Adventures in oral surgery

I didn't want to write about this until the results came back because then I could make it funny without scaring anyone, but I still have to wait another week and I cannot withhold the carnival of bodily fun any longer.

Last week, I had a tongue biopsy and while some of you will immediately understand that cutting into a body part that has only slightly less nerve endings than a clitoris would involve some challenges, I did not. I’ve bitten my tongue before, how hard could it be??

Oh, my friend. How wrong I was.

The first mistake was scheduling the biopsy on my lunch break.

Doc: “Do you have any questions?”

Me: “How long is this going to take?”

Doc: “Well, usually about an hour.”

Me: “What? An hour?? Aren't you just grabbing a couple cells?”

Doc: “Well it's more involved in that... wait, do you have someplace you have to be?”

Me: “This is my lunch break, I'm heading back to work afterwards.”

Doc: “Um, do you need to reschedule?”

Me: “Why would I need that? Let's just get it over with.*”

(Lesson 1: never schedule an invasive medical test on your lunch break.)

The word "biopsy" is slightly terrifying because the implication is that something must be very wrong. So wrong, in fact, that very serious people in lab coats must look at pieces of you under a microscope and figure out if whatever it is happens to be wrong enough for you to die.

So I don't know for sure, obviously, but the thing wrong, in my case, appears to be that I have very sharp teeth and they've abraded a portion of my tongue. But they need to rule out the worst case scenario first, so, fine.

The eventual treatment will probably be to shave gentler fangs but in the meantime, I have to wait for the results.

The sharp molars that probably caused the initial injury have been scraping against the newly raw patch like shards of glass and the whole experience has been NOTHING like a good, old-fashioned stray chomp. I can’t believe I thought even for one second that a biopsy would be like an errant bite.

I'm on the verge of turning into a grouchy Dr. House except instead of a medical degree and staff, I have a search engine and a husband. But I suddenly understand so much more about chronic pain. It’s nearly impossible to function. This must be what’s fueling the opioid crisis, but if I felt like this indefinitely, I’d be addicted too. Poor Dr. House, I’m sorry I was so harsh when I yelled at the TV “put the pills down!”


I’ve had a nearly constant fever for six days so along with that and the discomfort, mining this situation for comedy potential has had limitations.

Nevertheless, lets press on.

Before the procedure, I was led to an assistant.

Doc: "Okay, let's get you set up with a care plan."

Me: "Care plan?"

Doc: "Yes, this gentleman will help you."

Me (thinking): Oh how nice, the office has a special person on staff just to tell patients not to smoke and stay hydrated so they heal. Aww!

Careplan dude: "That'll be $500."

I whipped out my credit card. Weird billing policy but whatever. They promised they’d reimburse as soon as the insurance company paid and since my dentist recommended this oral surgeon so emphatically, the important thing was just that he just have mad surgery skills.

Then it was time for the procedure.

Have you ever had laughing gas (also known as nitrous oxide)? It’s usually given to help tolerate things like this. I’d had it once while getting my wisdom teeth out eons ago and that went well. I didn’t have any reason to suspect it had side effects like causing intestines to blow up like puffer fish eels (if that were a thing).

There is a reason people are sedated during colonoscopies: pumping air into the colon (in order to insert a camera and look around) is pretty uncomfortable. Intestines are meant to hold food, not air.

Towards the end of the procedure, I started to feel sharp pains in my belly.

I had no idea it was related to what was happening up north but the level of internal alarm escalated with the rising discomfort.

When the part that hurts is NOT the part that the surgeon is cutting, the immediate thought (after “really, universe?? NOW???”) is that some kind of personal emergency must be happening, either related to that time of the month or food poisoning.

I tried to conceal my distress. (I'm a very private person, as you can see. I only share details with the entire internet.)

There was no way I could describe what was happening so I kept quiet until it ended and I was cleared for driving.

I fled to the car and raced home. At this point, the agony was so high that I started questioning the nature of what must be happening. It was very possible I was actually in labor. After all, plenty of people have babies without ever knowing they were pregnant, right?

I considered driving to a hospital but I decided I’d rather just give birth on the bathroom floor in the privacy of my own home. I pulled in the lot and crawled upstairs to die.

Luckily, I brought my phone so I could start working on funeral arrangements and the Dr. House part of my brain came alive. I began googling and lo and behold! Nitrous oxide can "distend" bowels or “transfer” into “body air cavities.” Isn’t that nice.

It did go away after a few hours, thankfully. I can handle one body part being out of whack but not TWO at the same time.

It will be 6 weeks before I can eat normally but I should be allowed to have coffee again Thursday. The more important question is, when can I get back to smoking cigars and chewing tobacco?? (KIDDING. Too soon?)

There may be a part 2!

. . .

Part 2: yay! The issue seems to be my retainer causing a recurring injury (no wonder it wasn’t healing). My dentist filed down the sharp edge and feels that will fix it. I wish they’d considered this BEFORE cutting into me because damn, but he did say “there’s no such thing as catching oral cancer early” and so wanted to make sure it wasn’t anything worse before having the luxury of time to troubleshoot.