s not much else I can do to help.)
Having no friendly insects to aid me last night, I slept for perhaps an hour, and that was accomplished in five and ten minute segments at intervals between the pain, peeing, pill-popping, and other things beginning with "P". So, this morning, I was not in a good mood. I was tired, grouchy, uncomfortable, and other things beginning with letters from the alphabet. I decided that perhaps a cigarette would help me to feel more like I wanted to feel.
(OK, so most of you know I’ve been quitting smoking for the past two weeks. I have been a pack-a-day, or more, smoker for forty years. For the past 14 days, I’ve been proud to have never smoked more than 9 cigarettes during any one 24-hour period. The average day has been around 7 smokes. While the lessened intake of smoke has resulted in me feeling generally healthier, it hasn’t contributed to any good vibes.)
[2012 note: I'm smoking my usual amount these days, about a pack. Lectures will not be tolerated, and I'll hunt down and kill anyone who tries.]
I had a cigarette. And while I was having it, the latest round of percs kicked in more than previously. And I remembered that thing about how forcing yourself to smile will help you to really actually feel better. So, I smiled during the whole time I was having the cigarette (which, excuse yet another parenthetical, isn’t easy to do while inhaling smoke through a mouth full of new dentures and stitches, but I accomplished it.)
And I felt immeasurably happier, overall, so I decided I would share the secret of my happiness with you, which I have now done, so my work here is through. Never fear, though, as I’m sure I’ll be back later on with more hare-brained nonsense!
(And, of course, it could be the drugs making me happy, and maybe the smile thing is totally full of shit. I’ve taken that into account, but since I’m the only one with the drugs, you’ll have to settle for trying that smile crap.)
SUNDAY, September 26, 2010 - 6:23pm
Panic time. I tried to get the denture to come out. It wouldn’t.
In case I didn’t make it clear earlier, the thing is supposed to be removable. The two implants I have in my bottom gums are meant as anchors to hold the prosthesis steadily in place. The denture more-or-less snaps onto them. Then, when I want to take it out – for cleaning or whatever – equal upward pressure applied on both ends should lift it off of the anchors. Except, when I tried to get it out of my mouth, it wouldn’t budge.
The dentist had asked me to keep it in for as long as possible over the weekend. The reasoning was that the tissues underneath it would heal more quickly if protected. And the fit is snug, right up against everything, so nothing would get at the gums. Also, I think the idea was for me to get used to it more quickly.
Overall, it felt good, but not great. It certainly functioned well. No problems eating, other than a soreness in the gums, which I assume was to be expected following three extractions, suturing of the wounds, lasering of the gums in some areas, and all the other necessarily sadistic procedures I had performed on my mouth. I could feel pressure in certain areas, but nothing me and my buddy Percocet couldn’t handle. And I’m sure those small pains will be addressed on Monday during the follow-up appointment. However, I had taken a short nap, following the Patriots victory over Buffalo, and when I awoke, I was in fairly serious pain. My face felt a bit swollen, the pressure in the gums seemed to be increased, I could taste what might have been pus…
Sorry. That last is gross, but it was a really foul taste. I know that all of it – the pain, the swelling, the taste – might be natural occurrences following oral surgery and having the gums covered, and unable to be refreshed via brushing or mouthwash, for more than three days. The medications might have contributed to it, too. However, I felt that removing the denture, cleaning it, and rinsing my mouth, would probably alleviate all of the problems.
So, I placed my thumbs in my mouth and tried to take the prosthesis out. It barely budged. And the effort to move it caused some serious pain.
Bad thoughts flitted through my mind. Maybe my mouth was infected and stuff had oozed under the plate adhering it to my gums. What if I applied too much pressure and broke it, or destroyed one of the implants? I increased the pressure slowly, and felt a slight rise from the gums, but it hurt like hell. I was becoming a bit scared, along with frustrated, and I hoped I wasn’t doing irreparable damage to either my mouth or to my lovely new choppers.
(And they ARE lovely. The doctor did a fantastic job. Nobody could possibly tell they weren’t real teeth. MY WIFE has been particularly complimentary concerning them, and she just wouldn’t bullshit about it. If they looked gruesome or phony, she’d let me know.)
After a good ten minutes of trying different pressures and angles, I felt it move enough to know I could now get it out. I increased my efforts and pushed hard, and it finally popped off of the implants. The relief was immediate and immensely pleasurable.
There was a small bit of mouth gunk in the part that had been contacting the gums, but nothing overwhelmingly alarming. I gave the surface a good brushing to clean them up. I looked at my gums. Not a pretty sight with the stitches still there, metal sticking up from the two implant sites, and the general sickly look of moist body tissue that hadn’t had air touch it for a good 72 hours, but nothing that made me feel I should place an emergency call to the good doctor. I swished a bit of mouthwash over the area, and immediately felt less anxious about things.
I’ve now had the teeth out of my mouth for about twenty minutes. All soreness and all feelings of being swollen have vanished. I haven’t felt this good all weekend. I hope the dentist can make the fit better on Monday. I’d much rather keep it in – barring pain – than have it out. Aside from cosmetic concerns, without the teeth in, my jaw can close far more than it ever has before in my life. There are, of course, no lower teeth for my uppers to contact to stop progress, and it’s a very weird and sick feeling. I don’t like it, at all.
I now have my teeth in a little plastic box they gave me for storage. I’m going to keep them out until I need them to eat. Just dress me in a bear costume and call me gummy.
(OK, I guess folks think it would have been a good idea to remove my sense of humor while they were removing the teeth, but those folks are just stoopid.)
This wraps up whatever this was. I’ll talk to you later in the week to varying degrees depending upon how well my teeth fit by then.
MONDAY, September 27, 2010 - 8:50am
I'm in work, and just out of the dentist's office. He made a few adjustments - shaved down the denture here and there - and it feels better. He wants me back on Wednesday to adjust it more. I guess it's going to be an ongoing process, at least for the next week or so.
I think it's sort of like when you wear a pair of shoes that are tight and uncomfortable. When you take them off, you feel better. When you try to put them back on, your feet have swollen and they feel worse than they previously did. So my gums are feet and my teeth are shoes.
It's probably a good thing I'm out of drugs (but I'm going to ask for more, anyway.)
Soon, with more better stuff.
[Final 2012 note: The denture is second nature now, for the most part. Discomfort is still available on the odd occasion when I get a seed or something under it. All in all, as I advised Buck, if there is a choice between full implants and dentures, and the money is available, get the implants. Should I somehow become fabulously wealthy in the near future, I'll do that and have my entire lower jaw redone.]