35 and never had dental treatment - the time has come and am very anxious

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lisalittletwig

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May 24, 2021
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I've been reading this forum and decided to join in/post about my situation as I'm sure my parents (who have been brilliant at supporting me) need a break from my endless worries!

For nearly all of my life the dentist has never factored with me. I remember going perhaps a couple of times in my whole life, which was triggered by an incident of me faceplanting the floor when I used to sleepwalk in adolesence (miraculously, I didn't end up with anything more than a wonky front tooth with a hairline crack). I've never had any other issues so I just didn't go.

I am a very anxious person generally, I've had Generalised Anxiety Disorder for 20 years. Also I have emetophobia, a sensitive gag reflex/issues with gagging and just have issues about anything going on with my mouth. All perfect ingredients for being phobic of the dentist, though I never realised how much I was until something had to be done (with having avoided the place for so long it had never factored with me, but now it makes complete, and unfortunate, sense).

In January a piece of one of my lower right molars broke off when I was eating a sandwich. I had an obvious feeling of "this isn't good", and knew I'd need to get it seen too, but we were in lockdown here in the UK and I had no pain so I just carried on. The inevitable caught up with me in mid-April when I started to get intermittent pain. The pain gave me the 'courage' to find out what was going on. Because it had been 20+ years since I'd been, my dentist had deregistered me and weren't taking on new patients. I found a private practice that had good reviews, including from phobic patients, and luckily they were able to see me quickly for a consultation.

If I knew what was going to happen at the consultation I probably would have chickened out. It occured to me I'd never had a dental x-ray, and when they (the dentist and assistant) tried to use it in my mouth I panicked, felt like I was gagging and spat it out. Luckily they had a panoramic x-ray and after a few goes at using that (because I was so shaken) I got the x-rays done. The upshot was that I need 3 fillings aside from the icky tooth, which I was told required root canal. I burst into tears as soon as I heard those two words. I knew it wasn't going to be good, considering there is dark decay in the tooth and given the pain and that I'd been eating as usual on a broken tooth, but it was my worst fear. My dad accompanied me and asked the dentist if anything else could be done, and she mentioned that they could dress the tooth as a sort of temporary fix.

One thing that the dentist did say was that I would not be able to cope without sedation. The incident with the x-ray made me feel really embarrassed, and that felt like an extra bit of failure, even though she is absolutely right. I went back for a sedation consultation with the same dentist the following week (having cried and moped about my fate for a few days after the initial consultation) and the good news is that I'm clear for it. I am apprehensive as I've never had any kind of surgery/anesthesia (though I know it is different - I'll be having IV sedation). I'm a bit of a control freak, but I would rather be as 'out of it' as possible in this scenario.

I am booked in for my first treatment at the end of June. I made a plan with the dentist to have the two fillings on my left side done first, one of which is a deep filling, so I can get used to everything with the sedation, and then if it all goes well (which I really really hope it does), I will go ahead with the root canal. Realistically I know it's the best thing to do, I am really scared about this tooth detoriating in the meantime now. Thankfully I haven't had pain since the day of the initial consultation, I've been eating on the left side of my mouth and doing all I can to keep away from the bad tooth. When I use my tongue to get any stray bits of food out of it it does hurt :/

I'm doing what I can to stop thinking about it all, but it's in my head pretty much constantly. I picture myself in the chair, what IV sedation will feel like (and even if it will really work on me because I am so anxious), how much I'll be aware of everything going on...as much as I have all of my 'mouth' issues, I know mainly it is sheer fear of the unknown. Also the depression and fear I feel about just leaving this bad tooth as it is is so much worse than spending a couple of hours at a time getting treatment (I imagine I'll probably have four appointments in total). I just need to keep telling myself it's all for the best and I'll feel so much better once it's all taken care of...but I worry about being irrational and letting my anxiety get the better of me.

Reading experiences on here, especially regarding IV sedation, has helped (I do like to have information on things, which is not helpful for an over-thinker...I really wish I could be chilled out and not care about things so much but then I guess I wouldn't be here, in the first place). I'm also practicing daily meditation in the hope it will get me in the right frame of mind ahead of time, though I also I know that once the time comes I'll be super super anxious.

Thanks for reading my rambling, but I know it also helps to 'talk' to people who understand. :waves:
 
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Molar_bear

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Hey @lisalittletwig

First of all huge congratulations to taking the first steps to going to an appointment. It can be difficult especially after a pong period of time but well done you did it. You should be super proud of yourself.

So I found myself in a somehwhat similar situation. And too had fillings and RCT on my return to going to the dentist. And this was all done under IV sedation. Honestly the experience was fine and I was so relieved when I had got it all done and out the weight. A huge weight off my mind.

I Too suffer with a lot of general anxiety and a lot of those things you mentioned similary contribute to my fear of the dentist. Well done for finding things that help and to keep calmer. Like the medication. It all helps.

The tooth is unlikely to deteriorate much between now and June for your appointment too. So try not to worry to much.

Here to help if I can
 
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lisalittletwig

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Hey @lisalittletwig

First of all huge congratulations to taking the first steps to going to an appointment. It can be difficult especially after a pong period of time but well done you did it. You should be super proud of yourself.

So I found myself in a somehwhat similar situation. And too had fillings and RCT on my return to going to the dentist. And this was all done under IV sedation. Honestly the experience was fine and I was so relieved when I had got it all done and out the weight. A huge weight off my mind.

I Too suffer with a lot of general anxiety and a lot of those things you mentioned similary contribute to my fear of the dentist. Well done for finding things that help and to keep calmer. Like the medication. It all helps.

The tooth is unlikely to deteriorate much between now and June for your appointment too. So try not to worry to much.

Here to help if I can

Hi @Molar_bear ! Thank you so much! Anxiety/fear makes you feel so alone, like you're the only person in the world going through these horrible feelings, but of course the amount of users on this forum makes me know that I'm not.

It's great to hear about your similar experiences. I have done a lot of googling about IV sedation / RCT, and sometimes I wonder if it's counter-productive, but it is reassuring to know a lot of people have had good experiences with both. When it comes to the sedation, my main worry is that it might not work on me for some reason, like I'll just be too anxious/hyped-up on the day of the appointment. I'm a very self-aware person and so I'm thinking 'what if it just makes my body relax, but my mind is still in overdrive?', or that I'll still be aware of things happening in my mouth and it'll make me flinch like a reflex. The dentist when she first mentioned that I would definitely need sedation mentioned that if the drill or other tools went in my mouth they could cut my cheek or tongue with me panicking, and that's why I would require it. I suspect I am just overthinking every possible scenario, and I know with general anxiety 9 times out of 10 what you expect doesn't happen at all. And also I just won't know what's going to happen until it happens, and everyone experiences it differently - the dentist mentioned that some people feel 'floaty', some feel distant...the perils of wanting to be reassured about everything...!

I've never had any kind of surgery, and I do wonder whether while I'd still be nervous that I wouldn't feel quite so anxious and thinking about it every day if it wasn't to do with my mouth, which I associate with my most extreme phobias 🤔 As it is the anxiety is absolutely amplified.

The RCT isn't yet scheduled, the first appointment is to do separate fillings. I got a paper copy of my x-ray to show the teeth that are affected, and I can see the damage has gone down really far. The dentist told me also that there isn't an abscess there, but one could develop (I guess she means if the RCT is left for a very long time). My other fear is that one will and I'll need an emergency RCT before my first appointment for the two fillings. Again I think I'm just majorly looking at worst case scenario here. I really hope that I can get the RCT done relatively soon after the first two fillings, because I don't want to leave it much longer. The thought of having a really bad tooth in my mouth brings me down every day at the moment.

I'm caught at the moment between worrying about the molar and worrying about the treatment, and also wishing the first appointment was a week away but also feeling like I need more time to process everything! Logically I know this period of anticipation and thinking is the worst. The appointment is five weeks today, and I can't help counting down even though I want to just put it to the back of my mind. Anxiety has really flared about it this week, bleh.

Another good thing is that the dentist said that I could bring in my mp3 player and listen to my own music if I want to during the appointment, and music generally does really help me take my mind elsewhere (they do have their own music in there too). The only thing is that I don't know whether I want the distraction of the music, or hope that I might be lucky enough to doze off 😁
 
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Molar_bear

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Hi again.

I agree music does help me too at the dentist. To take my mind off it! Or I find my dentist just chatting helps too even though I can’t reply with things in my mouth 🤔

It definitely does feel horrible and very lonely when you have fears, but trust me you really are not alone and there is a whol community of like minded individuals here to support you.

With regards to the sedation I have had it 4 times and I would say each one did feel slightly different in experiences but all were okay and positive. I too am an over thinker and very aware of things like that. One sedation I had when I was more nervous. I don’t have much memory of it but I was informed I had asked to be sedated more when I was already ‘under’ as I felt to aware. And the dentist obliged 😂 so all sorted. I also didn’t like the dental dam they were trying to put in my mouth apparently (little to no memory) but I do remember someone saying to the nurse to to stop me moving my head for that bit. Not like any form of force of restraint in that sense so don’t worry, I think more like reminding me not to move at that moment. But for any bit you might flinch you could ask them to be more careful and almost prepared.

How would you feel doing it without sedation? Would you feel more in control and less worried about moving or any other fears if your aware of what of what’s going on?

It’s hard when you are worrying about both sides of the coin. The fear of the issue but also the fear of the treatment. I try to remember the treatment is short lived and without it I’ll worry much more over a longer period if I leave it. Any once it’s over and done with you will be so much more relaxed.

Here to answer any more questions etc
 
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lisalittletwig

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Hi again.

I agree music does help me too at the dentist. To take my mind off it! Or I find my dentist just chatting helps too even though I can’t reply with things in my mouth 🤔

It definitely does feel horrible and very lonely when you have fears, but trust me you really are not alone and there is a whol community of like minded individuals here to support you.

With regards to the sedation I have had it 4 times and I would say each one did feel slightly different in experiences but all were okay and positive. I too am an over thinker and very aware of things like that. One sedation I had when I was more nervous. I don’t have much memory of it but I was informed I had asked to be sedated more when I was already ‘under’ as I felt to aware. And the dentist obliged 😂 so all sorted. I also didn’t like the dental dam they were trying to put in my mouth apparently (little to no memory) but I do remember someone saying to the nurse to to stop me moving my head for that bit. Not like any form of force of restraint in that sense so don’t worry, I think more like reminding me not to move at that moment. But for any bit you might flinch you could ask them to be more careful and almost prepared.

How would you feel doing it without sedation? Would you feel more in control and less worried about moving or any other fears if your aware of what of what’s going on?

It’s hard when you are worrying about both sides of the coin. The fear of the issue but also the fear of the treatment. I try to remember the treatment is short lived and without it I’ll worry much more over a longer period if I leave it. Any once it’s over and done with you will be so much more relaxed.

Here to answer any more questions etc

:thankyou:

I definitely couldn't do it without sedation. The dentist was pretty emphatic about that at the initial consultation, and I trust her judgment. I think it is predominately fear of the unknown. I find myself thinking about every little detail at the moment, like the local anaesthetic needle and how that will feel and will I freak out about it (I don't have a fear of needles, but one in my mouth is a different story)...I know that will come after the sedation takes effect so it should really be fine. Basically I am catastrophising which is never helpful!

My main fear/trigger is definitely gagging. From most things I've read it does seem that IV sedation is the most effective at reducing and calming the gag reflex. If I could be 100% certain that I wouldn't gag when anything went near my mouth I'd feel much better, but I know it's not a guarantee. I do keep telling myself that IV sedation is the best thing that can be offered and there's pretty much no reason why it wouldn't work on me. The anxiety demon in the back of my mind likes to tell me that I'll be the exception to the rule. I just worry that the fear is so deeply ingrained that even the maximum dose won't be enough to truly make me calm. I would hate to be so uncooperative, even with the sedation, that they'll have to stop the treatment. Logically I know that's very unlikely to happen.

I also worry that my blood pressure and pulse will be worse than sky high on the day and it will take ages for them to even start the sedation. We have a home blood pressure kit and I've been using it for the last couple of weeks to monitor what's going on and my blood pressure is in the normal range, as is my pulse, though it can get a little on the high side. At my sedation consultation I remember my pulse was 99 and the dentist said my blood pressure was high but not alarmingly so, and nothing that would rule me out of having the sedation. Yet that was just the consultation and nothing went near my mouth then 😆

My ideal scenario is that I get the IV and I feel relaxed and unbothered about what's going on, like I have read has happened for a lot of people. I don't think I'll be calm enough to fall asleep, definitely not at first. I do find it hard to square feeling not bothered about what's happening when I worry about what will happen every day...I suppose I just need to trust in the drugs and let go 😆

That's really good advice about thinking about the treatment being short lived and being more worried/anxious over time if it was left. I am definitely trying to channel those thoughts as much as I can. I get so frustrated with eating in a certain way that I tell myself that it will be a step in the right direction when this first appointment is done, and I'll feel so much better. Also that experiencing it and knowing what it can be like will give me confidence. Also that having daily anxiety is actually worse than going through a 2 hour appointment. I am trying to 'embrace' the fact that I will be very nervous and anxious but also that I will have the inner strength to do it.

The receptionist from the dentists actually called me last week about scheduling the RCT (I told her, one step at a time, haha) and when I mentioned how worried I am she said that with the sedation I would be "as high as a kite" and it would all be fine. I really hope that is the case :thumbsup:🤣

Thanks again for taking the time to get back
:)
 
39male

39male

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Im going to keep this simple as someone going through a failed root canal for a dental implant. Delaying root canal means pain can become unbearable wventually.
I could not sleep laying down for 3 day until appt. I had to sleep sitting in chair or pain pressure was dramatic. Dont wait.
RCT procedures are like one hour with minimal discomfort while you are numbed. Some drilling goes on. HOWEVER, why worry about 1 hr of possible discomfort while you have daily pain. Also, you should focus the anxiety on how you will eat with temporary crown and keep mouth clean w oral hygiene until your permanent comes two weeks later. After that you are home free!
 
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Molar_bear

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:thankyou:

I definitely couldn't do it without sedation. The dentist was pretty emphatic about that at the initial consultation, and I trust her judgment. I think it is predominately fear of the unknown. I find myself thinking about every little detail at the moment, like the local anaesthetic needle and how that will feel and will I freak out about it (I don't have a fear of needles, but one in my mouth is a different story)...I know that will come after the sedation takes effect so it should really be fine. Basically I am catastrophising which is never helpful!

My main fear/trigger is definitely gagging. From most things I've read it does seem that IV sedation is the most effective at reducing and calming the gag reflex. If I could be 100% certain that I wouldn't gag when anything went near my mouth I'd feel much better, but I know it's not a guarantee. I do keep telling myself that IV sedation is the best thing that can be offered and there's pretty much no reason why it wouldn't work on me. The anxiety demon in the back of my mind likes to tell me that I'll be the exception to the rule. I just worry that the fear is so deeply ingrained that even the maximum dose won't be enough to truly make me calm. I would hate to be so uncooperative, even with the sedation, that they'll have to stop the treatment. Logically I know that's very unlikely to happen.

I also worry that my blood pressure and pulse will be worse than sky high on the day and it will take ages for them to even start the sedation. We have a home blood pressure kit and I've been using it for the last couple of weeks to monitor what's going on and my blood pressure is in the normal range, as is my pulse, though it can get a little on the high side. At my sedation consultation I remember my pulse was 99 and the dentist said my blood pressure was high but not alarmingly so, and nothing that would rule me out of having the sedation. Yet that was just the consultation and nothing went near my mouth then 😆

My ideal scenario is that I get the IV and I feel relaxed and unbothered about what's going on, like I have read has happened for a lot of people. I don't think I'll be calm enough to fall asleep, definitely not at first. I do find it hard to square feeling not bothered about what's happening when I worry about what will happen every day...I suppose I just need to trust in the drugs and let go 😆

That's really good advice about thinking about the treatment being short lived and being more worried/anxious over time if it was left. I am definitely trying to channel those thoughts as much as I can. I get so frustrated with eating in a certain way that I tell myself that it will be a step in the right direction when this first appointment is done, and I'll feel so much better. Also that experiencing it and knowing what it can be like will give me confidence. Also that having daily anxiety is actually worse than going through a 2 hour appointment. I am trying to 'embrace' the fact that I will be very nervous and anxious but also that I will have the inner strength to do it.

The receptionist from the dentists actually called me last week about scheduling the RCT (I told her, one step at a time, haha) and when I mentioned how worried I am she said that with the sedation I would be "as high as a kite" and it would all be fine. I really hope that is the case :thumbsup:🤣

Thanks again for taking the time to get back
:)

Hi,

I experience very similar anxiety to how you describe it with the catastrophising

I too had that fear, that it won’t work for me. I’m too anxious. I will ‘fight it’ as such and won’t be calm enough. But It worked! I think most people feel the same especially as you say it’s the unknown and not knowing how it will make you feel. But it was oksy and I was able to accept the injections and treatment in my mouth I could not tolerate when not sedated. Honestly I think most people have the good experience and sedation is successful. Love the nurses view of how you will be feeling 😂 she sounds nice and reassuring and very used to the situation.

I believe they even specifically suggest sedation for the gag problem. When it comes to the gagging is it the fear of the sensation of fear of being sick etc. I suppose as unpleasant as it is part of me wonders what’s the worst that can happen if you gag while sedated. You’re unlikely to remember it at all.

Glad that was reassuring to you. I know I try to remember those thought when I’m in that situation. Short term anxiety for long term again in being less anxious.

Definitely go at your own pace dont feel pressured to run before you can walk. Take things slowly if you need to. Keep it manageable for yourself.

Best wishes
Molar bear
 
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lisalittletwig

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An update! I had my first appointment last week. The week leading up to it I got more anxious every day, until I was a bit of a wreck the day before - heart pounding, sweaty...basically a bit of a mess.

Somehow I managed the bus journey there without being too unnerved. I think perhaps when I get in public I'm more self-conscious about coming across as anxious. While I was waiting to be called I tried to distract myself with my phone, and what I did manage to find amusing that Le Freak (Freak Out) by Chic was playing on the radio before I went in. I mentioned how apt it was to the dentist who I'd consulted with and was doing my sedation, and she gave me a sympathetic look :D

There were four people in total in the room, though one did leave once I was all settled, I think she was a hygiene nurse. The most stressful bit of the whole appointment was getting the IV sedation started. I was so nervous that it took four attempts to hit a vein and stick, the dentist doing the sedation said I have good veins but they were just collapsing as soon as she got to them. I asked her if after so many attempts they would need to give up and she said yes, which made me more stressed because as nervous as I was I had geared myself up to get it done. I think what made the fourth attempt work was that the dentist who was going to be doing the work asked if I wanted to see a picture of her new puppy. Puppies really are the answer to everything!

Once everything was in they said I didn't need to do anything except lie back in the chair. My experience of the sedation wasn't that I drifted off anywhere or felt distant or anything. I was aware of pretty much everything that was happening, but I felt calm enough to handle and tolerate the treatment and I didn't feel pain. The worst thing was one of the anaesthetic shots was a bit more sharp than the others I had which I didn't really feel at all. I couldn't really see much of what was happening either, which I liked. Weirdly enough, someone must have taken off my glasses and replaced them with the goggles but I don't remember that. I could hear the dentists and the assistant chatting, which was nice, and there was also a Spotify playlist on (the dentist doing the work said she'd specifically chosen a relaxing one with mellow music - they really couldn't have done more to put me at ease).

There was no pain or discomfort during the treatment. I had the three fillings I needed, rather than the two I was expecting them to do, and one of them I had been told prior would be quite deep, but I didn't really notice the difference between them. The dentist used dental dams on each of the fillings, which I found useful and think really helped to feel more detached. The only moment when I felt a little bit unsettled as such was one bit when I felt like I couldn't swallow, but that was towards the end of it, and the dentist was nice and reassuring and told me to breathe through my nose. It was nowhere near as bad as I thought it could be - no gagging or flinching or anything feeling difficult or intolerable.

I was in the chair for two and a half hours, and while it didn't feel like it was over in 10 minutes it also didn't feel like a really long time either. The dentists said I did really well and the one who did the sedation told my dad (who was my escort) that I was a model patient. I never ever could have imagined that being the case! o_O

I have my root canal treatment scheduled for August, also with IV sedation. I do remember when they asked me how I was doing at one point saying "I can't wait for the root canal!" which again, I never would have imagined saying, especially not after the initial appointment when I burst into tears.

I just wanted to say that overall it went really well, and the fears I had beforehand were nothing near what the actual experience was like.

The only 'drawbacks' were that I ended up with a canker sore on the side of my tongue the day after, I think I must have accidentally bit my tongue while I was still numb. I was very chatty after the fillings were finished, I think because I was so relieved that I'd gone through with it. That has eased up now, but my jaw feels quite tender when I eat. I think that's normal though for things to feel sensitive, it has only been a week and I need to get used to the fillings. I know I can mention it if they still feel strange when I go back again.

Thanks again for the support and reassurance, and I hope that my experience can help others who are feeling nervous about getting treatment. I think I'll still be nervous before the RCT, but hopefully not as much now that I know what it is like to have treatment and sedation. Plus I really, really want this tooth sorting out!
 
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Nicci

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Well done, so glad it went well! Your dentist sounds really kind too, that's always good.. and much appreciated esp when we're anxious :) Hope all goes well for you in August x
 
39male

39male

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Really enjoyed reading your follow up. Great details in describing your experience. Looking forward to your RCT experience! Take care of those new fillings so they last as long as possible. (flossing and brushing)
 
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lisalittletwig

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Another update - I had my RCT on 11th August. Still super nervous beforehand, probably because this tooth has been causing me so much stress for months, but I made it there. The endodontist was delayed with another patient, so my sedation dentist (who sedated me at the appointment for my 3 fillings and who did my initial consultation) took me to another room to get the cannula in and get me set up for sedation. My biggest fear this time around was that she wouldn't find a vein, given that it took four attempts before the fillings. She found a vein on the first attempt 🎉My blood pressure was still high but she said the reading was better than the first time as the diastolic number was lower. She did also say that I was 'out' quickly the first time I had the sedation.

I didn't have to wait too long for the endodontist, luckily. When I got settled in the chair my sedation dentist explained that there would need to be several bitewing x-rays taken throughout, which I had expected from reading up on RCT beforehand but did my best to forget about. While they weren't the most comfortable I could tolerate them, which is a huge success considering I spat the bitewing out at my initial consultation.

The actual procedure was okay. No pain whatsoever, just more pressure at times compared to having the fillings. I'm a bit hazy on the time it took but I don't think it was longer than an hour and a half. It didn't actually feel like it took that long, though I think that might have been the effect of the sedation. My memories are more blurry than when I got the fillings. I have zero recollection of getting the local anaesthetic, other than my mouth feeling numb when everything was finished. So far I've felt a little bit of sensitivity but nothing worse than that *touch wood*.
A temporary filling has been put in as I was missing a chunk of my tooth to begin with, so I'm still eating on the opposite side.

I have a hygiene appointment in just over a week, then onlay preparation and assembly in September with a final permanent fitting in October. I'll be getting sedation again for the preparation appointment but the last appointment I've been told should take no longer than 30 minutes so no plans for sedation with that one. My main concern now is making sure the temporary filling stays in, but I think I might just be being a bit paranoid about that, as is my nature! I'm making sure that I do brush it gently and with my electric toothbrush switched off. I'm just so relieved to have the bad stuff removed, and also feeling a little bit more confident for the next step. Can't wait to have my tooth properly restored!

Oh, to add, the dentist who did my sedation is a dental-phobic dentist, which kind of amazes me but I also think has been really crucial in getting me to where I am now - she has been so empathetic and understanding, and that is so important.
 
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