Pulling Teeth


After being asked by my friend Marion to take part in her 50 firsts in her 50th year challenge, she has asked me to aid her once again (she must be mad!!) only this time to pass comment on 1 thing that is a first for me that I have done since February this year. The opportunity to help Marion out is a no brainer, but also I haven’t actually blogged about my chosen first so here it is…

Since February I have had an operation under General Anaesthetic for the first time.

The decision to go ahead and get my teeth sorted was not easy. Many who know me, are at least aware that for me, this was a big deal. The super condensed version of events rolls like this…

Back in 1997 my dad tragically passed away. Cancer. The big C got him. He was 3 months away from his given “time’s up” date. Health at a standstill. Jaundiced. Unable to feed himself as he had not enough strength to raise his arms. This prompted a TPN line to be surgically placed into his main artery under his collar bone, to provide food proteins through a drip. When put to bed, he moved slightly in the night, and the line came out as it had not been secured in any way… it was just sticking into him. He bled. The surgeons took the line out the following day but the end fell further inside him. They went in again to fish it out and slipped, puncturing his lung. He died a few days later.

That, mixed with my own terrifying experiences of dentist visits through my childhood, removed all trust I had for any surgically related thing or person ever. I didn’t go to the dentist for 12 years. I went once by accident a few years ago, an emergency dentist, who confounded my distrust.

2 years ago I started getting abscesses in my mouth, under my teeth, which I would merely pain kill, for ridiculous amounts of time, taking tablets over the prescribed dose, just to get through the pain. Then I got used to the pain, and worked, through 4 abscesses.

18 months ago the fifth abscess took me off work and nearly collapsed my whole head. I got through it again but this is when the teeth causing the problem started to poison me with toxins. 3 molars decayed into stumps. I couldn’t eat solid food and lived on soup, rice or soft pasta for over a year before I got the courage to go to see *a* dentist.

Another abscess last Christmas and the decision became much more urgent. I had to go; I couldn’t eat so much as a cup-a-soup and had ridiculous IBS and acid problems. I was also struggling to sing, play harmonica or smile in anyway shape or form. Mum intervened. With some backing from her and some words of wisdom I finally had what I needed to make the call. I went and saw Dr Jack Roberts. Dentist.

Jack is a dude. He’s in his sixties.. Been doing this shit for 40 years. He sat me down in the chair after 5 minutes of my waffling/shaking. He told me the clock was off and to tell him everything. I did. Tears occurred. He then told me off for not brushing my teeth. I liked him.

He had a look after promising not to go near anything other than a mirror. The news wasn’t good. He described my mouth as a “disaster area” and reeled off a list so long and complicated that I think the assistant fell asleep. He explained that nothing could happen at all until I had the 3 worst offenders removed, and that in their state, they would merely crumble and that going under General Anaesthetic was the only option. He put me on the waiting list and said he would give me antibiotics when I got my next abscess, to keep me going until the op date, as I would probably get more.

Another abscess and Jack was true to his word. He congratulated me on cleaning my teeth on my second visit. At this point I started writing a song humming some lyrical reference to smiling underneath… (listen here)

The Operation date came through earlier than expected. July 21st. Shit.

I got my head down, tried not to think about it and thought everyday about why I had finally decided to do this. I wanted to smile again. And sing. And play harmonica. Oh yes… and eating. Lots of that.

I turned up as promised having starved myself of coffee and mints the night before and went in to see the big scary man with the needle. He was great. He got a short version of this story and got busy getting some Emla sorted out for my hands so I wouldn’t feel the needle, which I hadn’t realised, would be a drip type one going into my hand, rather than a big vein one… I had that one for a couple of hours and sat in the waiting room with my friend Cat to keep me company whilst I rocked to and fro thwibbing my lips.

“Ryan Mitchell-Smith please”

Can my stomach go that far down? Wow. Utter nauseous-ness. Shit. Shitty shit shit.

I went through to the scary room and the nice guy from before asked me to get up on the table and lie back. I did. I then began to shake rather uncontrollably from the neck down, and whilst compus-mentus, thanked the team in advance and apologised for what my body was doing to me. It was leaving the table violently without my control. The nice man said “Don’t worry Ryan, we expected this, I got extra supplies just in case. Here’s a free couple of pints on the NHS…” I didn’t hear another thing.

I woke 45 minutes later on the ward covered in blood. There were tears streaming from my eyes as I woke and I cried for nearly ten minutes without knowing really why or why I was smiling.

I assured the nurses I was ok…

“Iht awight.. I OKAY”

They sorted me out with… chicken soup… in a cup. It was luke warm but my god I yummed it right up.

Nice man came through to see how I was doing…

“Erm.. What are you doing awake? I gave you enough to sink a rhinoceros!”

“Hehehehehe eeeah. ou id.” :)

I recovered steadily and waited for them to tell me I could move. Oh. Jesus fucking Christ. My whole body felt as though I’d run 2 marathons… and my chest.. What had happened to my chest!?!

As it turns out, I had 2 lower back molars removed and an upper left. That was the shitter. They had to pull my head right back to get any purchase on it and bruised my chest. Needed doing though, and they did a great job. A great deal of faith restored, for what it was worth.

I had booked two weeks off work to recover and I needed every day of it… slowly eating and blending all my food at least until the holes in my gums closed enough to be safe. I decided then, that my first steak would be on birthday 35.

That was a couple of weeks ago. It was fucking stunning.

His anniversary is on saturday (20th Oct) and I’m spending the evening in with another steak, a glass of red, with a smile on. :)