I had my wisdom teeth extracted on November 3rd…as in, 10 days ago.
I bet you’re wondering why you’ve seen so much more of me on the Internet since then, instead of seeing me drop off the face of the Internet. One reason: the headaches I have had for EIGHT MONTHS are finally gone.
Symptom: The Burning-Sensation Headache
I started having burning-sensation, throbbing headaches in my temples around April of 2011, and I thought it was just another one of my body’s quirks. Since I’ve suffered migraines, blood-pressure headaches, menstrual headaches, and tension headaches throughout much of my life, I figured this was just another headache to add to the mix.
But this type of headache was odd. It behaved somewhat like a migraine, except misplaced–it didn’t occur in my eye or in the veins in my forehead like all my other migraines, but it made me feel nauseous and sensitive to light, and left me with no energy. And yet, it behaved something like a tension or cluster headache, too; my neck and shoulders stayed tense all the time, and it felt as though the headache rocketed back and forth along the trigeminal nerve. But that wasn’t all: if I pressed a fingertip to the source of pain at my temple, I could feel what felt like a corded blood vessel, pulsing and pounding just like a blood-pressure headache. It seemed that this headache had multiple personality disorder.
I suffered these headaches, often up to 10 times a month for 2 or 3 days at a time, for seven months; they were untreatable by most medicines, so I had to suffer through them. By the time October rolled around, I had had inexplicable trouble sleeping (going to bed at 5 AM and waking up at 1 PM, anyone?) combined with the headaches, and all throughout the month of October I felt as if I was too tired to live my life anymore. Pain was constantly with me, in the burning of my temples, and my life had shrunk to what I could manage versus what I wanted to do.
The Health (and Dental) Epiphany
To add insult to injury, at the end of October, my bottom right wisdom tooth began to act up–it and its three brethren had been playing hide-and-seek with me since I was 20, painfully bursting through the gums over a period of weeks, staying out for a few months, and then partially covering themselves back over with gum tissue. I figured this was another episode of the same stuff, so I did nothing about it, just switched over to eating softer food for a few days until the gum quit complaining.
But that was the odd thing: it didn’t stop complaining. In fact, it got worse, so much so that my jaw ached and it caused another one of those burning-sensation, normal-life-ceasing headaches. In desperation, I called my dentist, and they scheduled me for an appointment later in the week.
When they saw me, they first did an X-ray to see what might be the trouble; the X-ray results came back a few minutes later, and the dentist (an old pharmacy-school friend of my parents’) said, “Looks like your wisdoms are infected.”
Come again? INFECTED? How the heck could TEETH become infected?
But infected they indeed were–he showed me on the X-ray where the infection in each wisdom tooth had eaten into the jawbone, showing up as a small black spot behind each wisdom tooth. Ugghhh. I was sick at hearing that, but even sicker was the thought that the infection might have been going on much longer than I thought.
Out, Out, Darned Teeth!
An appointment was quickly made with an oral surgeon in the same building to extract all four wisdom teeth as soon as humanly possible, after a 10-day course of antibiotics had been run through me to dispel the grave infection. And so, on November 3rd, after 13 days of worrying and lots of praying, my dad drove me to the oral surgeon’s office to have my wisdom teeth removed.
I was so nervous about the surgery that my blood pressure and pulse were well above normal–the attending nurse noticed that the blood pressure reading was 133/90-something, though I didn’t catch the pulse reading. In fact, I was so scared that my nervous quivering was literally vibrating the dental chair underneath me. It wasn’t until the oral surgeon himself came in that I began to calm down, and that was mainly because he explained everything that was going to happen, including the effects of the general anesthesia I had opted for (I wasn’t about to be conscious during this stuff).
A peace I still don’t understand descended over me, just before the oral surgeon numbed my arm to put the anesthesia in. A minute or so after the anesthesia had been administered, I began to experience my vision fluttering, like the vertical hold on an old television gone slightly off-kilter, and then…blessed nothingness.
Well, I shouldn’t say exactly “nothingness.” I did have a dream under anesthesia, about my uncle (my mom’s late older brother) talking to me. As I recall, the dream felt about 2 minutes long, and felt absolutely real…and then I awoke to the nurse asking me if I felt like walking to the wheelchair they had waiting for me. I was clumsy as ever getting up out of the dental chair, so I figured I was back to normal (LOL). My jaw and mouth were all over numb, and I felt like I had Jay Leno’s chin extending out from my face, even though I was not swollen externally much at all. (“Phantom sensations,” I think they call that.)
I recovered quickly in the office’s recovery area–the guy in the curtained-off area beside me wasn’t doing very well, bless his heart. Not sure what was going on with him, but it sounded like he was in a lot of pain. In comparison with him, my experience was a cakewalk. Dad drove me to Cook-Out, where I got a lovely vanilla milkshake (doctor’s orders)–it quickly became a vanilla-and-blood-flavored milkshake, but I was able to eat soft foods and able to talk within hours of the procedure.
The Unexpected Blessing
2 hours after the surgery, I realized something. The blinding, face-ripping headache I had experienced the night before the surgery, which had tempted me to consider tearing the trigeminal nerve out of my head to spare myself any more agony, was GONE.
Not only that, but it has stayed gone, even 10 days after the surgery. Sure, I’ve had a little bit of burny pain in my temples here and there as the wisdom tooth sockets heal and the other teeth get used to not having their pushy neighbors around, but it is NOTHING like what had dragged me down for eight months. I am left to conclude that my wisdom teeth and their infection were to blame for my headaches and inexplicable fatigue…and now that they are gone, my energy and my old personality are back. I finally have mental energy enough to play Clix with my boyfriend again, to design and update my websites again, and I feel like hanging out with people again…it’s like I got 75% of my life back by removing 100% of my wisdom teeth.
My only regret in this process? That I didn’t get my teeth seen about months ago. If I had, maybe I could have actually LIVED more of 2011 outside my house instead of lying in my bed, clutching my head and crying. Moral of the story: if you have burning-sensation headaches that you just can’t explain, your wisdom teeth (if you still have them) might be the hidden cause!