dentist wearing gloves showing patient dental x-ray

Millennial’s First Surgery

I just had my wisdom teeth removed last week, and it was the first surgery I’ve ever had done. Leading up to it, I was a nervous wreck. I had never been under anesthesia before, and I was worried about how my body would react to it. As someone with some deep-rooted emetophobia (fear of vomiting) and a history of family members being sensitive to anesthesia, I was terrified at the possibility that I might get nauseous.

Even when I had my consultation with the oral surgeon, I remember sweating and getting faint when he talked about how the anesthesia might make me queasy…then not caring one bit when he talked about the more serious possibilities. Bone shards in my jaw, puncturing my nasal cavity, no sense of taste anymore, blah blah blah. Yeah, whatever doc, not worried so much about all of that as long as I don’t get sick.

Actually making the consultation appointment was a big step for me. Due to some complications with my health insurance (and some run-of-the-mill adulting cowardice), I actually didn’t go to the dentist for about 6 years. I remember going sometime in college, getting a cavity filled, then figuring I would go back eventually. It turns out, when you’re petrified of something, you’ll find any excuse not to do it!

So this year, now that I’m 26 and have my own health insurance, I’m trying to get my health in order. Stepping foot into the dentist’s office this June, I knew that I was going to need my wisdom teeth out, and I knew it was best to do it as quickly as possible. I got my first cleaning in 6 years, got some referrals for some other work, and got a few cavities filled…as well as made a joke that made the dentist uncomfortable (blaming my lapse in decorum on the Novocaine even though I would have made the joke anyway). It’s nice to know that even in the face of literally paralyzing fear, I can still make everyone in the room uncomfortable. I should put that on my resume.

I spent the weeks leading up to my surgery talking to others who had gotten their wisdom teeth taken out, and most of the stories I heard reassured me. If my body responded like everyone else’s did, I would be fine. I kept telling myself that I just needed to get in the chair and have the IV in my arm, and then I would be fine. Needles also bother me. Needles and vomit, not a fan.

The preparation for surgery isn’t my favorite, either. Although they told me to fast for 8 hours, I fasted for 12, just to be safe. While the hunger didn’t bother me much, the thirst was a little annoying. Also, this fasting period meant that I couldn’t take most of the supplements that I use to sleep. As a result, I spent a restless night going in and out of dreams where I kept eating something and had to spit it out because I was fasting, but I couldn’t spit it out because my mouth was too dry.

I even had to take my piercings out, which is an uncomfortable sensation for me. I have 6 piercings total, and I wear something in them all of the time. I feel bare without them. It was like a nightmare where I was naked, only instead of giving a presentation, I was going into surgery.

The surgeon gave me some Valium to take the edge off my anxiety, and while mom totally enjoyed seeing me whacked out of my mind and giggling at everything, by the time I got to the surgeon, it had essentially worn off. Just had to get in the chair. Just had to get in the chair.

Once I was in the room, I was unsurprisingly a mess: squirming in the chair, warning them that I don’t like needles, and reminding them that I need anti-nausea medication every 5 seconds. They were super understanding, which I think really helped me to calm down. The dose of anesthesia probably also helped, too.

Everyone told me that anesthesia would be like getting some awesome rest for what felt like seconds. Since my body seems to hate the idea of getting a good rest, I didn’t feel rested whatsoever. In fact, I think I woke up for a second during the surgery. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t in pain, but part of me remembers being conscious.

When they were done and I finally came to, I just started crying. I cried because I had been through my first surgery. I cried because this awful thing I had anticipated was finally over. I cried because I was proud of myself. I had done it, and that was a lot for me.

They tell everyone that the pain may not be as bad the first day because of the numbing agent. They are LIARS. I got home and paced the house in agony until my pain killers arrived. I was told that, when I got home, I would just want to sleep all day because of the anesthesia, but referring once again to the fact that my body doesn’t like me to get rest, my body was not having it. I took a very short nap that first day and had choppy sleep that night. My body didn’t want to sleep. It wanted me to suffer in full consciousness. 

As someone who sleeps on my face and takes a varied cocktail of supplements before bed each night, my nights haven’t exactly been restful. It’s tough when your days are full of sleepless lethargy and your nights are restless. I feel like the amount that I’m not sleeping makes me some sort of anomaly. I definitely wish I could defy the odds for cooler reasons.

The next few days were understandably uncomfortable, but not in the ways that I would have expected. Don’t get me wrong. I was in pain, as anticipated, but there were plenty of other challenges that I faced as well, the first irritation being my stitches. My stitches didn’t hurt per se, but they were still in my mouth, which means that my tongue wanted to mess with them. And you’re really not supposed to do that. I also have a sort of phobia about things under my skin that aren’t supposed to be there, so if I had let myself think about the stitches in my mouth, I would’ve slipped slowly into madness…

The other issue that faced was hunger. It felt like none of the liquid-y, softer foods that I was allowed to eat were filling. There’s only so much soup one person can stand. I don’t even have words for the frustration of eating several bowls of soup in a row and still feeling hungry. Perhaps we need a new word for that in English…

The day after my surgery, I was I almost in tears from the frustration of not being able to feel full. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, JUST GIVE ME A DAMN LOAF OF BREAD.

While I don’t necessarily want to risk crunchy foods yet (my new favorite activity is staring longingly at Parmesan Goldfish), I’m at the point where I can just about get back to my regular diet. The only downside is that now that I am back in the favor of the gods of mastication, it’s hard not to overeat when I get to have something I was really missing. My mom is making me a “yay you can chew again” dinner tomorrow night. I am apologizing in advance to my stomach.

Obviously surgery is uncomfortable, and no one really chooses to go under the knife, but I know that my face and teeth will both be happier now that my wisdom teeth are gone. Plus, the self pride that I feel for having actually gone through with it is worth it. Side note: I was so drugged that I forgot to ask them if I could take my wisdom teeth home. Dammit. Nevermind, this was all pointless if I can’t wear a necklace of human teeth.

Photo by Cedric Fauntleroy from Pexels

8 thoughts on “Millennial’s First Surgery

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