Friday, November 3, 2006

Slaying the Dragon

All of my life I've been afraid of going to the dentist. I'm quite sure the root of the problem lies in my childhood (what else is new). You might think that a child born and raised in Canada would have excellent dental coverage because, isn't it part of the whole universal health care system? Actually, no. And it still isn't, to my knowledge, I'm sure somebody out there will correct me if I'm wrong. Anyway, since we didn't have coverage, the only time any of us went to the dentist was when it was absolutely necessary, as in, emergency. As in, you're in so much pain you don't really remember much about the experience other than it was awful. Not being one to learn a lesson, as an adult I pretty much continued this trend. A decade or more would pass in between visits, and I am not exaggerating.

Nobody in my family has good teeth and I'm no exception. My Dad's teeth were rotting out of his head by his late teens and he had them all pulled in his early 20s and got false teeth. Seeing my Daddy's teeth in a little glass jar next to the bathroom sink was completely normal to me. I don't recall my Mom having any real issues with her teeth, but us kids obviously got our choppers from my Dad's side. I faired better than my other siblings, thankfully, there's always someone worse off than you, right?

When I started my life over at 30, getting my teeth taken care of was one of the things I wanted to change. When I finally went, pretty much the first thing he did was send me to a surgeon to have my wisdom teeth out. All four of them at once. This was not a pleasant experience. The surgeon was a total ass, telling me I should have had them out at 13, not 33, but at least they did IV sedation so I don't remember them wrenching the teeth out of my head. More than 10 years later I still have nerve damage in my lower left jaw, but I've come to terms with the fact that it will probably never feel completely normal.

When I asked D to marry me I decided I wanted to get my front teeth fixed for the wedding. They weren’t that bad, but the two middle teeth overlapped a bit and there wasn’t any way to fix them, so I had the middle four teeth capped. Despite being shocked when I found out he was going to file them down to stubs before putting on the new porcelain versions, I was very happy with the results. Then one of them abscessed. I’d never had this happen before so I didn’t understand what was going on. By the time I made it his office after a weekend of torture the right side of my face was swollen from my eye to my upper lip, my sinus cavity completely filled with infection. Not a pretty sight. This required a prolonged root canal, which of course is a two-step process. Then later that year another one abscessed and I went through the whole thing again, root canal and all.

After that I had what seemed like many more procedures done, and I became able to handle it OK. I wasn’t having panic attacks just calling to make appointments anymore. I thought I had slayed my dragon.

I was wrong.

I got tired of driving an hour to get to my trusted dentist’s office, and I got tired of paying the extra charges because I was being treated out of network, so I switched to a dentist close to home. In case you don’t remember, this happened last year, and now I can’t go back there anymore, and I haven't been to another dentist since. Yes, it's already been a year and a half.

I have two silver crowns on my lower molars that I’ve had since I was in junior high school. They need replacing, not just because they are silver, but because they don’t cover the teeth completely anymore and I have random pain. I’ve been putting this off because there was so many other dental things that were more pressing, but now I am to the point where I really, really need to take care of it. Before he tried to kill me, I had the local dentist request pre-authorization from insurance, which he got, but then I ran out of coverage for last year before he could do it, and then, like I said, he tried to kill me, so I fired him.

My anxiety level about my teeth has been growing. I haven’t said anything about it to D because what was he going to say, except, you need to make an appointment, which I already knew. The other night my anxiety ranneth over and I literally worried myself sick. After we went to bed I couldn’t stop thinking about my teeth. I couldn’t decide if I felt like I was going to pass out or throw up, but I could feel a swell of something and I woke up D to tell him I didn’t feel well. He asked me what was wrong and I completely lost it, sobbing into his chest about how scared I was and how worried I was about my teeth. He’s leaving on Sunday for 3 weeks and I kept thinking this situation was going to turn into an emergency while he was gone. As soon as I started crying and explaining what was really going on in my head, I felt better.

I’ve decided that I need to find a dentist that does oral sedation. Taking a little pill, falling asleep and waking up when everything’s all done seems like the best thing since sliced bread. Unfortunately not many in-network dentists offer it, but I am committed to finding one that does or to forking over the extra money to make it happen. Of course, I haven’t started calling dentists yet.

One step at a time.


  1. I wish I could drag you out to my dentist in Philadelphia. I was like you. I'm pretty lucky in that my teeth look great, but I had a really shitty childhood dentist that used to scream at me and tell me to stop acting like a baby. I was so afraid of the dentist that I didn't go for probably about 12 years or so. One of my molars broke and I knew I couldn't let it go any longer. A friend of mine recommended her dentist in the area I had just moved to. When I went in there, I was like a scared pre-schooler, curled up in a ball on the chair. After maybe 5 visits, my dentist said to me "it's people like you that make me love my job. You came in here so scared and now look at you. You actually trust me." I miss him so much because I actually LIKED to go and get my teeth cleaned.

    I can't wait to move back, just so I can have my dentist back. I'm no longer afraid, but no one compares to good old Dr. G.

  2. I was just going to suggest sedation dentistry. You sound like a textbook candidate.

    And also, as one with numerous tooth issues -- I UNDERSTAND.

  3. Sedation dentistry sounds like a plan. You might feel better too once you get over that hurdle and take that next step and locate a good one and make an appointment. I hate having that feeling of dread hanging over me. Sometimes for me I find that it's actually worse than the very thing I'm dreading.

    There's a fellow here who has a really nice radio commercial about his sedation dentistry practices. He addresses all of the fears. Wish he was nearby for you.

    Pax. Kimberly

  4. I am so with you on the fear of dentists, our oral history sounds amazingly similar, just please if you find a dentist you can tolerate please for the love of future appointments don't bite him as I did. it may only be a reflex but those guys are seriously attached to their fingers.

    wishing you a painfree and nicely sedated appointment. you can do this~

  5. Teeth can really suck. (And, although it was a serious situation, your comment "then, like I said, he tried to kill me so I fired him," made me laugh.) And I can never get over how terribly expensive teeth are. I hope that you find someone in-network who does sedation. And I really hope that you have such a positive experience that you no longer fear making appointments. -Kym

  6. Oh I hear you. Hate going to dentists. Also from childhood - I had the opposite problem, though: my teeth are almost TOO good. I had to have 9 baby teeth pulled (one surgical extraction) because they WOULDN'T COME LOOSE.

    I lucked out with my dentist (who I got on a friend's recommendation) - with this wisdom tooth extraction last week, they put me right under. It was great. Am always going back there.

    I never went to the dentist unless it was an emergency either (orthodontics aside) - there's no dental coverage in the Canadian Health Care system.

    At least now, I have benefits through work, although I had to pay this up front, it gets reimbursed.

    I get so wound up by going to the dentist they have to sedate me at least a little, or I metabolize all the freezing right away. Ativan at a minimum (usually the maximum safe dosage), and for more major stuff, full sedation.

  7. Hey you... long time, no comment. Sorry I've not been around. Your blog is looking sexy-hot. I love the bird graphic and paper background graphic. Whoever is working on it is doing a nice job.

    I think you need not only oral sedation, but one of those super cool dentists that gives you feet and hand massages, aromatherapy. Treat yourself like a queen, you deserve it after facing that demon. Sheesh!

    I've been a little more regular, but it scares the shit out of me too... my childhood dentist used to tell me that I was high strung, 'like a thoroughbred', he said. I always thought there was something weird about that. But Ithink you've got to be a little weird to be a dentist.

    I hope you are doing okay and that the days will pass quickly till your DH returns. Glad you have the dogs till then.

    Dance on, sistah! Robert Palmer dead? Who knew!