Visit our archive

What to expect when extracting: Shakes, aches and blender steaks

Evolution is one hell of a process. We’ve developed pretty amazing things in the name of evolution as a species and have equally lost stuff that proved to be absolutely useless to our survival. There’s one part, rather, a collection of parts that seem to enjoy riding the fine line between essential and downright the worst things ever. Of course, I’m talking about those pearly burger grinders in your mouth, teeth.

You brush them, rub thin strands of nylon between them and eradicate what’s left with 54 proof mouthwash so people can look you in the face without them asking, “Why the halitosis are you talking to me?”

These little bastards take more financial upkeep and maintenance than the 17-year-old, hand-me-down death trap I drove to college every day. Behind every smile are the makings of ticking time bombs ready to bring down fury reminiscent of when gods walked among men. If you’ve never been blessed with tooth pain, pray, I mean really pray for it to forever pass you by because it’s one of the worst things you can possibly experience. I’d rather be ripped apart by a silverback gorilla than have another abscessed tooth.

Knowing all this, I volunteered for a process that stole a week’s worth of adult happiness from my life. I chose to let people shove chisels and fists into my unconscious mouth to excavate my wisdom teeth. With none of them impacted (as in, stuck under the gums), I was promised that my operation would be a simple affair, which it thankfully was.

“But why would you do this to yourself,” you might be asking? Why would I bother when wisdom tooth extraction is supposedly worse as an adult, with an increased risk of losing all feeling in the lower jaw, forever robbing me of the ability to feel a soft and sensuous hand running through my beard? Well, it’s simple really. I just want teeth that don’t look like they belong to a piranha.

Wisdom teeth are usually the culprits of overcrowding in the mouth, which it definitely was in my case. My front-most teeth zig and zag behind my bountiful lips and it’s something I’m self-conscious of. Despite everyone reassuring me that my teeth are “fine”, one tooth in particular, one that friends and family call “The Can Opener”, is something that needs rehabilitation. It’s not the fun, built-in party trick everyone thinks it is, believe me.

Countdown to extraction: The surgery

Everyone has dental horror stories, but I can bet that a lot of them revolve around how awful it was to have their wisdom teeth barbarically ripped asunder. Needless to say, I was pretty nervous as they placed a heart monitor on my finger and inserted the IV into my hand on the day of my surgery. The heartbeat monitor made it clear that I was anxious, so much so that the dental assistant encouraged me to “Take slow, deep breaths to relax.” Those deep breaths ushered in a fog that I had never felt before, almost like static on a broken TV. It was an overwhelming, white, buzzing sensation that pulled me into the darkness.

When I woke up two hours later, I felt as bad as you could possibly feel without actually being in pain. I pictured myself as a wild animal trying to stand on wobbly legs after being tranquilized 16 times. I could barely move my head without feeling nauseous and didn’t have the strength to get out of the chair. The dental assistant told me to take it easy, but to also move enough to shake off the drugs quicker. Ten minutes later, I stumbled down the hall to the recovery room where my wife was waiting. I flopped down into a chair beside her and, with a mouth full of bloody gauze and a big smile, mumbled, “Ta-da!”

It didn’t seem so bad at that point aside from the nausea and awful hunger pangs from not eating for over 12 hours, but my face felt OK for just undergoing a beating. After another 15 minutes, I was gingerly escorted into my wife’s car and driven to the nearest Walmart parking lot where I would wait for her to buy things because she couldn’t have done it while I was in surgery or after she dropped me off back home or the day before or some other time when I wasn’t teetering in and out of consciousness. Destiny dictated that Walmart needed to happen immediately after surgery and so it did.

There is no Dana, only solid foods: A quest for palatable cuisine

The first thing I did when I finally got home was sit right back down and ice my face with winter gloves on. The second thing I did was whine about the awful taste of bloody gauze. The third was acting like a drunk pirate by demanding a fruit smoothie to kick off my maiden voyage into liquefied meal planning. And what a delicious slurry of peaches, protein whey and coagulated blood it was.

I knew eating was going to be the craps for a few days, so I had put some thought into meal planning prior to the surgery. I had three square meals of applesauce, Cream of Wheat and cottage cheese with a chocolate pudding treat all lined up. That fantasy lasted as long as the runtime of the original Ghostbusters. Watching a giant marshmallow man explode for the millionth time made me realize that there is no Dana, only solid foods. Nothing beats chewing and ripping into a good piece of flesh. I was relegated to foods you could slurp and all I wanted was to rub my face in a six-pound burger.

Enough was enough – it was time to experiment. Like a modern-day caveman, I fired up my BBQ and slapped on a greasy steak that had been sitting in the freezer for months. Freezer burn be damned, I was going to drive this protein in me. My wife boiled some rice and, in my madness, I thought it would be a good idea to dump half a container of salsa on it for flavour. I could barely open my mouth to chew, so I plugged my blender in and separately shredded the steak and rice mix into pâté. The end result? It was like eating premium-grade cat food. I recorded this experiment in its entirety for your viewing pleasure.

I don’t know what I was thinking. I guess I was so desperate to drive meaty sustenance into my gut that my thought process only went as far as “How do I get something delicious in me?” While I was eating it, there was a clear disconnect between the flavour and texture I was sloshing around my mouth. Your instinct is to chew meat, but when it’s a chewy pudding…ugh, I just gagged a little. It was worth a try, at least.

The reality of four massive cavities: How to cope post surgery

I’ve heard people joke about blending meat, but never actually saw anyone do it. It’s now pretty clear why, but don’t fret. There are plenty of ways to still enjoy something flavourful even when your mouth says no. You just have to lower expectations.

Here are some examples you could try:

  • Blended gourmet soups
  • Fruit smoothie w/ yogurt
  • Protein shake with whey protein, water or milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Apple sauce
  • Cream of Wheat
  • Oatmeal (Wet, not dry)
  • Bananas
  • Baby food (seriously)
  • Pudding
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Sweet potato or pumpkin pie filling w/ cinnamon and nutmeg
  • Soft noodles with sauce
  • Stuffing and cranberry sauce
  • Ice cream

I was lucky with my surgery because by day four, I was able to eat relatively normal foods again. I didn’t end up with crippling bruises like most people do, but I did have trouble opening my mouth all the way. I guess I should thank my orthopaedic surgeon for his expertise and maybe my latent healing factor, a la Wolverine, for a quick recovery. It wasn’t easy eating solids at first though – I ate at half the speed I normally do – but it was nice to crush the life out of something between my teeth again. It’s those moments that really let you appreciate what you have because you definitely miss things that you take for granted.

If you’re reading this and you’re about to have your wisdom teeth extracted or know someone who is, remember to do your due diligence by taking care of your mouth to help with the healing. This will get you back on a solid diet faster.

Here’s some wisdom that I will impart upon you:

  1. Schedule your operation for a Thursday or Friday so you can spend the weekend recovering. It’s a pretty good excuse to not go to work or school the next day.
  2. Put ice on your jaw as soon as you get home. This helps a lot with the swelling. At the time, I only had solid ice packs you put in your lunch bag, which sucked. Invest in two gel ice packs that have alcohol mixed in. The alcohol prevents them from freezing solid so you can shape them to your broken face.
  3. Make sure you keep food bits out of your “wisdom holes” to prevent infection. Consider investing in a cheap Waterpik and set it to a low-pressure setting. Trust me, basting your mouth like a Turkey several times a day with a syringe gets old real quick.
  4. Don’t use straws. Don’t suck on anything for that matter. If your partner is feeling frisky, tell them to use the vacuum.
  5. Stay away from really hot liquids. Drinking molten lava is prohibited despite your normal tolerance levels.
  6. Rinse your mouth out with a water/salt solution and, when you can tolerate the burn, with mouthwash.
  7. Sleep on your back with some elevation, if possible. Keeping the blood away from your face helps keep the swelling down. As a side sleeper, this was difficult. I would wake up with one side of my face puffed up for a few days, but it goes away after a nice shower.
  8. Be mindful of the prescribed painkillers. If you’re in a lot of pain, use them, especially ibuprofen/Advil. I was given Tylenol 3s, which make me absolutely wired so I couldn’t sleep. I stopped taking them that same night because sleep is king.
In retrospect

Being a glass half empty guy, I was really expecting the extraction and recovery processes to be an absolute nightmare, especially going through with it as an adult. The older you are, the slower you recover and there’s an increased risk of complications (e.g. nerve damage). That’s what I get for buying into the hype. Nothing has ever gone this smooth for me, so I’ll take it.

Even though I was worried, I kept the end goal in mind knowing that this was the first step toward something I’ve always wanted, straighter teeth. Removing my wisdom teeth freed up real estate so what was left could move around during realignment.

As an adult patient, my advice would be to remain optimistic and to speak with your surgeon about your concerns. If there’s a substantial risk of nerve damage, perhaps reconsider the operation. Losing feeling in any part of face would be a total bummer. If risk is minimal and the surgeon guarantees his quality of work, take the plunge. Just keep in mind why you’re doing it. You can even read reviews about your surgeon online to see what other people think. Remember to use discretion; people tend to overreact over unreasonable expectations.

If you have children, consider their future and get their wisdom teeth out while they’re still young. I didn’t have that opportunity, but it wasn’t the end of the world. If you have the benefits, really push to have this all fixed up for them and take advantage of the coverage. They will thank you for it later when life gets complicated and time is at a premium. I might sound like a spokesperson for dentistry, but I’m learning that dental health is something requiring a lifetime of effort. Why not take the time to make it easier while you can before it’s too late? At the end of the day, teeth are still the worst and I think the James Bond villain Jaws had the right idea. Smash mine out and shove a bear trap in so I can be done with it.

  • Name (Required)

  • Email (Required, but not published)

  • Url (Optional)

  • Comment (Required)