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.
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”.
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.
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??