I've had a medical phobia as long as I can remember. I don't like the out-of-control feeling I get in medical situations where I'm at someone's mercy, waiting to hear a diagnosis, not part of the consultation on the treatment. It seems to me that going to the doctor, the dentist, the hospital, the chiropractor is like stepping onto this scary ride where anything could suddenly happen. I attribute this non-specific anxiety to my childhood where my mom battled breast cancer and everything that could go wrong seemed to happen with medical professionals around. Obviously, it isn't logical but I can't control how my pulse races and my breathing speeds up and how I feel anxiety even going to visit someone else in the hospital--as if someone might reach out and grab me against my will. It is just something I cope with as best I can.
My teeth have been pretty good. I had braces, though, and my mother had a dispute with my orthodontist at the end of my treatment. ( Text Cut for people who don't want to read about teeth and dentists and visits-gone bad through the years )
Goodbye, nose! I'm spiting my face!
The anger and terror and shame of that visit produced probably the exact opposite of her intended effect. Because of it, once I'd had my wisdom teeth removed
later that spring, I dropped off the dentist office radar, cancelled my next appointment, and haven't been back in over three years
That's criminal. Am I wanting all my teeth to fall out for lack of simple care?
So, last night, after talking with Shaun about needing to go back and having him say I should, in no uncertain terms, I decided to check out sedation dentistry. Basically, it is dentistry geared towards phobic, embarrassed, or difficult-to-numb patients where you get drugged in some way into a relaxed state so they can do the dental work and hopefully not add to your scary stock of dentist experiences. It seems kind of extreme, I don't need to be drugged, but I thought at least at one of these dentists I'd find people who'd be kind to me and forgive me for the years I've spent away from a dentist's chair. I just needed a little sensitivity, less criticism, and some understanding of what phobic patients feel.
One guy's website felt welcoming. It wasn't a beauty contest, it was about getting people who are scared and who've put it off back to the dentist. There was a number for making appointments and I thought I'd call it. (I expected a recording that'd tell me what their office hours were during the holiday weekend--so I'd know when to call back.)
The dentist answered the phone!
I was mortified. He was so kind, though. He had his office phone transfered at night to his cell phone so he could always be there whenever someone got up the nerve to call. I told him how long it'd been and perhaps over-exaggerated how bad my situation was, and he was very sweet. "I don't mean to minimize what you've been through", he said warmly, "but we get patients who've been 25 years without a dentist. We'll fix you up, don't worry! Just enjoy your holiday weekend and afterwards we'll take care of everything."
He put his wife on the phone to flip through his appointment calendar.
I go in for a consultation--not a cleaning or anything if I don't want it--just a meeting and a making-of-the-game-plan on Tuesday
I feel this huge sense of relief. I know I found the right people to help me. I'm also in a mild state of panic. I think it'll be okay, though. Nothing to it but to do it and I did!
I apologized to the wife for calling so late. I'd thought for sure to get an answering machine! I told her how grateful I was for her, how scared I was, how embarrassed I was at my teeth and how long it'd been, and she gently pish-poshed my worries away.
"We can work miracles. Four years is nothing! You come in on Tuesday and we'll sit down and figure out how to get you all fixed up."
I was flossing my teeth last night and I thought, in the light of my upcoming dentist appointment, that they weren't as bad as I'd thought. A few aches and sensitive spots to investigate but really, I'm not so far gone as all that. I'm not a monster, not a bad person, just a phobic patient who finally found the right mix of "can do" and compassion in a dentist.
That doesn't mean that my heart's not going to be pitter-pattering along between now and my appointment, but I have this relieving sense that it'll be okay and that things will only get better now that I'm going back.