Another day, another visit to the dentist

I just got back from another two hours in The Chair. I had 3 30-40 year old fillings replaced — I have outlived my childhood dental work, which is the sniny way to look at it — and had a wisdom tooth removed.

Never mind me, I’ll just be curled up in the corner, whimpering.


  1. JJ says

    Ha, I just posted on the last thread about my horrible dentist experience.(in relation to human torture). Hope they gave you some hydrocodine.

  2. Everyday Atheist says

    Clearly, god is punishing you for that deal you made with the devil to create all the evidence for evolution.

  3. Everyday Atheist says

    That was supposed to have a [/robertson] at the end. Darn it, now I’m being punished!

  4. Rachel Bronwyn says

    I had my wisdom teeth removed as a teenager to ensure they didn’t mess up any of the orthodontic work I’d had done previously. My mom didn’t allow me to have general anaesthesia for the procedure. The teeth hadn’t even ruptured yet. I had to have them dug out of my gums and ripped out of the jaws and my mother forced me to fully experience all of it. The sounds, the tastes, the sensations. Most disgusting experience of my life and number one on my list of reasons I resent my mother.

    The drugs I got afterwards weren’t even that good.

  5. Sgt. Obvious says

    But did it constitute torture? All joking aside, that really sucks. Hope you make a fast recovery.

  6. Gyeong Hwa Pak, Pikachu para lang sa iyo. says

    My wisdom tooth were not remove and are now grown. I deal with it I guess.

  7. JJ says

    You missed out on the good drugs. Had my Wisdom teeth pulled about a year ago – they were fully impacted and one started to get an infection (why I got ’em pulled, never noticed them prior, and I’m in my mid-20ies) but i have to say, that general anesthesia was AWESOME. I was sooo high that entire day. Never took any of the pills (still have them, actually) for the aftermath, as I was at work eating solid food the next day w/o any pain.

  8. Sili says

    Perhaps Derek Lowe can hook you up with some sniny drugs, if you give him the number of your agent/publisher.

  9. Big Ugly Jim says

    I was born without wisdom teeth. It’s an adaptation that I consider entirely excellent. Hell, I’m surprised I have an appendix. And I had four kids, so hopefully that gene will pass on some and give my legions of offspring advantage over all you extra-toothies.

  10. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    My mom didn’t allow me to have general anaesthesia for the procedure




    Perhaps Derek Lowe can hook you up with some sniny drugs, if you give him the number of your agent/publisher.

    Drugs or not, he better pitch better than he did last year.

  11. Kevin says

    My dentist yanked my wisdom teeth without anything. I went in for a checkup, told him the one on my right top side hurt, he said ‘Alright *yank* The other one looks like it’ll crowd, too. Want me to pull that? *yank* Okay put this gauze in the holes, don’t eat anything for a little while.

    I miss that dentist… he was so friggin’ fast.

  12. Dianne says

    I had my wisdom teeth removed as a teenager when they started pushing down into my jaw rather than out and threatening the facial nerve. General anesthesia made the procedure painless but the 8 hours of throwing up afterwards left me with a dislike of anesthesia that lasts to this day…I argued with my gastroenterologist about whether I needed sedation for a colonoscopy or not. Really, how bad could it be?

  13. alopiasmag says

    Whimpering?!?!?!? C’mon PZ! We dentists are always low blowed.

    I know Dental treatment is bothersome, but pain management and control has come a loooooong way.

    Anyway. . . it’s better to be treated now than when in pain.

  14. dave_f says

    Ouch! I can make two recommendations based on my own wisdom tooth extraction:

    — clove oil. Very effective and much less irritating than other topical anesthetics.

    — not talking or moving around for a few days, if at all possible. You really, really do not want so-called “dry socket” syndrome. I made the mistake of running a couple of errands less than a day after my wisdom tooth extraction. I lost the clot and much suffering ensued.

  15. Matt Penfold says

    — clove oil. Very effective and much less irritating than other topical anesthetics.

    It does taste absolutely vile though!

  16. Argama says

    Oh man, I know how you feel. I had to remove all 4 of my wisdom teeth — not all at once, of course.

    One of them had to be broken in order to be extracted so I chucked that one out, but I kept the other 3. They’re now sitting in my D&D die case.

  17. smartbrainus says

    Ah, wisdom teeth. Mine were smart enough to grow sideways. So much for intelligent design. I got four of them out before I was 20.
    The nitrous oxide was my favorite part though JJ…all I remember was one moment talking to the nurse about the Fast and the Furious, then the other ending up in my parent’s bed (I guess they literally carried me there). Best sleep I ever had.
    The stitches and cottage cheese for the next two weeks, though, weren’t as enjoyable.

  18. Rachel Bronwyn says

    My mom believes her uneducated opinions regarding medicine are of more value than those of doctors. “Omitting your period is bad!” Why? Various birth controls that omit periods are approved for use in Canada by panels of educated professionals. I haven’t had a period in ages and it’s enormously improved my quality of life. “Well, don’t complain to me when you’re infertile and later develop ovarian cancer.”

    Her take on general anaesthesia is “Don’t take it if you don’t need it because the damage it does outweighs the benefits.” WHAT DAMAGE? The crazy bitch underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last year, under general, and when she woke up, didn’t even feel nauseous! Yet she has the nerve to preach the evils of general anaesthesia to anyone who she thinks doesn’t need it.

    In contrast, her sister is an OB/GYN, who was mortified to hear I’d undergone removal of my wisdom teeth without general.

    When my sister’s wisdom teeth became an issue I strongly urged her to have general anaesthesia for the procedure. My mother interfered and told her my recollection was poor and that the procedure had been a cake walk for me. I had sat in the dentist’s chair for fifty minutes, crying the entire time, while four hands prodded the inside of my mouth, digging and tearing out four hideously impacted wisdom teeth. I am a tough cookie but of the TEN injections of local anaesthetic I required prior to the procedure, two, in the roof of my mouth, were so enormously painful I literally screamed. Incredibly, the surgeon actually told me I’d done better than most. I had nightmares about the experience for about three years afterwards.

    And now everyone knows why I don’t have a relationship with my mother.

  19. gadfly47 says

    Why would you need a wisdom tooth removed? The intelligent designer wouldn’t deliberately give us a system that would cause problems for no good reason — would he? ;)

  20. bloodtoes says

    I did this myself this past summer. My fillings weren’t quite so old (maybe on the order of 15 years), but I capped it off by having all 4 wisdom teeth removed in a single procedure.

    I feel your pain. :)

  21. gillt says

    “I was born without wisdom teeth. It’s an adaptation that I consider entirely excellent. Hell, I’m surprised I have an appendix. And I had four kids, so hopefully that gene will pass on some and give my legions of offspring advantage over all you extra-toothies.”

    speciation event!

  22. ButchKitties says

    I had my wisdom teeth out when I was 17, partly because I wanted them gone before they could undo three years of orthodontic work and partly because I wanted it done while I was still on my parents’ health insurance.

    I was under general anesthesia for the procedure. I had four bony impactions. There was no effin’ way I was going to be awake for that. And even though the general anesthesia did make me feel sick as a dog for the next few days, so much so that I turned down the good drugs because I was too nauseous to swallow a pill, if I had to do it over again I would still choose general anesthesia.

  23. Carlie says

    Yowza. I’ve had the “all four impacted wisdom teeth removed at once” surgery, and it is not fun. My body does love the anesthesia, though. It’s like candy. Yummy, yummy candy. Unfortunately, my body metabolizes it as quickly as if it’s candy, too. For every one of the few surgeries I’ve had, the anesthesiologist has barely been able to keep up with the amount of drugs needed to keep me from flinching in pain. For the wisdom teeth it was waking up in the middle, for one other memorable one it was “Well, sometimes certain areas just won’t go entirely numb, so I’m going to have to go ahead and start cutting anyway”. I think I’d rather that than the adverse reactions some people have, though. (As much as we’ve been griping at Greg Laden lately, I read his account of coping with reaction to his knee drugs and I hurt for him.)

  24. bloodtoes says

    Heh, I was knocked out entirely to get my wisdom teeth out. It was a trip. Doc pricked me on the hand with a needle, said something about “if you feel something like brain freeze, that’s ok. if not, that’s ok too” and walked out of my field of view to the left. A moment later a dental assistant walked in from the right and asked me to get up. It felt like a continuous stream of consciousness and it took me a minute to realise that my mouth was entirely frozen.

    I assumed that they wanted me to sit somewhere else while the anesthetic kicked in, but the assistant revealed to me that it was all over. Once the euphoria of the experience subsided, the pain kicked in. ;)

  25. --PatF says

    A political comment….

    I am 66 years old. I still have all my teeth. (I have fillings and crowns but I still have all of my teeth.) My parents and most of their brothers and sisters lost all of their teeth before they were forty. I have taken care of my teeth but I am not someone who brushes three times a day at 10 minutes each time.

    So what.

    Well, when I was a kid in the early fifties, there were a lot of people who went around protesting the introduction of fluoridation into the water systems. They told us it was a communist plot to undermine public health. There were meetings where protesters screamed at public health officials. It was very unpleasant.

    The protesters were overruled, the water was fluoridated and I have my teeth. Thank you fluoridators.

    I think these same types of people are still around. They’ve given up the fluoridation fight mainly, and nowadays they call themselves tea-baggers or anti-evolutionists or anti-global warming believers or some such rot. They tell me they know better than the people who have studied problems for years. Sometimes I want to go over and bite them and point to my teeth and say “See these. You were wrong then and wrong now.”

    Thank you for reading my political minute.

  26. ~Pharyngulette~ says

    Like Butch Kitties, I had my (3 – never had a fourth, apparently) wisdom teeth removed at 17, so my mum’s health insurance covered it. Nasty, nasty business. About all I can remember of the next two days is lying in bed, screaming – yup, screaming, truly – from the pain. I couldn’t bear to drink water from the sensitivity following the surgery, so I couldn’t get the prescribed pain killers down my gullet.

    Having said that, since that time, I’ve shopped around for my own dentists and dental surgeons and have discovered that the skill of the individual is paramount. (Who’d have thought that dental professionals were actually people with various levels of proficiency at their craft? Certainly not medical insurers.) I love my current dentist with a serious devotion; his work is brilliant, particularly in finding the minimum level of anaesthesia needed for any of his work and maintaining it only as long as required.

    A good dentist is like a good auto mechanic – worth his weight in painful molars.

  27. Chris Hughes says

    I had my wisdom teeth removed in a hospital operating theatre under general anaesthetic…
    I think they dislocated my jaw at some point, because it was a month before I could open my mouth fully.

    Interestingly, all this was done at the Royal Homeopathic Hospital in London… treatment was entirely non-‘alternative’. This would have been in the early 1970s.

  28. nemryn says

    IMO, the best wisdom-teeth-removal story I’ve heard is still the one in Cryptonomicon. “You can see here how the roots are entangled around the nerves which separate you from a baboon…”

  29. waynerobinson4 says

    “Sniny”? You have used this word before, so I suppose it isn’t a side effect of the drugs and pain.

    I too didn’t develop 3rd molars, so I too must be more “intelligently designed” that the common human. Although I do have bad sleep apnoea (in spite of a low normal body mass index; Neil Shubin in “Your Inner Fish” gave sleep apnoea and medial meniscus tears as examples of bad design- I suspect he must have both).

    How’s the book coming along? You aren’t going to wimp out and not come to Melbourne next month?

  30. PZ Myers says

    Aaargh. Anesthetic wearing off. May have to lie down for a while.

    I did get one last minute warning from the dentist: the roots of this particular tooth reach up towards my sinuses. There was a risk that pulling it would open a hole from the roof of my mouth to my nose, so that every time I drank a cup of coffee it would dribble out my nostrils. Thanks, doc.

    We did do a quick test afterwards: I held my nose and blew, and he looked to see if anything bubbled out of the bleeding socket. I’m good so far.

    Oh, yeah, he also mentioned, as he was reaching into my mouth with a pair of pliers, that he’d recently seen me in that movie, Expelled.

  31. says

    Not so much the wisdom teeth that gets my sympathy – it’s the loss of your early fillings.

    Yes – the ones preceded by that ever so s l o w string driven drill bit. Remember seeing the knot in the string going round the pulleys?

    Each filling was hard earned!

    < >

  32. JBlilie says

    Get well soon. This too shall pass.

    I hate it when they find a cavity during one of my once-per-decade visits to the dentist …

    I guess I’m the odd one out: I had 6 (count ’em, QTY=6) wisdom teeth, all out at once when I was 18 (under sodium pentathol general, took about 20-25 minutes). I was eating my usual diet the next morning. No issues whatsoever. Probably says something (bad) about my brain …

  33. JBlilie says

    he also mentioned, as he was reaching into my mouth with a pair of pliers, that he’d recently seen me in that movie, Expelled

    Maybe time for a new dentist??? I’d be curious under what circumstances he was watching it …

  34. JJ says

    @ Pat

    I still have all my teeth

    As of about a year ago, I had all mine (I’m 25). I was told by a dentist while still in my teens “Your wisdom teeth fit, and they aren’t going to come in any more. You don’t need to get them removed, although I would suggest it, as they can be tough to clean”

    Never had a wink of pain from them, until one day, about a year ago. I was sitting working diligently in my cubicle, when someone from HR stopped by to ask a question. The conversation went something like this
    HR: Hey Ja…. Oh what the hell is wrong with your face?
    Me: Uh what are you talking about?
    HR: The side of your face, it looks like you’ve got a huge pack of dip in it. It’s all swollen
    ME: Huh?
    HR: You need to go see a doctor – RIGHT NOW

    So I did. Turns our that the very back of one wisdom tooth was slightly covered by my gum’s and some organic material made it’s way in there (probably VERY deep). This caused a non- visible cavity on the back of of the tooth (behind the gum line). Never felt it, never noticed it. This cavity slowly progressed down the root of the tooth and into my Jaw, causing an abscess (they said the cavity was probably very old and that a dentist would have trouble noticing it, even in an x-ray)

    So to the doctor I go, who tells me we have two options:
    1. Drain the thing right there, then get ’em removed
    2. Give me antibiotics, let it go down and remove the teeth

    I chose the latter (the thought of draining an abscess in my mouth was too much). Over the next 24 hours the thing swelled up like a softball and became excruciatingly painful. Within a day or so it was gone, and had all 4 removed at once.

    Moral of today’s story – even if the teeth fit, I’d say it’s a good idea to remove before any possible complications arise. Also note that the 4 tooth extraction was on the order of $5k, of which $1k was covered by my dental.(this whole ordeal actually prompted 2 friends of mine to get theirs removed even though they ‘fit’)

  35. waynerobinson4 says

    JBlilie; “I guess I’m the odd one out: I had 6 (count ’em, QTY=6) wisdom teeth”. You have 3 jaws? There are only 4 third molars, but also 4 second molars, so I suppose you’ve included some of these as being impacted too (your jaws must have been an evolutionary disaster zone).

  36. JBlilie says


    They were on the upper and lower L side. They were behind the two “regular” wisdom teeth on that side. They were oriented such that the crown would have come out horizontally pointing outboard. However, (devo) since their roots never encountered the right tissues, they were (thankfully) very short with almost no root.

    Weird atavism maybe? Gene reg. stutter?

    I looked at the X-rays. They were weird. Maybe I’m part wild boar! That wouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me!

    Other than the extra teeth, I have ~perfect dentition, straight, nice gaps, no braces, still have all the others. It’s strange.

  37. JBlilie says

    I have extra bones in my feet too (they don’t cause any problems, my old doc said the bones were rare but not super-weird), so maybe I’m a walking mess of atavisms … Or maybe I had weird gene regulation.

  38. Hairy Doctor Professor says

    #14: I argued with my gastroenterologist about whether I needed sedation for a colonoscopy or not. Really, how bad could it be?

    Not that bad at all. You can generally demand to opt-out of sedation if you want. I did: five or six distinctly uncomfortable crampy moments during, but NO appreciable recovery lag time afterwards. Fascinating to watch on the monitors, too, particularly when the doc grabbed the one polyp with alligator clips, slapped a ground-pad on my thigh, and fried that puppy.

    In keeping with the rest of the thread: only one wisdom tooth, lower left, start coming in sideways from the back but slowly rotated upwards, crowded tooth in front of it and had flap of tissue over top. I had it pulled at 52 when it got a cavity. Because of the rotation it had a nice, distinct hook at the bottom (dentist had to use the BIG pliers). Wife keeps it in the box for my daughter’s baby teeth, where it will probably surprise the hell out of someone sorting our stuff after we’re gone.

  39. Macweenie says

    Huh. I had all four of my wisdom teeth removed on the same day but I don’t remember it being all that bad, even after those wonderful drugs wore off. I do remember not being able to open my jaws more than about a quarter of an inch for nearly a week +, enough to talk but not enough to eat solid foods.

  40. apostrophobia says

    #40 supernumery teeth happen

    I had my wisdom teeth out at 32, when one which had been partially covered by gum (sort of like JJ’s) became infected. I had two weeks before I needed to be able to speak in front of 80 undergrads.

    Extraction was fine (like someone above, I fell asleep, then I was awake). I had those horrible dissolving stitches though that BURNED. Oh and vicoden makes me puke!

    My dad had 2 supernumery molars show up…in hos 50s. I hope I didn’t get those genes…

  41. Aquaria says

    I had wisdom teeth + 4 regular teeth taken out to get braces during the late 70s, in the hospital where my Mom worked. Which meant general anesthesia, oral surgeon, great care, and zero worries about happy drugs running out. I seem to recall the hospital keeping me juiced with good old Demerol. And there was Tylenol #3 for recovery at home.

    No wonder I’ve never remembered much between going into surgery, and throwing out the bottle of T#3 when I didn’t need it anymore.

  42. Die Anyway says

    Synchronicity… I am reading this post just before leaving work to go to the dentist to have 2 old amalgam fillings replaced with some new polymer or something.