Thursday, January 19, 2012

Those Pesky Wisdom Teeth

{A Mom's Practical Guide For Before and After Oral Surgery}

When I was preparing to have my wisdom teeth removed two weeks ago, I searched for practical advice, and while I found plenty of medical information, the practical information was bare bones.  I know this could be because everyone  and every situation varies, but I wanted to hear real stories and glean ideas for how I could make this process easier for me and for my family.  

I did an informal poll on Facebook, asking my friends what it was like during recovery since that was what I was most concerned about. I heard everything from, "I was out cutting working in the yard later that same day," to, "I was in agony for a week."  Then my sister-in-law had two of her wisdom teeth pulled a few weeks before my surgery.  The same day, her husband (my brother) left on business, while she cared for their three kids, and that weekend, she felt well enough to take a family trip.  I prayed that I would be one of the good cases, but I decided my best strategy was to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

  • Tip #1: Do your own research.

    I had been having tooth pain on one side of my mouth since July.  (Actually, I had been having intermittent pain for probably two years, but July was when it came on strong and I knew something needed to be done.)  By the time I was referred to several different dentists, wrangled with the insurance company about coverage, and eventually set up a surgery date, I had many months to research the surgery process and read up on  the effects of dental surgery on a nursing baby (or toddler).  Even though I liked and trusted my surgeon, having my own knowledge gave me confidence. 
  • Tip #2: Work ahead.

    My surgery was on a Thursday so I spent Monday and Tuesday getting the house ready for me to be off-duty.  I grocery shopped, cleaned the bathrooms, and vacuumed.   On Wednesday, I made a big pot of chicken and brown rice soup, 2 pans of soft rolls, and a batch of applesauce.  These were all foods that would feed my family and be easy enough for me to eat after surgery. It was reassuring to have work done ahead so that I didn't put any extra burden on my caretakers.
  • Tip #3: Arrange for adequate help with the children.

    Brian needed to accompany me to the surgery since I was not able to drive after being sedated.  I was awake and remember much of the surgery (though not all of it), and much to my relief, I was not groggy afterwards...but there was still medication in my system, making me unfit to drive.  My sister came over to stay with my kids.  She fed them lunch and kept them happy while we were away.  When we got home, she hung out most of the afternoon, playing games and reading to them.  I felt fine that first day, but my mouth was numb until about six hours post-op so it was a life-saver to have her there to keep the kids content and happy.

    If I had it to do over again, I would have lined up childcare for the day after, too.  The day following my surgery, I was sore, swollen, and run-down.  Brian was trying to wait on me and run the house.  The kids (especially the littlest ones) were bothered by me sitting on the couch, unable to be and do my norm, and I felt bad that I couldn't get up and help! I think if the kids could have spent some time away from home, even for a few hours, there would have been less stress on us all. 

My recovery was in stages. 

On Day 1, I was numb for hours.  The biggest issue was the bleeding.  Since the gauze in my mouth tasted funny, I bit down on a tea bag instead.  The tannin in tea is said to reduce bleeding naturally, too.

I did not like the idea of taking the prescription narcotic for pain so, even though I filled the prescription "just in case," I decided to treat the soreness with ibuprofen and ice.  In the middle of the night, when I needed ice (but didn't want to wake the house with the clattering of ice cube trays), I used a bag of frozen lima beans instead.  I also took a middle-of-the-night dose of ibuprofen, too, on that first night, to stave off the soreness. 

By Day 2, the swelling was noticeable, but the lack of pain was a surprise.  While I was very sore and my jaw was stiff, I would not describe it as pain, more of a discomfort.  Ibuprofen and ice were my friends round the clock. I was able to eat soup, Jello, mashed potatoes, and bread, but when I tried to eat a helping of peas, chewing was too uncomfortable. 

Day 3 was more of the same.

By Day 4, I had nasty bruises on the underside of my jaw, but the swelling had gone down enough that I went to my parents' house for the afternoon for lunch and visiting.  I still wasn't ready to be seen by the general public, but family was okay.

On Day 5, the soreness was noticeably better, the stiffness had mostly disappeared, and I jumped back into my household duties with gusto!  I was able to begin adding "chewy" foods back into my diet. 

On Day 6, I started getting a nagging pain that radiated into my ear, and on Day 7, I was diagnosed with a dry socket, a common condition, where the blood clot that was protecting the socket, dissolves or comes loose, causing pain.  The pain from this was worse than the initial surgery recovery pain-- far worse!  Ibuprofen managed to dull the pain but not alleviate it.  The surgeon was able to pack the site bringing quick relief, but after he removed the pack (on Day 8), I had tear-inducing pain again.  Clove oil to the rescue!  A few drops of this essential oil applied to the socket with  a Q-tip did wonders for my pain. (Clove oil can be found at most drug stores, behind the pharmacy counter.)  Initially, I still needed ibuprofen for break-through pain, but by Day 11, I was using only clove oil and on Day 12, the pain disappeared. 

On Day 14 (yesterday), I visited oral surgeon for my follow-up appointment and was released from his care! 

1 comment:

  1. You handled yourself pretty well. Preparing is good, since the recovery can take a while. The dry socket is a very unpleasant event, right? Even if you're careful, it can happen, but it seems like you managed to face that like a champ! Clove oil can be pretty helpful as a remedy for tooth pains, in any case.


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