I smile a lot. I am, for the most part, a happy person. And I have a big smile too. Of course, I want to take good care of it so I do as instructed. I brush my teeth at least twice a day, I floss and I go to the dentist twice a year. Which means two times every year I voluntarily terrify myself. I am one of those crazy weird dental-phobic people.
Most of the dentists I've had in my adult life were very nice, very gentle, very professional but unfortunately the first one was the worst one. I was young, probably 5 or 6 and my father was the one who took me to the appointment. I remember the hushed waiting room with it's hard wooden chairs and heavy dark green draperies at the window. The dentist found two tiny cavities in my baby teeth. and offered to fill them on the spot. My father agreed. The dentist offered novacaine hesitantly although he said he it would a very speedy procedure. "quick in, quick out" I think he said. My father declined as unnecessary. I didn't get a vote.
I wouldn't have known what to expect because back then children just did as they were told to do, things were not explained. I had no idea of the sound, the feel or the pain involved. I was not prepared. And I was an obedient child, "Sit" I sat. "Open" I opened. "Hold still" I swear I tried. The noise was terrifying, the pressure of the drill ached as it pushed against my tiny jaw and suddenly there was a flash of pain. I certainly was not expecting that! I'm sure it was instinct that made me reach out and try to push the dentists hand away. "Hold her down" he barked at his nurse. She held my arm against the chair. I thrashed harder, crying now. "Call her father in" the dentist called to someone over the sound of that drill. Suddenly my father was there and to my shock, he helped them to hold me down. All in all 3 people were holding me down, one on each arm and someone holding my legs still while I sobbed and the dentist worked. I'm certain that it was brief, but it felt as if it went on forever. I need to add here that my father was not a cruel man. He was as surprised as everyone else that I would react that way. He never needed anything for dental discomfort and it didn't occur to him that I might.
As an adult, I know darned well that nobody is going to do that to me again. The logical side of my brain is calm, rational and prepared and knows better. The illogical side of my brain becomes a terrified 5 year old again as soon as I make the appointment. The two sides battle it out. The results of which are that I make the appointments twice each year, I show up to the appointments but I'm petrified the entire time I am there. Heart pounding, palm sweating rigid with fear sitting in the chair trying hard to not cry. It's stupid.
It's especially stupid since most dentists that I've had as an adult were wonderful, gentle and understanding of my fear. I have learned that it is helpful to simply say, "by the way, I have a bit of a dental phobia" and they respond kindly. Although there was that one dentist who told me that he wished his patients could just mail in their teeth for him to work on so he wouldn't have to deal with actual people. That's the same guy who whistled a creepy tuneless song the entire time he worked on me. When I once mentioned the whistling, he snapped back, "I do not!" Ok. Not just a creepy whistler but one who is unaware of his creepy whistling.
Anyway, fast forward to a few months ago. I selected our new dentists blind. I mean, I did some online research but really until you meet them you don't really know. The first appointment went well. Teeth cleaning and x-rays. No cavities but looks like I need a crown. The dentist, a woman by the way, showed me where the problem lay and why she would encourage me to go ahead and schedule the procedure. I could not argue with her reasoning. It was sound. A few weeks later I called and made the appointment. When I made the appointment I mentioned my dental fears. I think what I said was, "Please mark my files with, Patient is a Big Baby". The office lady laughed but kindly. The lady in the office, who is exceptionally sweet, said that my feelings were not at all uncommon and that the doctor could write a prescription for me for something that would calm me down and make the appointment easier for me to endure. I was surprised but thanked her and said I would think about it.
I did think about it for quite some time. I felt as if I would be giving in to my fears if I did that. That there was somehow, something noble and courageous about being so utterly terrified and going through the appointment anyway. I finally talked it over with Tim who said, as he always does, that it's my decision, but honestly, who am I proving anything to? Myself? If so, I've already done that. His advice was to take them up on the offer and, for a change, go through a dental procedure with less stress. I thought about it awhile longer and then made the leap. I called and said "yes thank you, I will take you up on your offer".
As directed, yesterday, the day of the procedure, I took my one pill an hour prior to the appointment. I've always been a real lightweight when it comes to medication. And of course I was too nervous to eat. So I was fairly LaLa when I arrived. Tim helped me from the car and once entered steered me to a seat. They called me in very quickly and again, I was gently steered to a seat. I nearly nodded off, I was that relaxed. There was so heart pounding, no palm sweating and only once did I get panicky. But it resolved itself in short order.
Every step was explained as we went along. As most dentists in the past few years, they numbed the area prior to the shot. The difference was they moved the chair into a sitting position so that the topical anesthetic didn't roll on down my throat numbing it as well. Always makes it feel as though I cannot swallow. I did not feel the shot. Everything that could be done to make it a less horrible experience was done. I was in the chair for, as it turns out, a bit over two hours. It felt like maybe 30 minutes. Before I left I was surprised to be told that that I should eat and drink cold things to help keep the swelling down ."Like a Milkshake", the dentist said. Now there is a prescription I can get behind. Accommodatingly, Tim did get me an old fashioned real chocolate milkshake that tasted like ambrosia. Honestly, it was the best thing I ever ate.
I don't know if it was the sleeplessness of the preceding nights, the medication, the small trauma done to me or the grey rainy day but once home, I could not seem to stay awake. I forced myself to do a few small things and then went to just rest a minute. I sat down on the sofa in the family room. Woke up three hours later. But with absolutely no residual discomfort. None. Just amazing.
The good part is, this dentist gets me. Me and every other dental phobic person in the world. I cannot say for certain that I am over my fears forever now. But I do know that my new dentist and her staff will take good care of me. I am in very good hands.
I wish you all good dentistry and pretty smiles.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.