My Head is Heavy, Like a Melon

17th February 2009

I have problematic teeth. When I go to the dentist, which I do every few minutes, they look at me like I’ve been sleeping with hard candy in my mouth, and waking to a hearty breakfast of dried apricots dipped in marshmallow fluff.

So many hygienists have given me flossing demonstrations that I’ve begun to carry a photo of our medicine cabinet in my wallet:

That’s eleven containers of floss, y’all, not counting the two in my nightstand drawer and the one I keep in my dopp kit. So you see, I’ve become “vigilant” about this issue. I’m the fucking Rainman of flossing.

Anyway, this round of oral surgery was to place two implants, one to replace a baby tooth that I never lost, and one to replace a botched root canal done by a dentist I no longer visit — except in particularly graphic nightmares.

After the surgeon made four unsuccessful attempts at placing an IV to knock me out, we decided it might be preferable to go with the laughing gas. Because I was in fetal position crying at the time, this sounded good to me.

They applied the Vader mask, and I immediately recalled how much I dislike laughing gas. I lost the bit of composure I’d managed to summon, and tears began to pool in my ears. When the Novocain took effect, I freaked, albeit in a very subdued, distant manner. A peek into my gas-addled mind:

It is clear I have no teeth. I am an ancient person whose toothless face is weathered with knowledge.

No. Wait. I am a baby with a round, toothless face, seeing every detail for the first time.

No! Wait! I am uncomfortably high.

To test the latter theory, I tried to lift my arm. Fail. Accordingly, I began to panic.

I am too high to lift my arm. I am entirely too high!! How can I possibly be of use? How can I help the periodontist complete this task? I am useless like this! USELESS!

Then I began to laugh uncontrollably, and my arm floated into view. I tapped the mask and said, “I. Hate. This. Shit.”

And that’s how I ended up having the surgery with a pint of Novocain and very little dignity. I can recall all the details of why my mouth feels like this, which is why I hope to drink heavily this weekend.

Tomorrow, do you want to talk about bone grafting? No? Aw. Let’s do it anyway.


70 thoughts on “My Head is Heavy, Like a Melon

  1. Kate

    For I split second I thought your post was titled “Lead is Heavy, Like a Melon.” Maybe I’m the one on drugs?

    Aw, you poor thing, what a miserable ordeal. (Does the phrase “bone grafting” make anyone else feel slightly queasy?)

  2. Molly

    Oh, does that ever bring back some unpleasant memories of having my wisdom teeth pulled. I can remember having a long, extremely detailed conversation with myself in my own head about whether I loved laughing gas or hated it. I can’t remember the conclusion I arrived at, only that I hated the periodontist’s breathing guts.

  3. Sara

    The first time I had laughing gas (for a scary dental procedure, involving skin grafting!), I became hysterical and cried the whole time. Nowadays, I just ask for the needle straight-up.

  4. Aunt Raina

    Knowing how you are (or were) about pain, I think your reactions were quite mild. And the fact that you can find humor in it confirms you are out of your mind!

  5. Puanani

    The line about trying to lift your arm made my stomach turn. I remember the first time I was on painkillers, I spent what seemed like hours trying to lift my arms…uugh.

  6. Sarah

    I have horrible teeth too. I floss daily. I brush twice a day with a Sonicare. My dentist thinks I just have bad genes. Still, I am 28 years old and facing having to have all my teeth crowned. By being vigilant in my dental hygiene I’m hoping to put all that work off as long as possible. In any case, I can, unfortunately, relate to this.

  7. Andrea

    Aww! I hope you start to feel more human soon! I’ve had two implants done, along with the removal of my wisdom teeth for a bone graft. SO FUN!

    I do enjoy eating all the mushy foods for a week after though. And being swollen up like a Cabbage Patch doll. Hurrah!

  8. Meredith

    Oh Maggie, I totally sympathize. Not only did I have jaw-rearranging surgery at 17, I also had braces, retainers, and of course, all four wisdom teeth out at once with a drug experience very much like yours.

    Only with mine, the radio station in the doctor’s office started to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher: waaaa-wah-wah-waaaaaa. I tried to say, “I wonder what that song really is.” and then passed out.

  9. Ris

    Maggie I feel your pain. I have been through more oral and maxillofacial surgery than any single person should have to endure. Braces, twice. Rapid Palette Expander device. Jaw-rearranging surgery. Other painful stuff I could expand on but won’t. You are not alone, and I hope you feel better soon.

  10. Abby

    I am so sorry.

    My husband says I like to watch depressing movies, and I say I like to feel real and uncomfortable. (No, I don’t have a therapist, why?)

    This post kind of made me feel that way.

  11. Abby

    AND. I see that one of your goals is to ring a bell. My husband rang our church’s bell to mark the beginning of our wedding. So you and your husband should renew your vows at our church. You could ring the bell! (This goal is right beside the comment box – see?)

  12. Lauren

    When I had my wisdom teeth removed and they gave me the laughing gas, the assistant said “Why’re you laughing? What’s so funny? Huh? Whats so hilarious?” Oh yes, surgeon’s assistant your mocking is hysterical!

  13. elayne

    When I opened this page, the photo was visible to about 1/3 the way down the cap on that bottle o’stuff on the second shelf, and I thought, “She must have attended some dental-themed art installation,” because the row of flosses on the white(ish) shelf looks like a giant stylized toothbrush. I had to refocus three times before I could actually see it as cases of dental floss.

    I used to work at a dental office, and we once had a patient come in for oral surgery who was VERY apprehensive about having dental work done, so he’d requested the nitrous. However, unbeknownst to us at the time, he’d also decided to self-medicate before arriving, with either marijuana or cocaine (I think it was cocaine, but marijuana seems to make more sense).

    The mask had been in place for about 90 seconds when he started giggling. By the time he was three minutes in, he was laughing so loud and so hard and so incessantly that the entire rest of the office was at a complete standstill. I was at the front desk, and people calling in over the phone were laughing because they could hear him in the background. The dentist turned the gas off, but the guy couldn’t stop laughing – and by now it was the kind of belly laughs that make you sore for three days afterwards. It took nearly 30 minutes for this guy to stop laughing; none of the women in the office had any mascara left because we’d laugh-cried it all off, and the hygienist ran behind for the rest of the day. None of us could even make eye contact for an hour or so afterwards, because we’d all get set off laughing again.

    Out of the four+ years I worked there, I saw maybe a half-dozen people who got the giggles on it, but never anything that impeded the dentist from doing his work. This guy, though… wow. He finally fessed up that he’d been “indulging” before the visit and the doctor sent him home to sober up. He came back the next day – an hour before the office usually opened, just in case it happened again. (It didn’t.)

    Anyway, that long story was by way of explaining why I laughed helplessly at this entry – it’s not that I don’t feel for you, you just reminded me of something. (c:

    Feel better soon!

  14. Jasph

    I had my wisdom teeth extracted (and apparently much of the wisdom along with) decades ago, but I remember the feel of the drug as if it were yesterday. I recall saying to the oral surgeon, “Man…this is some good shit….”

    The oral surgeon’s response remains vivid, too: “Here come the dancing girls,” he said.

    I don’t remember seeing dancing girls, but I thought later, “That’s cool, sending people off with a happy little idea like that.” He’d probably have made a good LSD guide. Maybe some kind attention like that could’ve helped you deal with the gas high.

    We used to suck up nitrous oxide from whipped cream cans when I was a teen. A friend who worked at Dairy Queen would hand out cans from the drive-thru window on weekends and let us stoners take our buzz to a new level. You could hear the brain cells hitting the floor of the van.

    Glad you survived. Loved your description of the event. And I always dig you on the twitta.

  15. Alison

    Ok, yes, I hear you on the teeth issues. I’m currently struggling and without dental insurance, so this = terror at the thought of my next basic cleaning. Arg!!!

    BUT. Is that a neti pot shaped like an elephant? Sweet christ, even your medicine cabinet has style! (My neti pot = the plastic cvs brand one.)

  16. Maggeh Post author

    Alison, I love that you noticed the elephant neti pot. It’s technically a creamer we got in Italy as part of our “animals throwing up” pitcher collection. Last time I had a sinus infection, I decided to put it to a new use. I am slightly worried about friends who’ve come over for brunch seeing it in our medicine cabinet, but he lives there full time now. Hear that, friends? You have not been dispensing syrup out of anything that has come in contact with my nose. No promises about Hank’s nose. The kid gets into everything.

  17. indie

    where did you get the black hat you are wearing in your photo on the beach with hank?

    I get a photosensitive rash and am looking for a hat like that one!

    thank you!

  18. alexis

    i’m with ya, dentists make a fortune off me! every three months i’m in there waiting for them to tell me very bad news and yet i keep coming back for more.

  19. Laurie

    How many times do you have to go back? I hear it is a long process but on t.v. they advertise implants in a day. My son is starting the process soon (like Thursday).

  20. sarah

    i noticed the elephant netti too, but then noticed your comment back to alison.

    animals throwning up creamer collection? is there a post on this somewhere? can you feature these on mighty goods please?

    also, i think i saw you walk by me in the crowd at outside lands during radiohead. i was slightly too sto—…um, star struck to say “are you mighty girl” but i’m almost certain it was you. were you wearing big dangly circle earrings and a pony tail? (because i know you totally remember what you wore to that show 7 months ago.) :P

  21. Karen

    When I had my upper wisdom teeth removed, I could only afford to go to Western Dental, where they just do local anesthetic for everything. It was a horrible, horrible experience and has since caused me great anxiety at every dentist visit thereafter, even though I have found a lovely dentist who is better in each and every way. I practically need an injection just to sit through a cleaning without my blood pressure escalating to panic-attack levels.

  22. Alia

    One of the funniest things I have read in a long time. I cannot stop laughing and my stomach muscles hurt.

  23. Rebecca

    I was too embarrassed to go back to my dentist for my check-up a few days after I got my wisdom teeth out. It was my first experience with laughing gas. When he started to take out the first tooth I freaked and yelled some sort of primitive “AAARRGH!” with my mouth full of instruments. Then I started to cry. I still feel pathetic whenever I walk in that office. I’m sure they’re all sniggering about me!

  24. shea

    I just got done with my implants! Well, almost done. I think i need to go back and have them tweak one of the crowns, but I’m very close. I feel your pain. Laurie-It took me about a year from start to finish for my implants. I only had to go back to the medieval torturer a couple of times though. Most of the year was just for healing.

  25. kere

    that sucks. sorry to hear it. nothing like getting mouth surgery. had a gum graft once and it was horrible. at least you got the laughing gas! hope you have an easy recovery.

  26. Maire

    Dear mightygirl,

    I send you wishes for copious amounts of bourbon and chocolate during these difficult dental times.


  27. Jolie

    When I was 14, my mom’s business partner bought a new Mercedes. Someone asked my mom, “Where’s your Mercedes?” She pointed at me and said, “In her mouth.”

    16 oral surgeries, 6 years of braces, 4 implants, and ridiculous amounts of mashed potatoes.

    I understand completely. Feel better.

  28. Corinne

    Ugh, I feel so bad for you. I hate oral surgery. My worst was when I was 12 (old enough to remember, not old enough to really handle it well) and I remember panicking and thinking I couldn’t breath when they knocked me out with the nitrous and waking up with a mouth full of blood. Ick. I hope you recover really soon and will be sending milkshake thoughts your way!

  29. Amy

    If you have seriously problematic teeth and/or the problems continue to get worse, you might consider doing what I did.

    I also had problem teeth and, over the years, had many procedures (fillings, root canals, surgery, etc) to combat the problem, but it was to no avail. My teeth kept deteriorating and causing major problems, so my dentist finally suggested that I have ALL my teeth root canaled and capped in order to solve the problem once and for all.

    Granted, going through the process of having every tooth root canaled and capped wasn’t fun, but it was more than worth it in that my teeth are now perfect, free of pain, and I don’t have to worry about any more problems.

  30. Kim

    I feel for you. When I was 12 an air force dentist (my mom was a MD in the AF and dental care was free) pulled 12 teeth from my mouth, except one was the wrong one and he shoved it back down in my mouth. It surfaced years later. I’ve had years of root canals, and other gastly procedures to correct what this man did to m mouth and I’m not done yet. I am 40 now and had an implant last year, it was the best thing I ever did. You’ll be glad you went through with it, you might need years of therapy but glad all the same. Oh by the way this Dr.’s name was Ceceree.

  31. Maggeh Post author

    Indie, I’m sorry, I don’t remember. It’s like 12 years old. It’s a crushable travel hat, if that helps.

    Laurie, it’s a 6-8 month process I’m told. So, break out the party hats.

    Sarah, I have no idea what I was wearing, which is unusual for me. That was the weekend our apartment was broken into, so I was in a haze. I’m sure we’ll cross paths again, and this time you know what to do.

  32. sara

    if your hair is as red as it appears in your pictures, you may want to consider the following. apparently novocain does not work as well on redheads. i know it sounds whack, but it is true. there is another kind (a step up from regular) that they can shoot you with…making it so that you may not have to get quite sooooo high.
    here is just one link i went to google to back me up…there are a million more…

  33. Mia

    The first (and only) time I had laughing gas I wound up puking. NOT a good experience. Novocaine for me ever sense. My dentist tells me I have “soft teeth.” Pretty much every time I go in I have to get some cavity filled. :(

  34. Amanda

    For the record, this is your Very Best Blog Post ever, it makes me love you even more than I did previously (which was a lot!). I totally get the bad teeth thing. I was the first female member of my family to make it to age 30 with all her teeth still intact! I don’t have any implants yet, but I’m already saving my money for them. The only upside is the Vicodin!

    Feel better soon!

  35. Megan

    I got the gas with my wisdom teeth at 16 and I loved it. I could fly but no no knew, so I laughed and laughed and laughed. Then I realized they couldn’t fly and that was sad, so I cried for them, and cried and cried. :-)

    Over here now in Germany it’s actually hard to find a dentist who subscribes to the American idea of pain management. They expect you tough it out and actually think they’re giving you good news when they offer to do something without pain meds at all.

    It’s taken me years to find a good dentist with the right attitude.

    Really wish I wasn’t moving towns next month.

    Happy Healing!

  36. Emily

    OOOhhhhh nooooo….I should NOT have read all these comments. I’m scheduled to have 3 impacted wisdom teeth out in less than a month. So many evil stories.

    I told them to completely knock me out, and asked if there was any chance that I would wake up during. Assistant says: “perhaps, but we will increase the drip and you will never remember!” Right lady, like my dreams will never bring it up again.

    Though…I guess good experiences at the dentist don’t make good stories. Feel better!

  37. Maureen

    The photo of your medicine cabinet reminds me of going to see my doctor one time. He noted that I had just turned 40 and asked me if I took calcium suppliments. I said, “Well I own calcium suppliments.” And he said, “That’s not what I asked you.”

  38. chiquita

    Feeling your pain! I had an oral surgeon try to take a tooth out about a month ago with Novacaine and he finally gave up and knocked me out. Feel better soon.

  39. Jennifluff

    I too am blessed with HORRIBLE teeth. My last dentist said I had butter teeth. You want to know the one thing you DON’T want to resemble butter? YOUR TEETH.

    Get better soon!

  40. Sarah

    1) That is a lot of floss.
    2) I hate laughing gas too. When I was a kid, they gave it to me for some dental THING or another, but they kept me in the waiting room with my mother to get me to relax and stop fighting it. In the end, they double-dosed me and my drugged behavior probably traumatized all the other small children in the waiting room.

  41. Mrs. Kennedy

    Dude, I can’t get an implant unless they do a bone graft and a sinus lift, so I’m having the infected root canal re-done and praying it takes this time. The sisterhood of root canals gone bad! We should have badges and coffee mugs.

  42. Woobs

    I went through the exact same thing. I had a baby tooth (an eye tooth)that was never coming out because the adult tooth was snuggly rooted in the roof of my mouth. First they pulled the baby, then they removed the adult tooth, then they did the bone graft, then they did the implant, then (after like two fucking years-because I needed 3-4 months between each surgery to let everything heal) I got the crown. During all of this, I wore a flipper with a tooth in it that did not resemble any of my other teeth in size or shape. It also gave me a lisp. So I rocked the toothless look on occasion. Awesome.
    Now I have a brand spankin’ new tooth-one which cost me so much money that I will leave it to someone in my will. Godspeed, Maggie!

  43. darcy

    God I love and hate the dentist high, its so funny at times I heard the Pochahantas (sp?) opening credit roll through my head for the entire portion of my wisdom teeth removal…creepy.
    Get better, spoil yourself with expensive booze this weekend it will help.

  44. Tanya

    I had my teeth messed up really bad by eastern european dentist, who like doing procedures without any painkillers. Now I have to take a prescription horse dose of valium even to go through the door of the dental office.

    I just had a root canal done, which, through a series of unfortunate human assholes, landed me in an emergency room two days later. :(

  45. Bonnie

    My teeth have plagued me all my life. I’m famous in my family for alienating my first dentist. I was about 8, on the laughing gas, getting tortured. I felt really annoyed that he was talking to me like I was a baby, using cutesy names for what he was doing, saying things in various wacky/cutesy voices, all the while hurting me.

    So I gave him a sharp kick in the crotch. He screamed. I had to get a new dentist.

    To this day, when I get oral surgery, my parents inevitably say, “Don’t kick this one.”

    (they deserve it)

  46. Em

    Did you know you can inoculate your kid with your troublesome mouth bacteria? If you don’t already do stuff like lick Hank’s binky “clean” or otherwise swap saliva with him, don’t start. If you do, don’t sweat it. My falling-apart-toothed mom blames herself for my falling-apart teeth, but I only love her more for all the floor crud-encrusted pacifiers she spared me in my tender years.

    You know, I feel like kind of an ass for leaving this comment, but honestly I just thought you might find it interesting!


  47. kym b

    wow, that sounds like a truly shitty day and i’m so sorry. super big hugs.

    but, thanks for sharing because i totally laughed. to. tears.

  48. jennifer

    omg. i totally feel you and the gas situation. my first wisdom tooth was removed by a crazy Russian oral surgeon. all his nurses had very thick Russian accents which I couldn’t understand sober much less after having the gas on me. I kept freaking out and they all kept telling me in their crazy Russian accents ‘Yenifer, you must calm down’. How the eff can I calm down?! I kept smacking the mask off me. It was a horrible scene. I won’t even get into the gigantic cross on the hill opposite from the room I was in. I was conviced that the Russians were going to kill me.

  49. Tonya

    I feel your pain. I just had a root canal followed by two surgeries and finally an extraction of a baby tooth that I never lost. I spent $3500.00 trying to save the baby tooth, only to have to have it pulled anyway. I really need a couple of implants and new crowns, so I’ve started buying lottery tickets. It’s probably the only way I’ll be able to afford it anytime soon. I’m going to encourage my kids to be peridontists.

  50. Pyrblue

    Love your experience. Love everybody’s experiences and stories; I don’t feel so alone in my oral surgery nightmares.

    My nightmares with oral surgeons started when I lived in a third world country, and started having incredible PAIN, back moral, PAIN. I could not eat, or chew. The pain was radiating into my cheekbone and eye…I had no choice but a root canal, there…the third world country–where I was living and teaching. Upton returning to the US, I had no insurance, and still in lots of pain. Fast Forward Several Years…I had Several Thousand Dollars worth of work done to eliminate my tooth pain. A crown. (Another root canal), Several series of x-rays…pulled the tooth, bone graph, and considering when I can afford the implant. The problem is—-I STILL HAVE PAIN. LOTS OF PAIN FROM THE ORGINAL SITE. EKK. UGG. YEEK! Ouch!
    I changed dentists twice, and both dentists were/are excellent–my change had to do with insurance and coverage issues. My insurance totally blows, however, I have insurance and not having to buy lottery tickets, or will my teeth to my loved ones, upon my death!

    Advice for the CRAZY FLOSSERS–the Reach Floss. I love the gizmo. This thing can REACH my morals, and with a little push the floss slips between my very tight teeth. I too have floss everywhere, bathroom, car, purse, work. I also have my Reach Floss gizmo with replacement heads at home and work, also. (I am hyper-considered that I have food stuck in my teeth, since I love to SMILE).
    Best wishes Maggie with you Dental Care…as will everybody else!

  51. Olivia

    I had laughing gas when I got my wisdom teeth pulled. I don’t remember much of anything about the procedure at all, but apparently, I cried through the ENTIRE thing. Then they brought my mom in as I was starting to come out of my drug haze and my crying made her cry. So there we are, two complete lunatics crying away in the oral surgeon’s office. As soon as I was semi-conscious, they booted me out the door with my mom on one side and the world’s tiniest nurse on the other, trying to keep me on my feet. I promptly passed out again in the car and awoke at home and covered with drool. yeah…yikes.

    Even weirder was that my mom chose to take me to the offices of Dr. Payne and Dr. Fear. Seriously…oral surgeons named Payne and Fear. No lie. They did a remarkable job, actually, despite having the most inappropriate names for their chosen profession.

  52. Josie

    I, too, found this to be one of the funniest things I have read lately.

    I have also been floss-obsessed after my hygienist put the fear of God in me, saying, if I don’t start flossing, I will loose all my teeth.


    PS_It’s usually takes two to three shots of Novocain to perform oral procedures in my mouth.

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