“My lips feel like Cocoa Puffs”

audrey tiger
Photo by Audrey Hubner

Oh the things we do for a pretty smile.

It was the end of 6th grade and I was told I needed braces. My teeth weren’t perfect, but they weren’t horrible. Still, my mom took me to the orthodontist and I was fitted with braces on my top and bottom teeth. The entire process lasted I believe 2 1/2 years at the most, including retainer time. By the time I was a freshman I was done. My teeth were as straight as they were gonna be. Fast forward twenty two years and my middle child Audrey was told that she needed braces. Off we go to an orthodontist, creating payment plans and medical debt for years to enjoy. I have to say that by two years in the difference was astounding with her teeth. She went from what looked like in x-rays as just a random hodge podge of teeth going every which way but loose to an amazing smile(she already had an amazing smile, of course) and straight teeth as far as the eye could see. In less than two years the braces were off and my daughter was wearing retainers. Was it really that simple? Were we almost done? We’d paid the work off and my daughter had a beautiful smile, so what was next? Toothpaste commercials?

Not even close, bubs.

A visit to the orthodontist in July revealed there were still about 5 baby teeth that needed to come out, as well as an extra adult tooth that was embedded like an insurgent behind enemy lines above her upper front teeth that needed to be surgically removed or it may cause permanent nerve damage to her front teeth. We were referred by the orthodontist to an oral surgeon in town. One consultation the day before school started and the date was set: September 18th. Let the nervousness and anxiety begin.

So this past Thursday was the day. We had to drive 50 minutes to the Dr office in Fort Wayne as they couldn’t get her in the office in our town till far later. We wanted to get this done as soon as possible, and when both my wife and I could both be here. The procedure sounded simple enough; make an incision above her top gum line and extract the extra adult tooth, pull the baby incisor and expose the adult tooth. Then, attach a small chain to the exposed adult incisor and connect the chain to one of her adult teeth. This way the orthodontist can tighten the chain and pull the adult tooth into place over the next year or so. No, actually none of that sounded simple to me. It sounded horrifying actually. It sounded painful and agonizing. But being a good daddy I kept all that in me and told my little girl that it was going to be fine.

So after arriving around 9:45am they called us back to where the action would be taking place. The surgery room looked just like a regular dentist room, really. A dentist chair, a sink, some cabinets, and some unidentified equipment. One thing you don’t normally see in a dentist’s room is a heart monitor which kind of freaked me out when I saw it. But, since she was going to be put under for this procedure they needed to monitor her heart and oxygen levels. The nurse came in and needed to fit my daughter with an IV so they could administer the anesthetic that would put her out. The problem was that she couldn’t find a vein. She tried one arm, then another. She went back to the first arm and made an attempt to insert the needle. She wasn’t happy with the vein, but tried to administer some of the anesthetic. The vein immediately exploded(her words) and the fluid went right into my daughter’s skin, which hurt quite a bit. The nitrous oxide was brought in to keep my daughter calm while this process of vein hunting ensued. I have to say right now that my 11-year old is an absolute trooper. She never cried, squirmed, jerked, or even mildly complained(except for that vein exploding business.) She’s our most sensitive kid, and also the toughest(a trip to the hospital after an asthma attack at 3 years old showed us that.) She’s the first to do for others before herself, and finds great joy in pleasing everyone around her. She’s one of the good ones.

Finally after much poking and prodding they found a suitable vein and begin administering the the sleepy time concoction. By this time the nitrous oxide had begun to work its own magic and my daughter’s eyes were rolling around like a couple marbles. It was time for us to leave the room. I gave her a kiss on the forehead and told her I’d see her in a little bit. We were in the waiting room for close to an hour before the nurse came out and told us she was all done. The nurse told us that our daughter had been crying and that it was a normal response to the anesthetic and from being confused as to where she was. We were brought back to this tiny recovery room with our little girl passed out on a tiny bed. She was covered in a blanket and had a massive piece of bloody gauze sticking out of her mouth. I caressed her forehead and began talking to her. Her eyeballs were wobbly behind her eyelids, attempting to open but couldn’t. Soon she began opening her eyes, still half out of it. She’d mumbled behind the gauze, “Whaa whaa whaa?” I said “What?” She repeated “Wha whaaa whaaaa?” She wanted to know why she was crying. I explained that she was scared when she first woke up as she didn’t know where she was at. I told her she was fine and they were all done. She just needed to wake up enough so she could walk out of the office to the van. She gave me a drunken thumbs up and proceeded to fall back asleep. After about twenty minutes we got her to sit up and after another ten minutes we had a prescription for pain killers called into our pharmacy and were off. On the ride home she kept typing messages on her school-assigned iPad so she could communicate. “Why was I crying?” “Can I have ice cream?” “My lips feel like cocoa puffs.” “Why was I crying?” “My mouth hurts.” “My lips feel like cocoa puffs.” “Why was I crying?”

We finally arrived home and she wanted to immediately get started on her Lego set that was the consolation prize for being a trooper in light of the surgical trauma inflicted on her mouth. After about five minutes she realized she wasn’t ready for the challenge of 365 tiny pieces of Danish-made plastic, so she retired to the couch. Nearly four hours after arriving home my daughter rested and began acting like her old self, except for that bloody gauze and mouth full of hurt(which had started turning into some major swelling on the left side of her face.) A Wendy’s Frosty was consumed around 9pm and she was out like a light on the couch. The day she’d been dreading since mid-July was over. Let the healing begin.

It’s now three days post-op and I can say my 11-year old trooper is healing nicely. The swelling has gone down quite a bit, and she’s not in pain like she was. She’s down to maybe two doses of Ibuprofen now, and the Tylenol with codeine hasn’t been touched since yesterday afternoon. She’s finished her catch up homework for Thursday and Friday and is currently reading in her bedroom. I’m on the couch, writing. I’m glad the surgery is over. I’m glad my little girl is free to smile once again. If anything, this experience will make future tightening sessions at the orthodontist’s office seem like a walk in the park.

The things we do for a pretty smile, indeed.



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