Ask anyone about any dental procedure they’ve had, and outside of having a general and professional clean, most would consider some level of trauma involved.
For some it’s traumatic just making an appointment. For others just being in the chair is enough to bring on some level of certain discomfort, let alone anxiety.
I for one recount my experience as a 12-year-old with potential overcrowding as the first traumatic experience of my life aside from being born. That, of course I don’t remember thanks to the handy trick of nature’s amnesia, so it doesn’t count.
This was the usual procedure of needing four premolars removed: two from the top, two from the bottom and done one side at a time. Until then, my trips to the dentist had always been positive affairs. I had good healthy teeth, and my parents (with kudos to them) were very focussed on their children’s dental health and hygiene for all us three kids, so 6 monthly check-ups were routine with our friendly dentist only a block away.
In those days you got a Rosy Red Apple red-and-green lollypop for being a good patient, and that of course was always worth it. I liked the dentist chair. It was like a really short ride at Luna Park and when it was up I couldn’t reach the ground.
I’d been told by my mum before we went that I’d be having two teeth taken out but it meant nothing to me; I think I thought that just like the Tooth Fairy magically left 20c under your pillow, somehow something else magical would happen to make my teeth disappear. Like a lamb to the slaughter I happily hopped into the chair and waited for something good to happen.
Most certainly it didn’t. I’d never had a needle in my mouth before and when I saw one coming I was having none of it.
I cried and screamed and punched until two dental nurses held me down. Eight needles went in, and with the dentist’s knee on my chest, he took all four out at once.
He explained to my now distressed mother, hearing this terrible ordeal from the waiting room, that he had to take them all because he knew he’d never get me in the chair again.
Too right. And as much as I had beautiful straight white teeth until my 50s, that dental phobia never left. Eventually it led to periodontal disease that I deeply regret; not only for my own health, but also for the car my parents sold to pay for the braces that gave me beautiful teeth in the first place.
So trauma squared, I reckon.
Asking whether wisdom tooth extraction is the most traumatic dental procedure is a bit like asking whether arsenic or strychnine is most poisonous. Unless you’re blessed with an incredible pain threshold, and are immune to the sounds of drilling and cracking, an extraction is distressing.
Naturally, the procedure and the healing both become more difficult the older we get.
The process itself is actual trauma to your mouth, particularly for adults, because it sometimes means the tooth has to be broken into pieces before it can be completely removed.
And we haven’t even touched on Full-Bony Impacted wisdom tooth where it’s completely fused to the jaw. One up from that is Partial-Bony Impacted, where it’s (only) partially stuck in the jawbone.
The kind of ‘win’ that doesn’t make you feel like a winner at all…
Almost 85% of people need a wisdom tooth extraction during their lifetime, and it’s not because we have too many teeth, but because evolution and dietary changes have given us a jaw that’s too short.
It’s been a common a procedure for decade upon decade, that many dental experts advise taking wisdom teeth out before they cause problems. But now some dentists don’t recommend that at all because of the risks involved with anesthesia, the surgery itself and the cost of the procedure.
Research has shown that young children injected with anesthetic for dental care sometimes don’t grow lower wisdom teeth, suggesting it might be possible to deliberately stop wisdom teeth from growing. Two things may account for this: the anesthetic solution or trauma from the needle hitting the wisdom tooth bud.
I didn’t get my lower wisdom teeth, and suspect it was from this hypodermic syringe damage.
At least wisdom tooth removal is one trauma I won’t have to endure.