What it Was Like To Get a Dental Implant, Insofar as the Nitrous Oxide Will Let Me Remember

I have been so sad and anxious about getting my dental implant, and now it is done and I am so much happier. Plus I tried nitrous oxide and now I have a new life plan involving lots of dental work.

To review, I had the tooth extracted back in September, and a bone graft put in. In early January the oral surgeon had me come back in to check the bone graft, and it looked good so I went back near the end of January for the implant. (Before having this done, I thought “the implant” was the fake tooth, but the implant is the name for the screw-thing they put into the gums for the crown to attach to; the crown is the part that looks like a tooth.)

I chose to be unconscious for the tooth extraction, but chose nitrous oxide for the implant, partly because I was less upset about the second procedure than the first, and partly because I wanted to try nitrous oxide after hearing all the varying reviews. I am happy to report that my experience was on the positive end of the spectrum: it was MARVELOUS. The only downside is it felt a little like having too much to drink, in that I felt self-conscious about how I was coming across to others; and I was uncertain about successfully coordinating, for example, the assigned complicated task of breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. And my mouth was numb and I didn’t have my glasses on, so I had the unpleasant sensation of being semi-detached from most of my senses. But that was like 10% unpleasant combined with 90% Very Very Pleasant, so in short I am a fan and plan to see if I can get it for all future upsetting dental work, such as crowns. I HATE getting crowns, and I have four of them and two of them are getting ready to need replacing.

I will see what I can remember about getting the implant. They first gave me a dose of antibiotics and asked me to confirm some information. I had to have someone with me to drive me home, since I was having nitrous oxide. They put a shower cap thing over my hair and disposable booties over my shoes and a big disposable sheet over the rest of my person. They took my blood pressure and asked if I was nervous (yes), and put an oxygen monitor on my finger. At this point it was still just me and the person who administered the nitrous oxide. She then put a little cup thing over my nose and gave me some oxygen, which just felt like a cool nose breeze.

Then the nitrous oxide, and she asked me to tell her when I felt a little tingly. I get a little paranoid about things like this: I worry that I am highly suggestible and will say I feel something when there is no way I could be feeling anything yet, and then they will be like “Gotcha!” Which of course they would not do. Anyway, I felt nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, maybe I feel something I can’t tell, no it’s nothing, nothing, maybe I’m imagining something, no it’s nothing, nothing, nothing, OH there it is! Just sort of a tingly feeling, as advertised, and then maybe a minute later a definite headrush/buzz/high feeling. Really great. She told me she’d leave it right there, but would crank it higher when we got to the point where the oral surgeon was putting in the Novocaine. And I was not nervous at all! Why had I been nervous! Everything was great!

She said it would work in a “rollercoaster” fashion: first I’d feel it, then I’d feel it less, then I’d feel it more again, and so forth. She said this was partly the nature of the medication, and partly because when it’s working well, people forget to breathe through their noses, and then they sober up a bit and remember. And that was how it worked for me: at one point I thought she had turned it off and started the oxygen (which she’d told me she’d do at the end), but then after a few minutes there was a renewal of the headrush/buzz/high feeling.

The oral surgeon and her assistant came in right after I was starting to feel the nitrous oxide. The doctor asked how I was and the person handling the nitrous oxide said, “She’s doing great: she loves everyone,” possibly because that’s exactly what I had told her a minute earlier. The doctor put numbing gel on a Q-tip and propped the Q-tip between my lip and my gum. Then there was some talk about needles, and I floated right through that. Ha ha! Needles! So funny! I felt very much like laughing, but stifled it. The doctor picked up something I couldn’t see, and the person handling the laughing gas said she was going to give me more now. I felt GREAT, and also like I might pass out but in a very good way. I felt as if I could definitely fall asleep if I wanted to, but I didn’t want to miss any of this legal high. There was some sort of needle sensation I guess but who cared! Then the doctor said “I’m afraid this one is a rough one,” and her assistant said, “Deep breath in now,” and I thought, “Wheeeeeeeeee ow ow wheeeeeeeeee isn’t it funny how that theoretically hurts quite a bit and yet la la la wheeeeeee this is GREAT I feel WONDERFUL and also I think I successfully obeyed the instruction to breathe in, so that’s good!”

Things are a little muddled in my memory. There was a lot of messing around in my mouth. Some gauze and some suction and so forth. I couldn’t really feel anything because my mouth was numb and because I was quite high. I think the doctor might have tried one kind of implant and rejected it for another kind, because she said something about magenta being more feminine but the other was a better fit; I don’t remember if she put one in and then took it out or if she discovered this some other way. And the doctor showed me an implant and it took a moment for me to understand she was talking to me so I could tune in and take a look at it, and I remember seeing a little grey cone/screw thing. I don’t know if this is the same one I have now or not, because the part that shows is a gold/bronze color, and I also remember her saying something about gold being fancy and that now I had some bling, so maybe she tried/considered three different implants. I remember hearing, with no concern, some debate about which one to use, and there was an x-ray and then some more work, and then after awhile there was another x-ray, and then some more work, and then another x-ray. Sometimes I let my eyes close; sometimes I looked around to help stay awake to appreciate the high. There were at least two occasions when something like a tiny jackhammer was doing something on my gums; I assume putting in the implant? It didn’t hurt, just sounded/felt a little weird. Mostly sounded: I wasn’t feeling much in the mouth region at all. I couldn’t even tell if my mouth was open or closed.

A few times the assistant said I could close and swallow, and I tasted a lot of salt. I would think this meant blood, except it didn’t taste entirely like blood, and also they were frequently using a sprayer and a suction thing in my mouth, and also I wouldn’t think blood would be quite so salty. It tasted more as if they had been using salt water in the sprayer. I still wasn’t sure I was able to successfully follow instructions, but each time I did seem to be following them, at least enough to satisfy. They asked for my flipper (the temporary tooth on a retainer-like thing) and I was able to tell them it was in the pocket of the cardigan I’d given to the nurse, but I was a little surprised that I was able to do that. The surgeon put the flipper in and said, “Yep, that’s going to be in the way,” and they discussed whether I had an appointment scheduled with my dentist, which I did. I continued to float/enjoy. The person handling the nitrous oxide asked how I was doing, and I said “Great!,” and she said “Mom knows best, right?,” and I didn’t know why she was saying it, and I thought she was referring to herself as “Mom.” (Afterward I remembered that we’d talked about my mom saying nitrous oxide was great and that I should definitely try it.)

At one point the doctor said, “Oh, sorry,” and I had no idea what she was talking about but thought it was very important to indicate to her that I TOTALLY got it, so I nodded and half-winked and tried to look knowledgeable/forgiving. Once she said, “Oops, let’s not drown you,” and I had no idea what she was talking about. Several times she asked if I was okay and I said “Yes” and “Lovely!” She said unfortunately she couldn’t send me home with a canister of the stuff, and I laughed and then had trouble stopping laughing but did manage it.

Then the assistant was wiping around my mouth with a damp cloth and the doctor was saying things had gone really well. I tried to nod understandingly. She and the assistant left the room. The person handling the nitrous oxide said she was going to switch me to oxygen, and in the next couple of minutes I started sobering up and regaining control of my various senses. I thought, “OH, I see, my mouth is hard to control because it’s all NUMB! I get it now!” I shifted my arms and legs for the first time since starting the nitrous oxide. It felt kind of good to not be so out of it, though I also felt like I would like to breathe through my mouth to extend the nitrous oxide as long as possible.

She gave me some after-care instructions: don’t eat unpasteurized dairy for a couple of days; use ice for 20 minutes out of every 60 for the first two days, then switch to heat if necessary; don’t eat spiky/crispy things such as chips and nuts for a week; chew only on back teeth, no biting with the front teeth (I haven’t been able to bite with my front teeth since September, so no problem); swish with salt water; take ibuprofen; etc. I felt about 75% able to receive such instructions, but she gave me a piece of paper that repeated everything.

The whole thing from antibiotics to paperwork was less than an hour. I didn’t need gauze or anything afterward, because the bleeding had already stopped. The oral surgeon had said something earlier that baffled me but did not cause me to want clarification: she said she had a “perfect-size punch” so that there was hardly any bleeding and no stitches required. Let’s not think too much about what a “punch” might be, or how it might be used.

This is when I started feeling some pain, and the pain increased quite a bit over the next five or ten minutes. She’d told me to take four ibuprofen when I got home, but I had some in my purse so I stopped at the drinking fountain in the building’s hallway and took them right away. The pain increased to the point where it was hard to think about other things. It wasn’t excruciating, but it was very ouchie/distracting, and I felt squinty and bad. My other teeth were hurting too, even though they shouldn’t; I remembered the orthodontist long ago telling me that teeth are particularly prone to “sympathetic pain.” My mom and I had talked about stopping at a store on the way home, but I was too uncomfortable.

Instead my mom drove me directly to the dentist, where I had an appointment an hour later to get my flipper (the temporary fake tooth on a little retainer-type thing) adjusted to make room for the part of the implant that sticks out of the gums. I’d been worried the sticking-out part would be gross and upsetting, like an eighth-inch of screw protruding disturbingly, but it’s just a little nearly-flat gold circle on the gum. It’s almost pretty—as if I’ve gotten my gum pierced to match my earrings. And I can barely feel it with my tongue, even though the tongue exaggerates the size of everything: it’s much flatter and less noticeable than the stitches were, back when I had the tooth extracted.

It was about a twenty-minute drive to the dentist, and by the time we got there I was starting to think I might be feeling better. By half an hour after that, I was DEFINITELY feeling better: it was partly the ibuprofen but also I think the implant just stopped hurting so much, because when the ibuprofen wore off I still didn’t have any pain. Maybe just a slight tender feeling. It was like stubbing your toe, where first it hurts tremendously but then the pain drops off sharply and it doesn’t usually hurt later, or maybe it’s just a teeny bit sensitive. It was as if my gums were saying “AAAAAA INTRUDER AAAAAAAA NO THIS IS NOT RIGHT AAAAAAAAA THERE IS A GIANT THING HERE THAT SHOULDN’T BE HERE oh actually no this is okay this is fine no problem we can make room.”

The dentist carved a teensy bit out of the flipper, and then it fit great. The whole thing took about five minutes, and that included chatting about how the implant procedure had gone. My mom dropped me off at home and I put a bag of frozen corn on my face; I felt like I didn’t need it (no swelling, no pain) but didn’t want to be the idiot who thinks she’s fine and doesn’t follow the instructions and then gets a swollen face. The next day I did notice maybe a tiny bit of swelling, but maybe I was imagining it. Mostly I looked a little pink from the ice pack.

I feel VERY HAPPY about having this step done. I hope there are no complications, because if there aren’t, then all the stressful/hard/painful parts are over: all that’s left is having a crown attached to the implant, and I can have that done in about ten weeks, and then life can proceed. And I will not think about how the oral surgeon said it looked like the same problem might be happening with my other front tooth (probably injured at the same time and in the same way, whatever that time/way was) and we will just have to wait and see.

15 thoughts on “What it Was Like To Get a Dental Implant, Insofar as the Nitrous Oxide Will Let Me Remember

  1. Wendy

    I’ve never done drugs and was never really tempted to… and then I had nitrious oxide and was like “OH! This is why people get high!”

    It is the best thing ever for dental anxiety.

  2. Wendy

    I’ve never done drugs and was never really tempted to… and then I had nitrous oxide and was like “OH! This is why people get high!”

    It is the best thing ever for dental anxiety.

  3. MomQueenBee

    Oh, I’m so glad to hear this! I was one of the do-it-with-nitrous people and I’m relieved you had a good experience. I also laughed out loud at your experience–it was so much like my first nitrous assist, down to the part where you try to maintain the shreds of your dignity while you’re so, so high.

  4. Matti

    I’m so relieved for you that it went well! And also, yes, Nitrous 4Ever :) I laughed out loud at ” Plus I tried nitrous oxide and now I have a new life plan involving lots of dental work.”

  5. Ernie

    Hmm, your mom recommended this? My mom had a bad experience with Novocaine so when we were kids we were all afraid to get any. Then when I was in high school my dentist was like, YOU NEED TO GET NOVOCAINE OR WE CANNOT PROCEED. It wasn’t that bad. Oh what a difference a mom’s perspective can have!

  6. Kira

    After I read the part about breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, I spent the rest of the reading time doing that a little nervously. I do not know why I’m like this.
    I have been surprised and dismayed by how much reconstruction my teeth require as I age. But now I have the hope of nitrous oxide to hold onto the next time the dentist looks concerned, so thank you for that!

  7. Alice

    I love reading your recaps of experiences like this!! It makes me less nervous about nitrous oxide in the future (I had a poor experience the one/only time I had it – was sobbing so much throughout the my wisdom teeth extraction that the nitrous couldn’t get through my now-stuffed-up nose and calm me down at all) (but come to think of it, I also react weird to other mood-altering drugs; vicodin also causes me feelings of Extreme Distress instead of calming feelings, so maybe this is a Personal Issue now that I think about it)

  8. Kalendi

    Ha ha yes! Legal high! I direct the office music with my feet and try to sing along…makes my dental anxiety so much less. I’ve always thought they should pipe it into the waiting room!

  9. Squirrel Bait

    I’m glad you had a positive experience and the implant went so smoothly!

    I wonder if any of your readers have experience with using nitrous during childbirth. My local hospital started offering it recently, and I am curious. It seems like it could be a good option for the overly anxious among us, but then one might not want to feel altered during such a momentous occasion. (Or maybe one would appreciate a bit of distance during the trickier bits?!)

  10. Maggie2

    I had nitrous oxide post-childbirth, for the stitching all the tears part of the party, haha. I found it not very effective at all…. Practically useless. (Your mileage may vary.)
    I would hesitate to recommend it while actually birthing, you want to be very Motivated and Focused and Determined not “la-la-la what is happening” kind of woozy, but I am a crunchy natural mama type, so my opinion only.

  11. Maggie

    I’m so glad this went well for you! Nitrous was a game changer for me. I had a very bad dental experience I won’t detail here about 20 years ago and I have crappy teeth so I’ve needed a few dental procedures since then and I used to get anxious and sweat-drenched for years. Finally, a co-worker mentioned nitrous and basically badgered me into asking for it about 3 years ago when I got (yet another) crown. It was a revelation! The procedure felt the same, but I didn’t care. Fabulous! I will never go back to undrugged crowns/root canals/heaven only knows what else.

  12. Jenine

    Tooth things are very hard. My palms started sweating a little just reading your description. I’m so glad it went so well! and is over!!


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