previous posting, I wrote of my misadventures at the oral surgeon getting my two left wisdom teeth removed. To say that the extraction did not go well would be a massive understatement. Today, I had the right side done. Overall, the process went better this time but it was still no picnic. When I went for my follow-up consultation after the last extractions, I requested some sedatives this time. I'm afraid of being put under, but I wouldn't have minded being nicely scrambled. What follows are actual snippets of conversation I had with the surgeon and his staff.
ME: I told them when I had my stitches removed last month that I wanted an IV sedative and some gas this time.
STAFF MEMBER: WHAT?! I really doubt you need that.
ME: I had a very rough time the last time.
STAFF MEMBER: Um, ok, let me ask the doctor about that.
DOCTOR: Bill, how are you doing?
ME: Ok, Doctor. Had a bit of a rough go of it the last time, hmm?
DOCTOR: Wasn't rough for me!
ME: Well it was rough for me. I think I'd like the IV drip this time, as well as some gas.
DOCTOR: You have to keep in mind, son, that we're removing teeth. Not your heart.
ME: Well, regardless...
DOCTOR: We'll give you some "sweet air" this time. That should take some of the edge off.
DOCTOR (Looking at chart): UGH! I see the insurance hasn't reimbursed us from the last procedure.
ME: Well, I got a note from your office that they needed "more information" and I called them to find out what was up. They say payment is pending...
DOCTOR: That's what they say when they want to stall. They know damn well the work we did.
ME: Well, if I could expedite things for you...
DOCTOR: No, it's ok. These people expect us to work for nothing!
I was a bit nervous during this exchange, as you don't want to anger the man who is about to yank your teeth. The matter of my insurance being settled, he then hooked me up with the nitrous oxide apparatus. You know, the funny mask that you wear over your face. I tried to fantasize that I was a fighter pilot on a crucial mission of national security set to awesome 80's music.
DOCTOR: Now, breathe normally.
ME: In through the nose, out through the mouth?
DOCTOR: You know, normally. How you would usually breathe.
ME: I tend to breathe through my mouth quite often. I know it's a bad habit, but...
DOCTOR: I mean, if I have to explain to you how to breathe, I think we're overthinking this a bit...
DOCTOR: Here, I'll put some gauze in your mouth to prevent you from breathing that way.
The extractions were done with much more quickly this time. But the sutures? Those were another story entirely. For whatever reason, I was unable to open my mouth wide enough for him to get the stitches done. As far as I was concerned, I was opening my mouth as wide as humanly possible. I think perhaps it was drooping due to the numbness of the Novocaine and the influence of the laughing gas. The dentist was not pleased and he made it known.
DOCTOR: Bill, open your mouth as wide as you can.
ME (with a mouth full of suction tubes and retractor clamps): EYEAHHH AHMMM TRYUNK! UNG!
DOCTOR: In all of my life, I have never had a more difficult time with stitches!
ME: EYEAH UM SORRIEUH!
DOCTOR: I mean, seriously, the sutures are taking longer than the extraction.
ME: .... GAH!
DOCTOR: About twice as long as the extraction!
DOCTOR (to kind dental assistant): Get the suction out of the way! It's bad enough that I have to fight with him! Get out of the way! And get his tongue out of the way, too, while you're at it!
Note: After I was finally all stitched up, the kind dental assistant told me that I was not a bad patient and that the doctor is getting older and therefore more cranky when things do not go 100 percent his way. I asked if she could find my intact top tooth, as she gave me one the last time. I think it would be cool to have them polished and made into cuff links like Meyer Wolfsheim in the Great Gatsby. I'm kidding. Sort of. Unfortunately, the top tooth had already been thrown away, but I did get a sizable chunk of the impacted lower tooth, which had to be broken into pieces with a drill.
Bonus bits of dental history: Horace Wells, a Connecticut dentist, was the first to discover the nitrous oxide could be used as a dental anesthesia in 1844. He first saw it demonstrated at a traveling carnival by Gardner Quincy Coulton, a former medical student who would perform feats such as getting hopped up on laughing gas and letting audience members injure his leg. He would also take volunteers from the audience willing to experiment with the gas themselves. Wells saw the potential and began using the gas on his own patients, after first having his dental assistant take out one of his own teeth under the influence of the gas.
Wells was widely discredited in the medical community because he publicly demonstrated the use of nitrous during an extraction in which the gas was not administered properly. The patient cried out in pain and Wells was heckled from the operating theater, as people yelled "Humbug! Humbug!" It being the 1800s and all, I suppose they would have yelled "Huzzah!" if the procedure had been a smashing success. Thus having been disgraced, he left the dental profession for a few years, working as an itinerant salesman of household goods across Connecticut. The story of Wells does not end there, though.