This is the true account of what I actually believe happened during my wisdom teeth procedure on Thursday, during which I was administered Novocain and laughing gas. I recorded this account promptly after returning home from the oral surgeon. The results of the extraction are four shattered wisdom teeth that are improbably large for a person of my stature, as well as increased proficiency in the Czech language.
I’m sitting in the dentist chair. My head is lowered. The nurse takes my blood pressure. She puts a cup over my nose and tells me to breathe.
“I’m just going to numb the area,” the nurse says. She takes a Q-tip saturated with gel and spreads it onto my gums, behind my molars: First the top right, then the bottom right, then the top left, and the bottom left doesn’t feel like it got any, but maybe it just hasn’t kicked in yet?
The nurse tells me to breathe through my nose, but I don’t feel like I’m getting any air so I breathe through my mouth.
“It’s not going to work unless you breathe through your nose,” says the nurse. “It doesn’t have to be anything dramatic. Just breathe normally.”
I breathe as well as I can through my nose. The nurse puts my headphones into my ears and I scroll to the playlist I made to calm myself during the procedure. I press play. I set my iPod on my chest and settle into dizziness. The doctor comes into the room. “Is it enough? I can turn it up if you want.”
“No, it’s loud enough,” I say. When I realize he was talking about the laughing gas and not the music, I predictably laugh, as one on laughing gas laughs.
They put a jack between my lips and crank my mouth open until it unhinges like a snake’s.
“Just a little pinch,” says the doctor, ticking a needle of exaggerated size into my gum. Coolness washes over the area of injection. My gums feel like they are coated in shellac. The needle is inserted into the back of my palate and Novocain is injected into my brain. I become very sleepy, but I hold my eyes open.
My hands and feet fall asleep against my will and I begin to covertly rotate them. The doctor and the nurse turn their heads towards my feet, and I quickly freeze. They gaze back into my mouth and tell me how great I’m doing. I rotate my numbing feet. They see at the corners of their eyes and turn their heads, but I stop just in time.
The doctor takes out the drill.
“A lot of noise,” he warns me. He pounds it into my shellacked tissue. I feel pressure on my back molar and wonder if they have begun to drill the wrong tooth, but I cannot move or speak to tell them that they have read the x-rays wrong. I wonder what it will be like to chew with missing molars when they have all been removed by accident. The drilling is epic. I will write a story about this. An epic poem. No… a novel.
My body becomes inanimate, but my mind is lively. A sudden movement from the nurse drops my iPod to the ground, and as it hits the tiles it switches into random mode and plays all of the songs that I downloaded for free but didn’t actually enjoy. I mentally sink to my knees as the song mercilessly carries on. I think: “Noooooo…” Then I laugh, and it isn’t because of the laughing gas because I usually laugh at the absurdity of life. In fact, all of the things I have been laughing about are things that I would laugh at in normal circumstances. The doctor and nurse don’t know this and I suppose they are attributing my behavior to the gas. I’m worried that my movements will cause them to make a mistake and possibly exhume more teeth that I require for chewing. Who are these people and why don’t they know how to read a dental x-ray? Shouldn’t these professionals know the difference between an impacted wisdom tooth and a perfectly good molar?
I create a short cartoon depicting my feelings which will later be recorded in my novel as my eyes lull shut. Triceratopses are chomping on vegetables. T-rexes are sinking their teeth into mammals. A snail gets closed into another snail like a Russian nesting doll.
My body is slipping farther away from me and I am certain that I’m going to die. (I always think something is going to kill me; that’s what makes me so charming.) Of course it would be during a simple, routine procedure with a lame anesthetic like laughing gas. If I die now, as obvious as it would be, none of this will be recorded. This alarms me more than my impending doom.
But I’m not going to die after all, because they are now drilling on the other side. Time has skipped ahead with the music that I don’t enjoy.
“Halfway done,” the doctor announces.
“You’re doing great,” says the nurse.
My lips are not wide enough and the doctor puts some device that is usually used to wax automobiles between them to stretch them out forever. They ripple in every direction and my jaw cracks in half.
So I live after all, but what if I don’t remember? It could be like a vivid dream that I forget when I fall back asleep. I think of something about octopi which makes me laugh, and I tell myself to remember the octopi. Remember the octopi.
The doctor puts the drill to the fourth tooth and I begin to moan, but the doctor and nurse are conversing.
“And then he was arrested on the way to the hospital,” says the doctor. I cry out to alert them that area was not numbed properly, but I sound like a baby elephant.
“Can you feel that?” says the nurse.
“She doesn’t like that,” says the doctor.
I suddenly and reluctantly black out. I forget something about octopi. Maybe I’m dying.
But I open my eyes and they are cleaning up. My nose is released from the cup. My torso is elevated by the chair. I’m not listening to music anymore. My iPod has begun to play my Czech language tapes. I laugh, and it is not because of the laughing gas, but the Czech language tapes. To make sure this is understood, I begin to explain that my iPod fell and that random things had been playing throughout the process. My voice sounds muffled and I’m not sure he can understand me. I feel like I’m wearing a retainer.
“It’s not music. It’s Czech language tapes,” I explain. My body is still out of my control, so I rotate my wrists and ankles some more.
“Are you… going on a trip to Czechoslovakia?” he asks.
“Yes, but it isn’t called Czechoslovakia anymore. After it ceased to be a communist state it peacefully divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. They’re two separate countries now.”
The doctor has no idea what I’m saying.
The nurse leads me into another room and gets me some apple juice and a glorified ibuprofen.