Wisdom teeth

It has become a rite of passage. In your senior years of high school, out come your wisdom teeth and on come the braces. All for your pearly whites! Unfortunately my teeth have always been “straight enough” and getting braces would have been a waste of money!

A few months back at a routine checkup my dentist takes an X-ray of my teeth after I suspect I need fillings. I was right – I had three cavities and needed fillings! Out of curiosity I have a look at the X-ray. To my alarm, there appears to be some teeth lying horizontally! I learn that these are my wisdom teeth and my dentist recommends that they be removed.

I schedule an appointment with an oral surgeon. After a panoramic X-ray scan, the news is not good. All four wisdom teeth removed and the ones in the lower jaw are very close to the inferior alveolar nerve. Accordingly, the surgeon tells me that in my case, there is a much higher chance of nerve damage, with the potential to lose feeling to my lips and chin! He recommends that I leave the lower wisdom teeth in.

Upset, I rush back home and do some research of my own. I trawl through the web looking at gory Youtube videos of wisdom teeth removal and read of horror stories of operations gone horribly wrong. I worry myself sick with the prospect of having nerve damage post-operation. Although my teeth are not troubling me, I read that horizontally impacted like mine usually cause problems down the track. I also read that the likelihood of complications increases with age. Later on in life the teeth are harder to remove (they have fully developed), the jaw bone is a lot harder and takes longer to heal.

I decide it is best to get a second opinion. Fortunately, one of my colleagues knows of a really good surgeon. He makes an introduction and I am booked into another consult. This time a more advanced X-ray scan is done – a Cone Beam CT. I meet the surgeon who shows me the scan. A few clicks later the software highlights the nerve and gives a 3D rendering of where it runs in relation to the impacted teeth. It is close – quite possibly touches – but he assures me that there will be a low risk of nerve damage. He is also a very experienced surgeon and hasn’t had a patient with nerve damage. This is comforting news.

I bite the bullet. Surgery is scheduled for 8:30am, Tuesday 4th November 2014!

Since the operation is to be under general anesthetic, it is imperative that I have a caregiver pick me up after the surgery and be supervised for the following 24 hours. My colleague Grant generously offers to pick me up after the surgery and his parents even more generously offer me a bed at their place while I recover! I graciously accept their generosity!

Tuesday dawns and I catch the bus down to the clinic. Suddenly I find myself in the operating chair. An IV is attached to my left forearm and I soon fall asleep.

I awake with a mouth full of gauze mats and a couple of ice packs strapped to my face. Dizzy and disorientated, I start asking a lot of questions: was there any nerve damage? How many wisdom teeth were removed? How long have I been in recovery? Can I have a copy of the Cone Beam CT scan? The nurse advises me to stop talking and bite on the gauze. Persistent in my way, I ask for a notepad and continue my inquisition. Apparently I am the first she’s seen that asks for a notepad in recovery! My surgeon returns who confirms the surgery went well, gives me a CD of the scans and a small container bearing my wisdom teeth! Once the IV containing 100mg of Tramal has been consumed, we leave the clinic.

En route to his parents place, Grant picks up my prescription medication – painkillers (Panadol and Tramal), anti-inflammatories (Tilcotil) and antibiotics (Co-trimoxazole). I unpack my belongings and Grant’s parents place and rest upright on the couch. I later make my way to the bed and take a brief nap. I wake and spend the rest of the day in the lounge watching television, talking to Grant’s parents (Graeme and Margaret), and looking at photo albums!

My mouth starts to swell and by the second day my slender jaw line becomes flush with my cheekbones! Feeling slowly is restored to my lower face and I’m relieved that I have suffered no nerve damage. With curiosity, I maneuver my tongue to back of my mouth and ‘feel’ the wounds. I can feel the four sites where the wisdom teeth were removed.

It is now Wednesday and Graeme and Margaret note my perkiness and were surprised by my speedy recovery. One of the benefits of being fit! A meager 35 hours after the operation, I even find me playing indoor soccer!

Grant picks me up from Graeme and Margaret’s place Thursday morning. After two days off, I am back at work (albeit with a half day resume). Back at the flat, I explore the Cone Beam CT scan and manage to replicate the tooth-nerve rendering I recall the surgeon showing me. Fascinating stuff!

It is approaching a week after the surgery and so far so good. I am off the painkillers and have finished my dose of antibiotics. My teeth from time to time hurt, oddly the ones at the front! I have virtually no bleeding and cheeks are no longer swollen. Part of the gum on occasion gets between the second molars, something I’ll ask if I can get remedied at my follow up visit.

Getting my wisdom teeth removed was not nearly as traumatic as I was anticipating. This is bound to be specific to each case so mileage may vary! I am glad I sought a second opinion and believe that both the very experienced surgeon and seeing the CT scan myself gave me the confidence to go through with the operation.




Coromandel K2!

If you are a bit like me and relish challenges, look no further than the Coromandel K2! But don’t take my word for it. The K2 is reportedly “the toughest one day cycle challenge in the Southern Hemisphere“! This year, the K2 starts at Coromandel (each year it rotates between Coromandel/Thames/Tairua/Whitianga townships).

I had great ambitions for my K2 with plans to finish with a time of 6:15. It is a demanding 192km course with 2,300m of hill climbing! In preparation I knew I had to hit the Waitaks and do longer rides than I usually do. The months go by and suddenly November is upon me. I have not done enough riding or any hill repeats!

Realizing my preparation was not adequate, I drive down to Coromandel at 4 a.m. from Auckland on the morning of the race. I am a sucker for punishment.

I collect my timing chip and race number. Like last year, I ambitiously sign up for Group 3. This group consists of riders aiming to break 6 hours.

I am at the start line and the race begins! The Coromandel-Thames is the easiest of the four stages and is a good one to start with. Before for I know it, I have passed Thames and am part way up Kopu Hill, the largest of the hills on the circuit. It involves a 425m climb over 14km… it’s one long hill! My legs are feeling fine but I am already the tailing Charlie of the bunch. There a brief downhill section and that’s where I get dropped. I timidly roll down the hill and watch the group race into the distance.

Fortunately I am not the only orphaned rider. Slowly, another group forms and we make headway and arrive in Tairua. Next up: Pumpkin Hill! My legs are tiring. Again, I get dropped partway up the hill. Knowing my target time of 6:15 was in jeopardy, I put in a last ditch effort attempt to catch up to the bunch. A lot of effort but to no avail! The groups are now few and far in between; I ride most of the remaining course solo.

I roll into Whitianga and brace myself for the last 43km stage of the ride. From last year’s attempt I know that this is the hardest stage of all. I look at my watch and notice that over the 160km I have biked so far my average speed is 31km/h. Not too bad I say to myself. If only it was flat from here I might stand a chance of finishing by 6:15!

Unfortunately, the last 32km is anything but flat! The previous hills have taken their toll, and in conjunction with my inadequate preparation, my legs are well spent. I crawl up each hill but through shear fortitude I continue to pedal. I pass a rider who gets off their bike to clasp their inflamed thighs in great agony! The K2 is one tough course and takes no prisoners!

Fortuitously, the last stage has extra aid stations. Otherwise I would have tempted dehydration. I toss my empty bottles and pick up ones filled with water. It is 2pm and is quite hot! The wind has started to pick up and to make matters worse, it is a head wind!

Finally, one more hill to go! The infamous Whangapoua Hill! Although it is not quite as tall as Kopu, it is a lot steeper and is a really rough hill to finish the ride with! Again, through sheer determination, one pedal at a time, I navigate hairpin turns and arrive at the top of Whangapoua. It is all downhill from here to the finish line. Oddly, it is my fingers – not my legs – which are getting a workout. The descent feels like a mirror image of the ascent. There’s a succession of 25km/h turns followed by a 15km/h one! Yes, it is one corner you don’t want to mess with!

I am glad to see the finish line and finish with an official time of 6:39:13, some 25 minutes slower than my target time. Later on I find out that I was 202/542 to cross the finish line, and 32/59 in my category. Could be better and room for improvement!

Next time:

  • Training: sort out a hilly route and stick to it!
  • Consider changing to a cassette with an easier low gear.
  • Nutrition was adequate: I took two bananas, four energy gels and two bottles (one water, one electrolytes). On the course, I picked up two bananas, three bottles (two water, two electrolytes) and a handful of jelly beans.