I've been lurking here all week... comforted in the fact that there are others as afraid of the dentist as I am. Not only that, I see my own story echoed time and time again. I have a long road ahead of me, and I thought I'd do a journal here to help others, perhaps get some support, and to chronicle all that happens here.
Background: I can remember that as a child, my parents kept up with my routine dentals needs. Yearly check-ups, those never-ending cavities, and the usual lost teeth.
We used a couple different dentists, and it was the last one that caused me to grow a deep-seeded dislike of the dentist. I still remember my dad jokingly telling me, "Hey, you have some mail here!" and it was a postcard reminding me it was time for a check-up. I threw the card down with a sigh, and angrily said it would just mean the discovery of more cavities.
I always had bad teeth. My brother always had perfect teeth. It wasn't fair, in the eyes of a child.
Then came the time when I went in -- most likely a cavity needing to be filled, however I've blocked that part out -- and the pain was excrutiating. I lay back in the chair screaming at the top of my lungs, tears pouring down my face, and the dentist continued on without pause. I don't recall ever being giving enough numbing drugs. I felt every tug, pull, turn of the drill, scrape, scratch, poke... everything. I sobbed and sobbed from the pain. My mom told me later that they could hear me all the way in the waiting room screaming. It hurt... it hurt so bad.
That incident has stayed with me for atleast fifteen years. Fifteen years of a deep, deep, deep fear of the dentist. Fear that caused me to hide chipped and broken teeth. Fear that resulted in years of a crooked tooth smile. Fear that has resulted in a feeling of shame. Fear that makes me lose my appetite at even the mention of a dentist in passing.
Today: I estimate its been probably a good 15 years since I went to the dentist. I'm 25 now, and I'm getting married in January of next year. My fiance knows of my bad teeth, but he does not know the extent of them. I've always refused to allow him a peek.
He and I started as friends, grew to be best friends, grew to dating, and now we are on our way to marriage. I've confided in him my fear of the dentist many times, and I've confided in him my need for dental work. He's been on me for the last four years to go atleast see about having them straightened. And we made a deal days after our engagement to both have dental work done through the year, so we could say our "I Do"s with bright confident smiles. (Since we make each other smile all the time.)
Current Events: Last month, while spending a week with my fiance (we are in different states for the time being) I developed a horrible mouth ulcer. I've gotten them for years, and even though they can bring tears to my eyes... they also are rather old-hat to me. Advil and Anbesol got me through.
My fiance used it as his chance to push me to see a dentist. I did finally agree to schedule an appointment for when he would be coming to see me the following month. He knows how big of a deal this is to me, and he wants to be there to hold my hand through it. This is a moment in which I need him to lean on, to help me find my own strength.
Last Wednesday, I noticed some swelling of my lower left gumline starting to form. I shrugged it off. Food caught between the teeth or something. I went to bed without giving it another thought.
Thursday, I awoke to find my lower cheek swollen and a knot had formed over night. However it have formed in such a way that I was baffled by it. I honestly could not tell if it had something to do with my gums or if it wasn't actually a big pimple forming.
Friday, the knot remained, but all swelling was gone. I had no pain whatsoever, just the annoyance of it being there at all. Saturday, the same. Sunday, the same.
Sunday night, however, I decided to Google my "problem." Oh my... don't DO that. By the time I stopped looking, I had determined I had a huge pus ball on my jaw bone that was either going to explode and send toxins to my brain and kill me in three days, or else I was going to require drastic jaw-bone surgery. I didn't sleep much that night. (I did, however, find this site... which very much helped take a little bit of the edge off!)
Monday, I conveyed my concerns to my parents in passing, but I downplayed it. Telling them to give it one more day and then we'd decide what to do. (I work for them, and thus have my dental insurance through their business.) Come Tuesday, there were no changes and I was growing more scared by the moment.
I was in tears when I finally agreed to call the dentist for an appointment. Appointment made, I called my fiance for support, and I blinked back tears as all my fears came crashing down around my shoulders. My voice cracked as I found to regain something resembling control of my fears.
Once he'd calmed me down some, and I went back to my work, a little bit of relief came over me. I was going to find out what was up with my jaw, and to know I was making that first step.
Wednesday (yesterday), I made my first step into a dentist's office in about fifteen years. The technitians would ask how I was doing, and I'd reply with a wry, "I've been better." I walked through the halls with my head hanging down... one commented that I looked like I was walking down to the electric chair. I laughed appreciatively, and said that's exactly how I felt.
Slowly the girls engaged me in conversation, while we took X-rays. They got me to talk about my upcoming wedding, my fiance, this weekend's trip to Vegas, and finally... my fear of the dentist. When I relayed my story, they'd get this look for pure compassion that suddenly told me... this place was different than before.
When the dentist came in, he jokingly said he heard that going to the dentist is my favorite thing to do in the whole world. The nurse went, "That's what she told me! It's right up there with jumping off a cliff!"
I started to giggle and tension started to leave my body. The dentist looked at the X-rays, and then probed the knot with a mirror. I have a broken tooth right there, and he said there is no doubt its an abscessed tooth.
He prescribed me antibiotics and we scheduled me for a root canal for March 22nd. My fiance will be here to take me to it. A quick glance at the rest of my teeth, he knows he'll have to do probably four more root canals and one extraction in time. All of this, he'll do with me sedated (pill form). Once this major work is done, then we will look at cosmetic corrections to my front teeth, and filling any cavities there may be.
As we discussed cost with one of his assistants, she said, "He is going to take X-rays, and then sit down and decide how to attack all your dental problems as if you were is own daughter. He cares. A lot. And he will take very good care of you."
I was almost in tears again... this time they were tears of relief. Tears of wondering why I waited so long to find a good dentist and allowed my teeth to get so bad. But mostly... tears of joy that I'd overcome my fear and taken that first step.
So right now, I am taking my antibiotics (Amoxicillin), upped my dailing cleanings, and trying not to focus on it all too much. Thank God this abscess doesn't hurt. It's simply an annoyance.
I'm still scared, and my parents and fiance have their hands full with me on this. I jokingly say that he'll have to carry me in and out of the office that day. However, now that I've made that first step... I plan to keep my momentum going. Come next January... I'm going to have a healthy and confident smile, and my self-esteem and faith in my abilities will have sky-rocketed.