teeth

Hello from the world of convalescence!

Things have been slow going since my oral surgery.

While I typically am unable to take sick time off…even when sick…I did manage to carve out three days for recovery. Wednesday (my normal day off), Thursday and Friday. While the idea of three days off sounds great in theory, its fun factor is significantly reduced when you are spending them in bed with swollen, bruised chipmunk cheeks.

Essentially, my life for the last 72 hours has consisted of three things:

1) Ice Cream

(Source and Source)

2) Soup

Turkey “Hodge Podge” Soup

(chicken broth, celery, leeks, 1 can (rinsed and drained) black beans, 1 cup leftover Kashi pilaf, half Safeway Signature Cafe (fully cooked, ready to eat) roasted turkey breast (shredded), ground cumin, and curry powder. Topped with avocado and Fage greek yogurt. 5 saltine crackers, crumbled and combined)

3) Sappy Young Adult/Teenage Drama

Sorry. It couldn’t be helped. I finished re-watching My So-Called Life and I went through the Star Trek TNG Netflix discs I had on the very first day (as well as disc one of “Square Pegs“…that show did not age well…). So, for the past two days I’ve been instant viewing “The Secret Life of the American Teenager“. I think part of me was drawn to it because Brenda Hampton created it. She created 7th Heaven, and as a teenager, I really enjoyed 7th Heaven. Well, until Mary Camden’s (Jessica Biel) life went down the crapper. Didn’t like it much after that.

Anyway, despite having watched 1.5 seasons so far, I’m not sure how I feel about the show. I like that it has Molly Ringwald in it. So far, I also love the younger sister, Ashley. Out of all of the characters, I think I am most like Ashley. Well, except for the belly shirt wardrobe choice. I believe all of my friends would agree. On personality and wardrobe.

(Source)

Is it awkward that I am most like the 13 year old? Um…she seems mature?

(P.S.  If you don’t know who Molly Ringwald is, I don’t think we can be friends anymore.)

So with the exception of pain medication, ice packs, my post surgery pain survey (almost done filling it out…hello $25!) and hours spent staring at my computer, these three things have been what my life has consisted of.

As far as recovery goes, I’m feeling much better than Wednesday, but still not 100%. I’m still fairly swollen and the bruises are turning a lovely shade of plum. I got some really uncomfortable stares at Safeway yesterday when I went there to pick up the soup ingredients. I also am feeling kind of fatigued and weak, which I noticed after the afore-mentioned trip to the supermarket made me want to crawl into bed and take a 6 hour nap. The extraction sites still hurt and it is difficult to brush my teeth. On the bright side of life, my range of motion is much improved, it’s easier to talk and I haven’t needed to take too much medication. Mostly I’ve stuck to ibuprofen, as the pain isn’t that bad and ibuprofen is an anti-inflamatory. Anything that can reduce these cheeks in size is a friend of mine.

Fairly unhappy about having to go back to work tomorrow, but those are the breaks. Nothing like having a swollen, bruised face when working with the public….nothing like it at all…..

If you were me, what 3 things would you have chosen to keep you occupied while convalescing?

Sorry for going silent there for a few days.

I had a lot to get done at both work and home before Tuesday.

What was special about Tuesday? It was THE day. The day I had been trying to schedule, pay for and make happen for months (actually, years..) finally came.

I had oral surgery to remove my 4 impacted wisdom teeth.

While this was completely and totally necessary, I have been dreading the procedure ever since I learned that I would need it several years ago. You see, I’m terrified of dentists, and to top it off, I was even more scared of the IV sedation. I’ve partied, in my day, but never have I lost any period of time. I always have had the capacity to recall how dumb I behaved while under the influence of a substance. The idea of being pumped full of drugs and simply losing 2 hours of my life wasn’t really something I looked forward to.

I spent all of Monday feeling anxious. I called and confirmed my appt. with the dental school’s oral surgery department. It took like 5 phone calls and an hour of my life. I kept trying to reach the “appointment” line of the department, but every time it would just shove me on hold. As a last ditch attempt, I chose the “billing” option and I got right through.

Interesting, no?

They confirmed my apt for 2pm on Tuesday and reminded me that it was going to cost $1,366, since I couldn’t get a payment plan for the school. Can you say financial ouch?

I spent all of Tuesday morning hungry. You can’t eat or drink for 8 hours prior to surgery, and unfortunately, since my case was complex, I had to be seen by a resident or instructor. They don’t come in until the afternoon session. Lucky me.

At 1:30 pm, my friend Peter came to pick me up and take me to the appt. We got there at about 1:45pm and I checked in. First I was called in by a woman who explained that I had been chosen to participate in a study. I pretty much just have to write down my pain levels and adverse effects for 4 days, mail it back to the school and they will give me $25. I consented to be part of the study…might as well get something positive out of this experience!

Shortly after that I was taken back to the surgery room. I met my surgeon and the nurse in charge of anaesthesia. They got a little medical history from me, told me there was nothing to be scared of, and then hooked me up to a heart rate monitor, oxygen flow and an IV.  Then they turned the overhead lights off and covered me up with a blanket, as the doctor said it gets cold in the room. I don’t remember too much more, as within 2 minutes of the IV drip starting, I was out.

I woke up at one point, heard mumbling about only one left. I think I heard the doctor tell the nurse to give me more of something. Then seconds later I felt like I was waking up again. My suspicion is that I started to wake up one tooth too early. It all kind of blends together. I remember the room looking all rainbow-colored as I started to come out. The second time I remember waking up, all of the equipment was being removed. I tried to talk, but I was packed with gauze. Everything was a little foggy, but I knew where I was and what had happened. I heard someone say they were going to get Peter. Then I remember asking if I could see my teeth. They showed them to me…two were whole, the other two broken into pieces. I guess I must’ve asked to keep the whole ones, as they were wrapped in a plastic zip loc bag and put with my things.

Then they brought Peter in. They explained what I was supposed to do afterwards to him, and I found out later that before they brought him in, someone had sat out in the waiting room and explained that they were going to bring me out in a wheelchair and he should watch for profuse bleeding. He said it kind of freaked him out and he had asked them if I was okay. They reassured him it was normal. I ended up not needing a wheelchair. Peter helped me up and got me out and to the car. Then to Walgreens where I sat pathetically in a seat while he got my prescriptions for me, pointing to me and reassuring the pharmacist that he was picking up pills for me because I couldn’t talk. Apparently I looked so awful that the pharmacist threw in 2 ice packs for free. Thank you, Walgreens!

Peter got me into my apartment, helped me figure out what medicine to take, wrote down a note for me so I would know when to take the next dose. He then went to the store to get me milk and supplies. Once he was really sure that I was going to be okay, he took off for home and I settled down for a long evening of watching Star Trek: The Next Generation on DVD. He called and checked in on me at 7:30pm, made sure I was okay and reminded me of when I could medicate again. He told me today that I had seemed so pathetic and sad yesterday that he felt really bad/worried about me. I have such good friends.

I felt pretty awful for the rest of Tuesday, but thus far, Wednesday hasn’t been as bad as I expected. The pain has been mild, but the swelling is out of this world.

In order to avoid scaring/scarring you, I’ve dolled up the pictures. Let’s do a comparison.

Alexa: Grumpy at work…all teeth accounted for.

Alexa: Grumpy at home…missing 4 slightly useless teeth.

Due to this incredibly “not cute” swelling situation I have going on, I’ve spent most of the day doing this…

…while looking at this:

I foresee a lot more of these two things in my future.

Do you still have your wisdom teeth?

Mr. Owl would like to wish you a Happy (belated) Lunar New Year!

Mr. Owl doesn’t know much about rabbits.

Well, aside from the fact that the small ones can be very tasty.

Anyway, I got a call from my dental school and I’ve been assigned a student! We’re still trying to work out when I can come in for an appointment, but it looks like I may get a payment plan after all. It’s like the only time I’ve ever wished for cavities or other problems that will cost money to fix. How twisted is that?

I would like to note, however, that I don’t want anything bad to be wrong. Like a filling or two would be enough. No root canals or crowns! I have to mention this, as I was borderline needing a root canal the last time I went in….ow….pain for the mouth and the wallet.

What is your Chinese zodiac sign?

I was born in year of the Dog. Some people aren’t surprised by that…

Fail.

Once, long ago, I was afraid to smile with my mouth open.

Every single picture of me was either a closed mouthed smirk, or I was laughing with my hand in front of my mouth. Why? Because I hated my teeth. You see, I had fangs.

No, really. I had fangs:

This is one of the few pictures in existence that documents the fact that these wild canines were ever roaming high above the rest of my upper arch. Much like I avoided having full body shots taken when I was heavier, I never let anyone get a picture of my horrible chompers.

Well, until I got braces. Then, all I did for 2.5 years is take pictures of my teeth.

No, really. I took a lot of pictures:

I took a lot more than that. I have a picture of my top and bottom arches, the left and right sides of my teeth, my bite and a smile from every single orthodontic appointment I had between getting braced in March 2005 and debanded in July of 2007. I even had an ortho-blog. It’s still up, though the pictures aren’t linked up anymore.

So you would think that since I spent over $2,000 out of my own pocket (I was 23 and graduated college right after getting banded, so I was booted off of my father’s dental plan) trying to make my teeth somewhat presentable, I would have kept up with my dental maintenance.

You would be wrong.

Thing is, as I mentioned above, I don’t have dental insurance. My job has health benefits, but no dental or vision. This means that all of my dental visits since 2005 have been out-of-pocket and I haven’t gone to the optometrist in nearly 6 years. Right after I got my braces off in 2007, I knew I needed to get my teeth cleaned and have some work done. I went back to my old dentist and paid the hefty cleaning and exam bill, but then it turned out that after 2.5 years in braces, I had tons of cavities…and my wisdom teeth needed to come out immediately. I tried to figure out how to finance getting the work done there, but it was impossible. They recommended I head to one of the dental schools that are here in the city.

So in fall of 2007, I became a patient at a dental school. There are good parts and bad parts when it comes to being a patient at a dental school. The students at my school are all really nice…I’ve never met even one that is unkind or condescending. The work is really good and their technology and equipment is up to date and completely top notch. The cost of the procedures are typically 40%-60% cheaper than an outside dentist. All sounding good right?

Then there is the wait. All appointments are 4 hours long. Yes, you read that correctly. They don’t always last the full amount of time, but you have to block out that much because they can. You see, after every single thing they do in you mouth, the student has to go and get a faculty member to check the step. It takes a long time. A really, really long time. Bring a book.

The other part of going to the dental school that is annoying is the bureaucratic hoops that you have to jump through to get anything done.

I spent today jumping through those hoops, and it really irritated me.

You see, in 2007/2008 I had several cavities filled and a couple of cleanings/check-ups. I had done absolutely everything except have my four wisdom teeth removed. All four are impacted and I was told that although they didn’t hurt, they were in a really bad position and that eventually, they would push down on my back molars and I could wind up losing those teeth as well. I had the referral to oral surgery all set up. I just needed to call and set the date.

Then I chickened out.

I was scared.

I still am, actually.

But I can no longer use that as a valid excuse, as for the last 3 months, I have been in serious pain. It isn’t constant, but for about 3 days a week, my teeth ache, sometimes to the point of me actually wanting to take some Advil…which usually doesn’t even kill the pain. Since it has been a couple of years since I’ve been seen at the school, I no longer had a student to contact, so a month or so ago, I tried calling the school. I kept getting voice mail and then no one would return my calls. Then today, while I was asleep, they called! I found the voice mail when I woke up and I leaped up out of bed and called back.

I got voice mail.

This time, however, within 30 minutes, someone actually called me back. They told me that I should come in for an emergency drop-in appt. It could be done any day, M-F, at either 8:30am or 1:30pm. I waffled for about 20 minutes about when I would go, finally deciding to just put on my sweats right away and head over there for the 1:30pm session.

I was seen by a student, evaluated, had a panoramic x-ray, paid $80 (for the screening and x-ray) and made an appointment to finally have these wisdom teeth yanked out of my skull. I was feeling pretty darned accomplished and I was about to head home. Then I stopped myself and decided that I would first see if I could get a payment plan set up for the extractions. You see, this is going to cost about $1,400, even at the dental school. While I could totally put it on a credit card, I’d prefer to pay it out slowly, interest free.

After waiting and filling out forms and nearly gnawing my arm off from hunger (I had been at the office for over 4 hours and hadn’t eaten in over 6), I was denied a payment plan option. Why? Not because I am not credit worthy.

I was denied because I have no more work scheduled to be done.

Uhm. What?

Apparently the oral surgery department has a history of people jumping town after their extractions, so unless you have other work to be done at the school (fillings, root canals, etc.), they require full payment. I explained that I am in the process of getting reassigned a student dentist and I probably will be having more work done…it just isn’t scheduled yet. No dice. I told them I would authorize an auto draft for the monthly payments. Nope. The financial aid lady went and begged the office manager on my behalf. No way, Jose.

The lady felt bad for me and told me she would scan all of my credit application materials into my file and that if I am able to get any more work scheduled before March 29th (my surgery date), she will be sure to make up a plan for me so I won’t have to come up with the entire sum. I thanked her and left.

I spent my entire walk home (a little over a mile) fuming. Why does everything in this country have to be so complicated? So many hoops to jump through and so many rules and regulations that make absolutely no sense. Just because I don’t have insurance or money doesn’t mean that I’m dishonest. I have impeccable credit and I always meet my obligations. Although I know this a blanket policy and it isn’t personal in the least, it’s hard not to feel just a little bit judged….and that feeling really isn’t very good.

My hope was to get these extractions, and whatever else is wrong with my teeth taken care of. Then, the plan was to maybe go see the ortho school’s people and see if I can get a new set of retainers. My teeth have shifted, and I’d like to see if I might get them all straightened back out with a removable appliance. Oh well. I guess getting another set of these will have to wait:

Yep, I had a purple kitty retainer at 25 years old…and it was rad.

Irritated with bureaucracy? Vent here!