SparkNotes Blog

Auntie SparkNotes: Out, Damn Teeth

We still have our wisdom teeth, and we don’t even want to know what “dry socket” means. —Sparkitors

Dear Auntie,

So in about a month I get my wisdom teeth removed. I have been told 1) It’s not a big deal 2) It’s a rite of passage (which does NOT make sense to me; why would you want to remove “wisdom”? I feel immature enough as it is…Anywhoo) and 3) IT’S FUN!

Okay no one has told me it’s fun, but I like to imagine they did.

My problem is, I am petrified. I have never had surgery before, never been given anesthesia before, or anything like that. I couldn’t even make it through the consultation appointment without freaking out and crying! My main fears are as follow: needle, anesthesia, and dry sockets/side-effects. A lot of my friends have gotten theirs out recently and told me its not a prob, but I’m so paranoid I’m going to be the freak who has some preexisting condition and dies! And when I told my mom that I was afraid of this, she said at least I wouldn’t notice!!!!? I really am sooo freaked out right now; I can’t think about it without panicking and having a meltdown.

Poor, perturbed Sparkler. Oral surgery isn’t fun, and Auntie completely understands that you’re feeling freaked out—and I’ll do my very best to help you. Except first… it’s just…


“When I told my mom that I was afraid of this, she said at least I wouldn’t notice.”


Of course, you’re dreading the ordeal of wisdom tooth removal far too much to appreciate this right now—but I really hope that at some point in the not-too-distant future, you’ll be able to muster a little bit of appreciation for the fact that your mom is kind of hilarious.

And in the meantime, you can take comfort in the following facts:

– Fear of the dentist is very, very common—and according to a dentist friend of mine, it’s because oyour brain actually works against your attempts to rationalize. A sensation in your mouth is carried by a unique neural pathway, which means that when it hits your brainstem, it registers as different (and scarier) than it would if the same thing had happened to, say, your arm (which is why even the toughest, most pain-resistant tough guy can still be reduced to a mass of jelly when someone comes at him with a dental drill.) So when you think about your surgery, try to remember that the fear you feel is coming from the least-evolved part of your brain.

– According to my research, the chance of you dying from having your wisdom teeth removed is something like one in 1.75 million. Which basically means that you’re more likely to get in a car accident, be struck by lightning, or get attacked by killer bees on your way to the dentist than to die while you’re there. (What, that’s not comforting? Come on! I’m really trying, here!)

– Getting your wisdom teeth removed really is a rite of passage. Not that it’s particularly fulfilling or fun, but it is something that almost everyone has to go through—which means that not only are you in good company, but your dentist has done this about a billion times. He’s already made sure it’s safe to take your teeth out—and to put your mind at ease, you can read feedback from his previous patients online, or better yet, find someone who had their teeth extracted by him and find out what to expect.

– And finally, all the things you’re scared of? You’ll only be aware of them for a combined total of about five seconds. (Except for dry sockets, which a) mostly happen to smokers, and b) are unpleasant, but not long-lasting.) Once the IV goes in your arm—and you don’t even have to watch it happen!—you won’t even have time to think about it before you’re asleep. And since you don’t dream while under anesthesia, you’ll wake up with no sensation of time having passed at all. Which, y’know, actually is kind of fun.

So remind yourself of these facts when you get freaked out, and in the weeks leading up to your appointment, try to focus on what comes afterward—a mouth free of renegade, evil teeth; an unlimited supply of milkshakes; and a week-long recovery in which you get to spend your days doing nothing but lying on the couch, watching cartoons, and feeling delightfully loopy from your post-op painkillers.

By then, you might even be able to appreciate your mom’s sense of humor.

Have you had your wisdom teeth removed? Share your experience to comfort this poor, scared Sparkler! And to get in touch with Auntie, email her at