How I Became an Anti-Dentite

Like taxes, alarm clocks, and baby showers, going to the dentist is just another one of life’s little necessary evils.

At the best of times, it’s an annoying and somewhat unpleasant interruption in your day. At the worst of times (read: for a paranoid freak like me) its downright OMG/WTF panic-inducing.

I didn’t always hate going to the dentist. In fact, as a kid I loved it. I mean, you got out of school for a few hours, and you got to wear cool shades and a crazy lead apron that weighed more than you did. How badass is that?

Looking back, it was probably easy for me to have a positive association with the dentist, since I always had excellent oral health. (go ahead, get all your “that’s what she said”‘s out now, folks…  it’s gonna be a long post). I never had to face the prospect of having a cavity filled or a tooth pulled, and nary a brace, retainer, or piece of protective headgear tarnished my picture-perfect dental record. Each appointment was met with the same, glowing review from my dentist: “beautiful, perfect teeth!” And as  child who was far too competitive and eager to please, this was music to my little ears.

Sometime after high school though,  things took a turn for the worse.  As a starving student with no health insurance, dental appointments- much like name-brand ketchup and 2-ply toilet paper- became a thing of the past. Unable to cough up the necessary $400 for routine checkups, I began adopting a bit of a “what’s the point” mentality. Flossing fell by the wayside. Brushing slipped below the recommended 2 minute intervals. My oral health, consequently, fell into serious disrepute.

A house is a house… it’s just gonna fall down anyway…

Finally, after years of neglecting my pearly whites, I began working and got a health plan. I knew my first visit back to the dentist would suck, but I had no idea that it would take two appointments, the jaws of life, and multiple hexes just to undo the damage I had caused. (There might even have been a full-blown exorcism. I think I saw a priest there).

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I heard my dentist utter the fateful words: “Mark it in red”.

A Cavity.

I had been diagnosed with a cavity.

I was instantly filled with shock and disbelief. After avoiding this for my entire life, it seemed ironic that it should happen to me at 26. Akin to getting sick on the last day of school and messing up your perfect attendance record, I felt as though I had been cheated.

No longer was the dentist a place of comfort, a benchmark to my orthodontic success- it was now riddled with shame, disappointment and self loathing. The question”have you been flossing?”, which I once welcomed, now felt like more like an accusation, a testament to my overall failure as a human being.

This picture came up when I searched “flossing guilt”. Guess she’s sad because she hasn’t been flossing… but maybe also kind of happy??

Begrudgingly I made a follow-up appointment to have my filling done, and spent the next week in a state of panic-ridden anxiety. Thoughts of my upcoming appointment haunted me both while awake and asleep. I even had an anxiety dream that I met the grim reaper, and it was my dental hygenist. And then my teeth fell out.

Finally, the day came. Waiting in the chair, I felt an incredible urge to escape. Thoughts of running out into oncoming traffic crossed my mind… or maybe just strangling myself with the metal chain used to attach my paper bib.  Because this, it seemed, was a fate worse than death.

First came the freezing. Although I was scared initially, I actually found the sensation of my frozen mouth to be hilarious. I couldn’t stop touching it and laughing…and while I couldn’t see my face, in my mind I looked just like Sloth from The Goonies:

But then they brought out…. the implements. I instantly understood why my 7-year-old niece recently had to be sedated to get fillings done.. this sh*t was not for the faint of heart. She started with something called a dental damn.. which reminded me of something from Saw 2… or what Dexter uses on his victims to avoid potential blood spatter. You just know something that looks like that can’t be good.

I consider myself to be a pretty tough chick, but when people start putting drills and shit in your mouth, well,  things have a tendency to crumble. I’m not proud of the way I handled it.. and I’m pretty sure the sounds that came out of me were more typical of an injured baby seal than a grown human being.. but somehow I made it through.

And you know what? It wasn’t that bad. I mean sure,  I couldn’t eat or form a sentence for like four hours afterwards (side note: don’t follow this up with three glasses of Pinot Grigio)… but other than that, the aftereffects were pretty minimal. Guess this means I have to admit that overall my fears were pretty irrational. But that’s ok.. because we all have irrational fears…. right? right??

Question of the Day: Are you scared of the dentist?

Do you have any other irrational fears?

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40 thoughts on “How I Became an Anti-Dentite

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    1. Poor toddler mickey.. so terrorized by the dentist that she puked even when she saw him walking down the street! I hope it doesn’t come to that for me…

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  1. I too, hate the dentist. And I hate the dental dam. I hate the cleanings where they stab you in the gums in three different spots above (or below) each tooth on the outside and the inside and spout numbers out to someone… representing how deep they can stab you and the % of your bleed factor. What is the point of this? Even if it’s horrible, all they’re going to tell you to do is floss more… so why not just cut to the chase and avoid the patient torture?? And even when they floss or scrape they act like you’re a cave man who has never taken care of your teeth in the slightest before. Eff dentists. I hate them. I don’t think the fear is irrational either… I mean, besides the above mentioned things, they use a freaking drill for your teeth. If that doesn’t sound scary, I don’t know what does.

    On a side note, my favorite things about this post were the My Little Pony that came up when you googled flossing guilt (so random) and Sloth. I totally know what you mean about feeling like that. Novocaine sucks.

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    1. I agree- they DO make you feel like a caveman. Sorr-ree teeth are not the centre of my universe Mr. Dentist.
      haha I’m glad you loved the randomness that was that my little pony… once I saw it come up I knew I had to include it 😉

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  2. brilliant. i so get it.

    i pay for sedation. i’ve had my innards cut to pieces in a variety pack of surgeries, had a baby after 28 hours of hard labor…and i still pay extra for sedation. and i won’t go to a dentist whose response to my request is, “i’ll be gentle.” i don’t care how gently you think you are, mr/ms dentista. i have endured it all at the (large) hands of many in your profession, and i’m over it.

    the straw on the back was a root canal while i was pregnant, so incredibly sober. after hearing fairy tales from friends about acting so scared that they got nitrous for just a cleaning, i said, “never again!” now i look forward to the high…though still shake in my shoes like a weenie. i am a tough chick. tough enough to tell my dentist, “back off…i want my happy mask!” when it’s time for my implant in july, it will be the needle. goooodnight.

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    1. haha yep I’m not buying the “I’ll be gentle” either. Next time I have to get anything done I’m going to take a page out of your book and insist on sedation. If I got that much of a kick out of freezing, imagine what I’d get from nitrous.. haha

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  3. OMG I was the same way! Now my mouth is a gold mine for the dentist. After no braces, no cavities – this past year I had 3 cavities and a root canal – then I broke the replacement tooth eating candy and had to get a new one. Then they said I could use a mouth guard for sleeping. Apparantly law causes stress which causes grinding.

    Ignorance is bliss. Don’t go back!

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    1. you are so right- I was so much happier before I knew how bad it was in there. I love that you broke your replacement tooth eating candy haha. That would totally be me 🙂

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  4. I’ll use up my one good dentist thing to say that I used on someone else with dental problems recently. I used to go to a dentist with a monkey in the office. Two actually! They didn’t do the surgeries, just sat behind the glass looking at the kids while we picked out noses. That always made the dentist fun.

    My experience is probably the same as yours. Never had a cavity, but I also haven’t had health insurance since I was like 20. I’m sure I have a cavity somewhere. But no pain, no need to take the blame.

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  5. I never thought the dentist was that bad up until this year…had to have a filling which didn’t go as smoothly as it could have! Ended up going to the dentist 3 times in the same week to have the thing fixed (It was the dentist’s fault; I actually cried in his chair…you can read about that here http://the-healthy-diva.com/2012/02/10/stop-the-pop/)….it was so painful. Apparently I need another filling but I’m a bit traumatised. Giving myself a few more months before I go back and face the tools again haha

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  6. Oh boy… The dentist. Like you, I never had a problem with going to the dentist- until I had 4 perfectly good metal fillings replaced with “white” fillings (upon, of course, a recommendation from my new dentist 5 years ago. Long long and painful story short, 3 of the four teeth that the fillings were replaced in broke- and one broke twice!! During my last visit to the dentist to get a cracked tooth fixed, the had to give me 6 ( yes- you read that right) needles to freeze mt mouth. It was a horrible experience and my jaw ached for 3 days.
    In September, another one broke. However, the thought of going back to the dentist throws me into some kind of fugue state where, when I enter consciousness again, I find myself huddled in a fetal position in a dark corner.
    Suffice it to say I would rather cut my whole body with razor blades and roll around in lemon tobacco sauce than go back to the dentist. Meanwhile, my tooth isn’t fixing itself, so I have to do something!
    And then one day it happened! I saw a tv as for “sleep dentistry”. This dental practice promises a spa- like atmosphere while giving you the option of taking a sedative to relax you or an iv where they full- on knock you out.
    On the verge of hyperventilating because I was so excited, I immediately phoned and left a message.
    They phoned back and left a message.

    This cycle has happened 4 times now! I will, by God, have this tooth fixed in a spa- like atmosphere that I won’t even get to enjoy because I will be asleep!!

    … I just have to drag my ass there before my tooth falls out of my head.

    Too bad they don’t offer a service where you don’t even have to make the arrangements for an appointment, since that seems to be my first hurdle to overcome!

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    1. Damn auto- correct!
      The visual was supposed to be me with teeny cuts all over rolling around in lemon juice or tobasco sauce… not lemon tobacco sauce…
      Sigh

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      1. Funny enough my eyes auto corrected it to lemon tobasco sauce and I didn’t realize it until you pointed it out:)

        Is it irrational to fear wasps? I don’t mind the dentist.

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    2. Sleep dentistry sounds awesome… only, the dentist isn’t asleep, are they? Cause that has liability written all over it. I’m with you on the service for not needing to make an appointment. I’ve been trying to make a doctor’s appointment for like 3 weeks now. Sometimes I just pick up the phone and put it back down again because I don’t even have the energy to dial.

      Lemon tobacco sauce sounds really gross and something you wouldn’t want to roll around in either… so it’s not the worst auto correct I’ve seen.
      http://www.autocorrectfail.org/

      That should make you feel better 😉

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  7. Hahaha– that Sloth image is KILLING ME! I mostly don’t mind the dentist but had a terrible time getting my wisdom teeth pulled a few years ago. How is dentistry even a normal profession? You get paid trillions of dollars to pull things out of people’s mouths that technically belong there and/or put things *into* people’s mouths that don’t really belong there (metal and mercury, I’m talking to you!) And lead vests?! Why do we put up with this?

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    1. haha I swear that’s what I looked like!
      You know what’s funny, I actually asked my dentist why she went into dentistry, because I was curious if it was for the money or the love of the job. She told me it was because she loved order, and was a perfectionist, and could see the results of her work immediately. I still think she’s crazy.. but now maybe it makes sense to me a little more

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  8. When I was 10 or 11 I was kicked out of my new dentists office because after the dentist refused to show me the needle for the novocane I was crying and screaming so much that I scared the adults and children in the waiting room. Now I only let them give me gas. I maintain it’s all his fault.

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      1. I felt worse for the adults that had to go in after me, and slightly bad for the dentist who my father spent several minutes yelling at for scaring me. The dentist I see now is much better, but doesn’t like to use the gas. He will show me whatever it is I ask though, so he’s nice.

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  9. This made me laugh & I can totally relate to some points! I haven’t been to the dentist in about 5 years. I have never had a cavity (that I know of! hehe) BUT I do have to say I went through appliances & braces for about 3 years. I was SO lucky to find an orthodontist that was nice. He actually is my Gramma’s, and multiple cousins orthodontist as well. It’s a family gathering when we all go! lol I used to be able to fall asleep while they were working away in my mouth. I actually had to get my wisdom teeth pulled when I was 17 and nearing the end of being covered under my mom’s health plan. Problem was that they weren’t up yet. It was either cut them out or more than likely get braces again when they did come up. Option #1 please. I wasn’t about to go through braces again. The worst part about getting teeth pulled? I hate medicine.. it affects me funny so the freezing made me COMPLETELY loopy. It was fun for a while but then made me sick. Oh ya, that and the fact that I had SIX wisdom teeth. I used to be super smart 😉
    I totally feel your pain about dentists now. Since having those teeth removed I feel like I’m scarred about going back. That and the fact that I don’t floss regularly either, and smoke. (Bad I know buuut oh well)
    Keep up the great writing! Your writing is a pleasant distraction at work!

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    1. omg I WISH i could fall asleep- I’m way too panicked and tense- my body is rigid the entire time. And I didn’t even think it was possible to have 6 wisdom teeth? You MUST be wise!

      thank you so much for reading, and I’m glad you are enjoying! 🙂

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      1. The only reason I could fall asleep is because I was there at least once a month for over 3 years. You become used to it.
        Also the whole 6 wisdom teeth? Ya I didn’t think it was possible either, I WAS wise until they took them out as my mom loves to point out! 🙂

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  10. Haha! I don’t necessarily mind going to the dentist, I’ve had the same one all my life. There is however, the issue of when I got my wisdom teeth out, and he got all of them out except one that he couldn’t seem to get, I had to be sedated twice, taken to an oral surgeon, barely remember the rest of that day…sometimes I think he still feels bad about it so although I’ve either ruined or my teeth have moved too much for my sleep mouthguard he replaces it for free. 😛

    Great post. You are lucky you never needed braces, etc. I also always had perfect teeth as far as cavities etc, but definitely had braces. :/

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    1. ugh that sounds awful! Getting your wisdom teeth out is bad enough already… except for the brief period of time after you wake up from surgery and are still high, before the pain sets in. That part’s just hilarious

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  11. Ohhh.. The Goonies! Sloth! One of my favs… but a good walking advertisement for FLOSSING.

    Recently in China I had this sticky candy and I SWEAR part of my filling came out. And several days later it started swelling and…so I went to the dentist here. They poked around my mouth WITH AN OVERSIZED QTIP and then declared that my teeth were FINE! They said the pain I was feeling was imaginary. Jesus. So I took a ferry for 1.5 hours to Hong Kong where they told me my tooth was cracked and probably got infected. WHEW! I was never so happy that my tooth was cracked and infected. It was like having a terminal illness and nobody knew what the hell it was. That’s my dental trauma 🙂

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    1. omg good thing you listened to your instincts!! I wish I could say this has scared me away from eating sticky candy, but I’m currently eating a werther’s original, defiantly.

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  12. I hate going to the dentist. These days it takes severe pain for me to even consider it. Luckily I have never needed a filling – I’m not sure I would cope!
    I’m also scared of getting my eyes checked – I cannot for the life of me sit still and I freak out when they shine the light in my eyes, haha.

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    1. the eye thing can be a little freaky too. I always hated the smell of that thing you had to look through and say “better or worse”.. I know, weird hangup.. but still.

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  13. As an office manager of a dental office I must tell you, you are not alone. We have several patients that we prescribe valium, just to get them to come in. FYI if you wait until you’re in pain it won’t be good. Keep up on your cleanings and flossing, as well as the creative blogging. Soon you will become a pro-dentite 😀

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