Oh the Pain, the agony………and worth it

At first I was dreading May 11. Then I was dreading March 23 (yesterday) when May 11 got cancelled………the day for extracting my wisdom teeth.

The anticipation is like pulling teeth – pun intended.

Years without health insurance (I address healthcare issues in other articles in this blog) resulting in stopping any professional dental care took its toll. It was either crown them or pull them. Since the cost difference was substantial ($500 difference), I opted for the extractions.

As soon as I found out that the teeth needed to be yanked, I didn’t flinch when I was asked what kind of anesthesia – local, of course! I had no interest in being “put out” or being given gas. I’ve done it before. No problem. I had two cesarean births without being put under. I’ve had two knee operations without being put under. I’ve had other dental work done even without local anesthetic. I’m a tough gal (not the mention the fact that I sometimes still think I’m in my 20’s or 30’s, forgetting that time is marching on…..). I hate the recuperation (not the mention the cost) from the general anesthesia and just wanted to have to recuperate from the tooth pulling itself.

So I walked the approximately one mile to the dentist for my 7:30a.m. appointment. The oral surgeon comes to my dentist’s office once a month for extractions. When he found out that I wanted just a local, he was surprised and asked me how old I am. He then proceeded to tell me that because of my age (47) it would be a hard operation since as you grow older your bone becomes more dense and the roots of your teeth form balls on the end, making them harder to extract if they need it. He had just operated on a 46 year old yesterday who had had a local and her operation took 20 minutes per tooth (not sure how many she had done).

So naturally, since I had not been told this prior to scheduling my appointment, I became even more nervous than I already was. We chatted a bit more about this and I said, “Well, maybe it would be better, then, if you put me out.” But it was too late. Since I had indicated doing a local, the anesthetist wasn’t coming in until after my appointment. So the surgeon said, “Let’s try one and see how it goes.”

Long story short, piece of cake. I had three teeth that had to be pulled. The two on the one side came right out. The one on the other side, which had already collapsed about a month ago, was a little harder, the roots having to be drilled out. Although my heart was pounding, a combination of nerves and the adrenaline in the local (lidacaine), I remained calm and still.
Needless to day, the surgeon was surprised and pleased. The whole thing, included adminstration of the local, took about 1/2 hour.

I was hailed by the staff in the office as “brave”.

So with my mouth filled with gauze and my face having no feeling, I said “thank you” to everyone in what sounded like I had a severe speech impediment, and happily left the office with my chest puffed out and my chin in the air…..figuratively speaking of course. The ego trip I was on felt good.

I must say I was pleased with myself that I had gone this route. Complications from generals do happen and I didn’t want to put myself at risk. I was given prescriptions for penicillin, lortabs and dexameth. I got them filled.

The penicillin I had no problems with taking since it will ward off infection. However, the lortabs and dexameth I had issues with. Even though I got them filled, I am happy to say I have only been taking penicillin and extra strength tylenol for the pain. I slept through the night last night without having to wake up and take more tylenol.

Dexameth is a corticosteroid and was prescribed to reduce swelling beginning the second day (today). Since I placed an ice pack on my face all day yesterday, and since I’m generally healthy and usually heal/recuperate well from ordeals like this, I did not notice or feel any swelling. Corticosteroids can compromise the immune system. Additinally, you aren’t supposed to just stop taking them. You have to taper off of them, yet the instructions on the prescription do not indicate this. “Take four times a day until gone.” Yet, when I do my own investigation, here is what I find:
Dexameth; Dexone; Hexadrol comes as a tablet and a solution to take by mouth. Your doctor will prescribe a dosing schedule that is best for you. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take Dexameth; Dexone; Hexadrol exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.

Do not stop taking Dexameth; Dexone; Hexadrol without talking to your doctor. Stopping the drug abruptly can cause loss of appetite, upset stomach, vomiting, drowsiness, confusion, headache, fever, joint and muscle pain, peeling skin, and weight loss. If you take large doses for a long time, your doctor probably will decrease your dose gradually to allow your body to adjust before stopping the drug completely. Watch for these side effects if you are gradually decreasing your dose and after you stop taking the tablets or oral liquid, even if you switch to an inhalation. If these problems occur, call your doctor immediately. You may need to increase your dose of tablets or liquid temporarily or start taking them again.
Although side effects from Dexameth; Dexone; Hexadrol are not common, they can occur. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
* upset stomach
* stomach irritation
* vomiting
* headache
* dizziness
* insomnia
* restlessness
* depression
* anxiety
* acne
* increased hair growth
* easy bruising
* irregular or absent menstrual periods

Boy am I glad I could do without THAT medication.

Now on to Lortabs, which was prescribed for pain and is a blend of acetaminophen and hydrocodone and is similar to codeine. Although there is a lot of information that one should read prior to taking Lortabs here is some information I found on Lortabs:

Do not take this medication without first talking to your doctor if you drink more than three alcoholic beverages per day or if you have had alcoholic liver disease (cirrhosis). You may not be able to take medication that contains acetaminophen.
Hydrocodone may be habit-forming and should be used only by the person it was prescribed for. Lortab should never be given to another person, especially someone who has a history of drug abuse or addiction. Keep the medication in a secure place where others cannot get to it.

Keep track of how many tablets have been used from each new bottle of this medicine. Hydrocodone is a drug of abuse and you should be aware if any person in the household is using this medicine improperly or without a prescription.
This medication can cause side effects that may impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be awake and alert.

Never take more Lortab than is prescribed. Tell your doctor if the medicine seems to stop working as well in relieving your pain.
You may have withdrawal symptoms when you stop using this medication after using it over a long period of time. Do not stop using Lortab suddenly without first talking to your doctor. You may need to use less and less before you stop the medication completely.
Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat. Call your doctor at once if you have any of these serious side effects:
*shallow breathing, slow heartbeat;
*seizure (convulsions);
*cold, clammy skin;
*severe weakness or dizziness; or
*feeling light-headed, fainting.
Less serious side effects are more likely to occur, such as:
*urinating less than usual;
*nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite;
*dizziness, headache; or
Side effects other than those listed here may also occur. Talk to your doctor about any side effect that seems unusual or that is especially bothersome.

I am thankful that I chose to “tough it” by doing the minimum to get through the ordeal of having my teeth pulled. The lesson I have learned from this is to not let a number of years pass again before going to the dentist so that problems that arise from age or other conditions can be addressed a little at a time and not all at once.

Nonetheless, I can feel proud that I was able to get through the ordeal with the lowest level of physical and mental stress possible – and without spending an extra $200 to get through it.

Go me!


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