I found out recently I had chronic infection underneath a 12 year old crown. I've watched the gum getting puffy and dark purple around it. Dealt with a persistent bad taste and bad smell. Didn't want to face dealing with it but simply knew I had to, despite my fear.
My new dentist, who specialises in phobic patients, told me the tooth couldn't be saved, so extraction was my only option. So I bit the bullet and made the appointment.
I have built this thing up in my head for the last two weeks since I saw her, worrying and worrying. Would the infection have spread? Would masses of pus and blood pour out and choke me? Would it smell disgusting and repulse the dentist and nurse? Would people judge me on it when I told them? Would I have a panic attack or faint or cry (I have done all those things before). Round and round, obsessing.
Today I went for my appointment. I have gone from abject terror to profound relief in one appointment.
Here's what happened:
I desparately wanted to stay in bed this morning. Struggled to eat breakfast, my stomach was in knots. Even after travelling into town, I paused in the tube station trying to get up the nerve to go through with it. my heart was pounding and mouth really dry.
I tend to get a bit jumpy and jittery when nervous so I was asked to get there early, so I could be given a sedative (10 mgm of diazepam) to help me calm down. I was left to alone in the 'Quiet Room' with my book to wait. I don't know if the sedative worked psychosomatically or what, but within about 20 minutes I was feeling calmer. That pleasant sensation you get after a couple of beers came over me - by no means drunk, just kind of placid and chilled.
For my appointment, the dentist was really nice. I told her I'd brought my headphones and iPod and she said that was fine, she'd just talk me through as she numbed me up then I could stick the music on. She put some dark glasses on me (presumably to stop the bright lights hurting your eyes). She applied a numbing gel and administered the local very slowly and gently. I felt a tiny, tiny prick of the needle but no other pain whatsoever. Any time I felt a slight urge to swallow/gag (which used to make me panic in the past), the liquid was sucked away. It was as if the nurse was reading my mind.
While I sat up and rinsed, to wait to get numb, we chatted about the music I'd chosen, which lead to a little chat about musicals, acting, school plays and school days, and our mutual dislike for our brown and grey school uniforms! It was very relaxed. She then tested if I was numb, I thought (or imagined) I could still feel a little on one side of the gum so she carefully added some more to make totally sure all was numb.
Then: the extraction itself. She explained calmly that she'd remove the crown first, then the tooth. I could stick my headphones in and she'd be as quick as possible. It was over so quickly I couldn't believe it! Zero pain. A little pressure. Slight cracking/crunching noise when she removed the crown but could hardly notice with music playing. There were a few moments when I could smell the decay (gross, admittedly) but much less than I'd feared.
The nurse then supported my jaw underneath while the dentist removed the tooth. It was a little uncomfortable but nothing like as bad or prolonged as I had imagined. I had literally not even listened to one whole track on my iPod and she tapped my shoulder and said 'it's all out, well done, relax now.'
She gave me a few minutes to recover, just left me quietly to recoup. Then a few stitches (again, totally painless and quick). Biting down on gauze for a few minutes, three separate boys of gauze, until the worst of the bleeding stopped. Again, chatting to me whilst I did this to keep me calm. I'm a boxer so we were joking that it was best I missed sparring for a few weeks!
One gentle rinse, and I was done!
I had the Aftercare chat, also she got me to sit in the waiting room for another ten or so minutes, just to be sure I was feeling okay before I left, as I'd gone a bit pale. After that, I felt totally okay. I even caught the tube home, rather than a cab as planned - that's how normal I felt.
I know the aftercare is a bit of a hassle and there may be some pain, but I'm so happy the worst is over!!
I've learned that finding a good, sympathetic dentist is KEY to overcoming your fear. I could have had the treatment with my previous dentist, to be honest - he's nice enough and competent. He's also NHS and so the private treatment I chose cost a LOT more! But it was totally worth it. My previous dentist was just very casual and blasť about it all. He didn't really listen when I explained how scared I was. That's why I kept making excuses not to go.
I have realised I just needed someone to take a bit of time to help me stay calm. To tell me they understood I was scared. And to just generally be kind to me throughout the treatment. That kindness and understanding made all the difference.
Also, there is nothing worse than worrying constantly about your teeth and working yourself up into a state of panic and despair about them. You tend to imagine the very worst case scenario, which won't often be what you face when you go. And even if it is the worst case scenario - you only have to face it and go through it once, whereas you imagine it and live it in your mind hundreds of times. It's exhausting. The anticipation and anxiety is the worse thing of all. Even though the treatment is deeply unpleasant, the relief of going, the pride in taking control and facing your fears - this really does override the unpleasantness of the work itself.
I am so happy and relieved. Also thankful for the advice on this forum! I really hope my story can help people feel less frightened!