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A Common Procedure With Serious Potential Consequences


So swollen!

Want to hear a story? Make yourself a tea, get comfy and if you have the time and inclination, I'll tell you a tale of vulnerability that involves my personal health and fertility struggles, how I learned the hard way to do my own research and speak up for myself - not always an easy thing to do when you have a medical professional telling you their opinion - and how it all comes back to a common procedure with little appreciated, but potentially serious, health consequences.

It all started ten years ago in 2008 when a holistic dentist that I liked and trusted convinced me that I needed to have my wisdom teeth extracted. An x-ray revealed that there could be impaction (the threat of a wisdom tooth growing into another healthy tooth beside it) further complicated by the root growing "dangerously close to a nerve." To appeal to my vanity and practical side, I was told I might benefit from less crowding in my bottom row and easier flossing (completely empty promises, by the way). At the time, I thought the dentist had my best interests in mind, but I now suspect there may have been an exchange of money between himself and the maxillofacial oral surgeon. Who knows? All I know is that I was being steered in a certain direction and because I liked and trusted my dentist, I gave my agency away.

A date was set, my mom came from about three hours away to drive me after the surgery and otherwise look after me while I recovered from having all four wisdom teeth out at once. I was put under general anesthetic and whatever they did to my mouth while I was unconscious was brutal. Nothing I've yet to experience compares to the pain I felt when I woke up from having my wisdom teeth extracted.

It took me months to recover and there was infection (smelly and painful), but I didn’t realize this was unusual. I had taken my antibiotics properly. I had followed the instructions I had been given. Finally the bone and gum reformed over the unhealthy tissue sites and I assumed this nightmare was finally over.

Over the course of the next year following the surgery, no amount of self-care seemed to be effective as my vibrant health and good nature diminished. I became increasingly fatigued, anxious, ill-tempered and weepy. My husband didn't know what to do with me. He would take us out to a restaurant so I wouldn't need to prepare dinner and I'd end up bursting into tears over seemingly nothing. He felt embarrassed, like people in the restaurant were judging him with accusing eyes for making me cry, which wasn't the case. It was also a vulnerable time - we were trying to conceive our first baby and I could not become pregnant. No miscarriages, just two long years of infertility. Friends and family members advised that we just had to "stop thinking about it", as if somehow the stress of thinking about it was keeping me from becoming pregnant(!) I began gaining weight no matter how healthy I ate or how much I exercised. Finally, my confidence was eroded and I went from a very competent paralegal and assistant to our law firm's managing partner to my questioning my capabilities. Plus, I needed to sleep sixteen hours a day. With my husband's blessing, I quit my job and joked that I became "a lady who lunched." By the way, I 've noticed that I often use humor to cover up deep despair. When I would see a doctor, they told me I was just getting old... I was thirty. I did a lot of reading and began to suspect PCOS. Then I went to see a new doctor. He looked at my slender frame and wasn't sure about PCOS, but he ran the blood tests anyway and a thyroid panel. Sure enough I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and PCOS. I was devastated, but now at least I had a tangible diagnoses to work with.