Happy Operculectomy Plus Shave and a Haircut Day!

You’ll be about halfway to the clinic way out in Alabang before you realize you’ve forgotten the panoramic X-Ray you spent 800 pesos on last week to see how straight your wisdom teeth are.

The dentist said that the best thing would be to eventually have them all extracted, but the soonest the oral-maxillofacial surgeon would be available for such a procedure would be two days before your multi-leg flight back home, no part of which would make the post-operative pain and swelling much more fun than it would be normally. Instead, she recommended a simple operculectomy as a stopgap measure until such time that a full extraction could be executed. This is a removal of the operculum, the little extension of gum tissue over the top of a semi-erupted wisdom tooth which traps food particles and makes cleaning difficult. It’s a periodontal procedure, but the surgeon can do it easily, much sooner.

You’ll get the X-Ray and arrive at the clinic an hour late, but the surgeon will be fine with it since she’s running late, too. While you recline in a chair facing towards the highway, you’ll share a laugh over how your second cousin was head of oral-maxillofacial at her med school while she was there. You’ll have to take off your wrist watch, as the thermal cauterizer requires removal of metal from exposed skin, then she’ll inject local anesthesia into your gums in three different spots. She’ll say it’ll sting but it won’t hurt too much, and soon the whole left side of your mouth will be heavy and numb. At any given time there’ll be two or three dental implements and fingers in your mouth, probing, dabbing, cutting, sucking, cauterizing, and sometimes a bit of sensitivity will flash some pain through the anesthesia, but you’re a strong and courageous trooper who isn’t bothered by a little twinge.

The whole time, the surgeon will be explaining how third molars are encased in a sac of tissue which encourage their eruption, but sometimes the sac mucosa can stay around the crown of the tooth and merge with the gum, forming the operculum which covers a semi-erupted wisdom tooth and provides a place for bacteria to thrive and cause pericoronitis. While she talks about this, you’ll ponder on how nice it would be for dentists and periodontists and such to provide little keyboards hooked up to speech units by the reclining chairs for patients to be able to converse, Stephen Hawking style.

The procedure will be done in about fifteen minutes, ending with something like a chewing gum wad placed over the newly exposed crown of your wisdom tooth, to protect it and shape pockets out of your new gumline. The surgeon will tell you to take some over-the-counter pain killer as soon as you get home, and that the worst of the pain and swelling will be within 48 hours, after which it will subside.

Later that day, you’ll go to the barber shop of your childhood for your usual yearly shave and haircut (where “shave” is code for full face and upper body massage with hot towel and maybe a shave), but you’ll find the place closed and abandoned, doors chained up and barber pole dark. The security guard will tell you that it’s gone, but there’s a new barber shop around the corner, where most of the barbers have moved to because the owner of the old barber shop ran out of money. You’ll go to the new barber shop and get a 330 peso shave and haircut, but your childhood barber will have retired earlier this year and the new guy is just a bit too harsh with his massage fingers and a bit too light with the razor. You’ll tip him generously anyway, and look in the mirror to see if your cheek is swelling — it isn’t — and be amazed at how old you look with this new crew cut and those dark circles under your eyes.

Happy Operculectomy Plus Shave and a Haircut Day!

(With apologies to Girls Are Pretty.)