Monday, February 3, 2014 will be a date I will probably remember the rest of my life...
That was the date I had an oral-surgical procedure to have all of my remaining lower teeth removed (including both wisdom-teeth), and received a temporary-denture (pic at left is of a wax-impression taken several weeks before the surgery; the denture I'm now wearing is based on that). Why such a drastic procedure, you ask? This boils down to years of old root-canal posts that have deteriorated allowing abscesses to form underneath, crowns that have detached due to a dentist (not my current one) who did a crappy job on two of my molars and an incisor so that the crowns (and their posts) came loose a few years later, impacting wisdom-teeth (one was partially exposed and had a cyst underneath it, the other horizontally-impacting), other molars with old amalgam-fillings where the teeth were decaying underneath them... and, I'll admit, years of neglect.
So, a decision was made with my current dentist to have all of them removed (just the lower ones). This surgery was months in the planning stages - plus I had to also undergo medial treatment for hypertension for several months that delayed the surgery-date... in any event it finally happened on the 3rd. Here's how it went, and how I'm enduring in this recovery-period...
Let's start on the 3rd (morning of the surgery), shall we... The nurse guides me into the O.R., I then lie down on the surgery-chair (this is an in-office procedure), she administers the laughing-gas-cup on my nose, the EKG-sensor is clipped onto my finger and a blood-pressure reader (which runs every 5 minutes throughout the procedure) is strapped onto my right arm. First reading was 143/89... the long wait begins as I start to "relax" with the laughing-gas... she informs me my next BP-reading (systolic) was over 160! Nerves, most likely... she turns up the gas. I'm starting to feel numb, tingling sensation comes over my fingers, then my arms... next BP-reading (systolic) back down to around 140 (stilly pretty high, but much better)... finally the oral-surgeon comes in, puts the tourniquet around my left arm, the IV-needle goes in and...
When I start coming-to, the surgeon is doing some final cleanup-work and tells me as I'm waking that he's done; my mouth is filled with gauze (which I assumed at the time was quite bloody), the nurse puts more gauze in and tells me to bite down. As I continue to collect my wits, the nurse slowly helps me up off the operating-chair and walks me into a recovery-room where my work-buddy Dave (my 'ride home') is waiting. Another friend of mine, Tony arrives and I am then guided out a side door (the nurse helping me the entire way) into Dave's car for the ride home. I was also told that local anesthesia was applied to my jaw (in addition to what put me to sleep) so that the numbness would continue for several hours while the G.A. wears off. My friends also picked up the post-op prescriptions (pain-killers, antibiotics and an anti-emetic) for me.
For the next 24-36 hours I'm changing the gauze in my mouth every 1-2 hours or so. The general bleeding finally stopped later the afternoon of the 3rd... there was still some drainage for at least another day or 2. Looking in the mirror that first day I looked like a mess! Big bruises on my cheeks where my wisdom-teeth were, my now-toothless lower jaw stitched end-to-end. I later learned in addition to the extractions the top-edge of my jawbone was "planed" (flattened) in order to accept the permanent-denture implants later on - the doctor had to cut an incision along the gum-line after the extractions were completed, 'plane & graft' the jawbone, then stitch it shut. The stitches used were "self-dissolving stitches" (more info here) that will come off by themselves after several days or more as the jaw heals & tissue is regenerated, re-sealing the gums.
Needless to say, I'm not wearing the denture! Too painful and from 36-72 hours post-op the swelling is the worst! By Wednesday the 5th my face is so blown up ("hamster-cheeks") that I look like Don Corleone in The Godfather... I am constantly applying ice packs, and the pain was so intense at times I'm taking approx. 4-6 of the pain-killers (Percocet, which is a blend of the narcotic Oxycodone and the analgesic Acetaminophen, or Tylenol) a day. I've now developed huge bruises on my cheeks as well. After Thursday the 6th, the external swelling is considerably reduced, and the pain has subsided to the point that now (Tuesday the 11th) I'm down to only 1 (maybe 2) Percosets per day... and I'm trying to avoid the Percocet where possible (as it can be addictive).
By Sunday and Monday, one week post-op, most of the self-dissolving stitches have fallen out. While the visible swelling around the jaw is about 90% gone, the gums are still heavily swollen and painful (though tolerable, pain-level about half of what it was up to 3 days after surgery). I had an adjustment to the denture at the dentist's office that allows me to wear it for limited periods (to get used to it), but my oral-surgeon (in a follow-up visit on Monday) told me it would be another week before the gums & jaw are healed enough to allow the denture to truly fit comfortably.
To my friends (three-dimensional as well as "online"), my great thanks for your support during this very trying period, which is continuing... :-)
Where needed, updates to this post will be provided.
02/13/2013 Update: Had my dentures refitted this afternoon, they fit MUCH better now! Still, the gums are still a few days away from enough healing that I can even think about attempting to eat with these dentures on (still a little raw, but the pain is minimal enough now that I stopped the Oxycodone yesterday). Progress continues…