I have put this off for far too long. But I feel obligated to write my story now, knowing that it may help others. I know for me, all of the messages posted on this site have helped me tremendously in so many ways.
I had all four of my wisdom teeth (also known as third molars) taken out by an oral surgeon on 8/21/06. I am left with an injury now that may very well last my entire life. The inferior alveolar nerve, which is one of the sensory nerves, was damaged during the surgery.
The story goes like this. I had 4 different dentists tell me that I should get my wisdom teeth out over a 2-year period. Three of the dentists work in the same dental group and office. I ignored the suggestion of the first three dentists, as they gave no pressing reason for me to have the procedure done. However, the fourth dentist told me that the teeth next to my wisdom teeth were starting to decay and that they would not fill them until I got my wisdom teeth out. (I’m not so sure now that I believe my teeth were really decaying.) Therefore, he referred me to an oral surgeon and I made the appointment to get them out.
The consultation and surgery were scheduled on the same day, 8/21/06. I went in and within 15 minutes, they brought me back, took X-rays and sat me in THE CHAIR. Soon after, the surgeon came in and briefly told me what the procedure would entail. I stopped him citing a couple of concerns I had. One of which was that my nerves in my gums are very sensitive and that I’ve had problems in the past after getting fillings. He laughed it off because I had mistakenly referred to them as “big nerves.” But he should have known what I was talking about in that my nerves are higher up in the gums than most people. At least that is what one of my dentists concluded after doing my fillings. I also told him that I had a bad reaction to general anesthesia when I had surgery on my feet. The only thing he asked was, “When?” I told him it was that past April and he didn’t ask any other questions or request details at all. In fact, he acted irritated with me as soon as I told him I had a couple of concerns. Just to make it clear, though, the bad reaction was that I was feeling sick for at least 2 weeks afterward. He then came over and looked in my mouth and told his assistant that one of the extractions, the bottom left, would be a surgical extraction as this was the only wisdom tooth that was impacted. He then left the room. I SHOULD HAVE DARTED FOR THE DOOR, AT THIS POINT! But I didn’t.
In his absence, the assistant handed me a couple of papers to sign. One of which was the consent for him to perform the surgery and the other was the Nerve Injury Risk acknowledgement form. She did not explain anything to me about the risk of nerve injury and neither did the surgeon. Of course, I signed both forms without reading them. Then she handed me the breakdown of the bill that I owed and what the insurance would pay. I then made out a check for my portion.
Soon, the surgeon came back in along with at least 3 assistants. One of the assistants put a blood pressure cuff around my left arm and attached a monitoring device (I think for my heart rate) on one of my fingers on my right hand. The surgeon sat down next to me and without a word, put an IV line in my arm and started injecting shots into the IV. Within approximately one minute, I was out.
The next thing I remember is waking up in excruciating pain in my lower gums. I was in total terror! I felt the surgeon stitching up my lower gum on my right side. I tried to lift my arms, but the people in the room were holding me down. I don’t remember being able to scream and I could not open my eyes. Somebody said, “We’re almost done” or “It’s almost over.” But I kept trying to get my arms free because of the pain I was in. The next thing I remember was the surgeon saying, “What? What?” in a tone of voice like I was irritating him. (I must have been moaning in pain, though I don’t remember hearing myself.) The next thing I know, they released my arms and I was able to move both of my arms up to the sides of my lower jaw to be able to point out with my fingers that I was in pain. The surgeon said, “Oh.” He then injected a numbing agent into both sides of my lower gums. I moaned out in pain when he injected me and I felt my eyes well up with tears. This was pure torture as I was not numb at all when he injected me. The next thing I remember is the surgeon telling the other people in the room, “She’ll be back in a week.” I also heard someone say, “What a mess.” I knew things must have gone terribly wrong.
When it was finally time for me to “really” wake up, they told me to open my eyes. It took me a minute or two to be able to open my eyes, but I finally did. My body felt as if it was in total shock. I kept tapping the monitoring device that was on my finger against the chair arm, until someone told me to stop. My entire body was trembling. As I started to come down a little from the trauma, I looked over at my left arm and noticed that my entire arm and hand, front and back, below where the blood pressure cuff had been, was splotched with blood underneath the skin. (Later, I learned that this was broken blood vessels?) With my mouth full of gauze-type stuff, I managed to ask the assistant what happened. At first he acted like he didn’t see anything and asked me what I was talking about. But it was clear to see all of the red splotches under the skin. I then held up my right arm against the left arm. Then he couldn’t act like he didn’t see it anymore. He said, “Oh, I don’t know what happened. I’ll ask the doctor.” Then he must have just decided to tell me. “You tried to get loose from the blood pressure cuff during the surgery.” Now, I don’t remember trying to get loose. This leads me to believe that I was awake more of the time during the surgery than I remember. Anyway, the assistant, along with everyone else, tried to act like there was nothing out of the ordinary that happened.
The assistant then escorted me to a little cubbyhole area where there was a padded bench-like bed to recover and a chair. A few minutes later, they brought my dad in (He was there to take me home) to sit in the chair beside me. After what I had been through, I couldn’t wait to get out of there, so I sat up and tried to act like I was okay. During this time, I continually examined my left arm and so did the assistant. I have to say it was shocking. Soon, the surgeon came in and told me that the tooth was sitting very close to the nerve. He told me that the numbness of my chin and lip on the left side would probably last for a couple of days.
Well, the numbness never went away. And to make matters worse, on day 3 after the surgery, I started feeling pain along the side of my face, my chin, lip, and the gum area behind my chin on the left side and eventually in my ear. Within the first week after surgery, I had been to my regular doctor and to a dentist. After examining my mouth, the dentist commented, “Was there any reason you had to get all of your wisdom teeth removed?” Yeah, well there’s a clue. Maybe I really didn’t need to, now did I? At any rate, neither the dentist nor my doctor was able to help me. And as for the surgeon, he was totally correct in that I was back in exactly one week, in excruciating pain!
I will say that when I went back to see him, his attitude toward me was totally different than his rude attitude on the day of the surgery. I wonder why. Possibly, he was afraid of a lawsuit? Anyway, this time, he wanted to answer questions and be nice to me. He even tried to crack a few jokes. However, when I told him that I remembered waking up, he looked very embarrassed. He laughed and said, “Everybody thinks they woke up.” He also chuckled and said this a second time at the end of the appointment as he was leaving the room. So, I am thinking this may have been a big deal that I was awake, moving my arms, my head, trying to escape? Why else does he want to convince me that I wasn’t awake? Did I move my head and he slipped with the drill and hit my nerve, etc?
I was kept on the medication, vicodin, day and night for the first 3 weeks. Then I was able to withstand the pain throughout the day and just took the vicodin after the workday was over and at night.
Thus far, I have been back to the oral surgeon 3 more times. One of those times, I was able to see another surgeon in the office, who read my chart. He said that the surgeon who did the surgery noted that he saw the nerve but did not indicate that the nerve was disturbed? Ha! Yeah, right! I was also able to question one of the assistants who was in the room during the surgery. I told her that I remembered waking up. I then asked her, “Most people forget, don’t they?” She wouldn’t look at me, but she indicated, “yes.” She then asked me what part I remembered. I could tell by her question, her tone and by her avoidance to look at me, that she knows something. This further leads me to believe that I was awake throughout more, most or all of the procedure, but I just don’t remember everything.
On 9/22/06, I went to see a neurologist. He indicates 3 to 6 months healing time, if the nerve heals. He doesn’t know, at this point, if the nerve was crushed or severed or what. There is a test, like an MRI, that might be able to tell us just how bad it is. On my next appointment, I am going to ask to have this done because I really want to know what the surgeon is not telling me. By the way, this neurologist (who is probably in his sixties) still has his wisdom teeth. Why? Because he knew they were close to the nerves. I guess he didn’t want to risk it, even though he was told he should get them out.
Today is 9/24/06. I still have pain, though it is much better than before. Hopefully, it will continue to improve. But I am starting to come to the reality that I may have to live with the numbness and pain for the rest of my life. On the left side of my face, I have complete loss of feeling in my lip and part of my gums and I have substantial loss of feeling in my chin. It feels like waking up everyday with a big, fat, painful lip. It affects me when I talk and when I eat. If I’m not careful while eating, I chew up the inside of my lip. It is also tough when I am talking to clients, on the phone or face-to-face. They can’t see it and I can’t see it. But I feel it – that big, fat lip 24/7. I try to act like nothing is wrong, but still it takes away from my confidence. This injury has also affected me in that I have no social life anymore. After work and on weekends, I simply stay home and watch television. Nothing is enjoyable anymore. I do hope to be able to try to become more active in life again, and hopefully soon. It’s just hard, though.
The future is an unknown journey at this time as to how and/or if I will heal and how I will proceed with medical and potential legal issues. The moral of the story is that people should be aware of the risks of surgery, wisdom teeth removal, etc. My surgeon didn’t explain anything about the risk of nerve injury or that one of my wisdom teeth was close to a nerve. I think this was ridiculously unprofessional of him. Ideally they should warn you, verbally, about this stuff. Then they should tell you to go to this website to see what others are going through. And finally, they should schedule the surgery for at least one week after the consultation – that is IF the patient still wants the surgery. OH, but the surgeon’s income would probably be cut in half if they did it that way. And also, on another note, NOBODY should have to wake up in excruciating pain during the procedure like I did. I am totally furious about this. They totally failed to take proper care of me.
In closing, one thing I’m going to do is tell my friends and family about this experience and try to spread the word. I think others should too. God bless all of you who have posted on this site and those who have not. I feel for you and what you are going through. I wish complete recovery for all of you.
All the best,