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Bastet's Journal

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Bastet

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 10, 2014
Messages
112
Location
Illinois, USA
I'm not going to start at the beginning. I'm going to start with where I was about a year ago. It had been about seven years since I had last been to the dentist. A crown on a tooth with a root canal had come off, and the tooth had broken. I had finally gotten up the nerve to send a note to my previous dentist to tell him my phobia had gotten the best of me again and to ask if I could come back to see him. I don't know why I stopped seeing him. I really like him. He is incredibly patient with my fears. As most people probably know here, our actions as phobics aren't always rational.

When the receptionist called me back, I saw the number on the caller ID, and I was too scared to answer the phone. When I listened to the message, I learned that the dentist had very kindly offered me a complimentary hygiene appointment. I wasn't ready for that, so I couldn't bring myself to call back.

Months went by and another decayed tooth broke. It started being painful, but knowing that things were getting worse made me even more scared to call. A month or so ago, I saw my dentist as I was walking past the building where his office is, and I forced myself to ask him if my first appointment could be with him rather than the hygienist. He said yes, but it was still a couple weeks before I was able to get myself to call for an appointment.

Finally, the big day came. It was weird. When he came into the room and sat down, I immediately felt safe with him again, but I could barely talk. He asked me what was up, and I couldn't even answer him. I just shook my head no. He asked if I wanted him to take a look around, and I nodded. After he checked things out he said he needed x-rays and asked if that was OK. I told him yes. I gagged a couple times (one of my big fears), but I got through it.

All in all, I was happy with the appointment, except he kept asking me when I had been there last. I didn't answer him, and I'm pretty sure the date of my last appointment was right there on the computer screen. I'm really not sure why he was doing that, and I have to admit I'm still upset by it. The appointment ended on a good note, because he told me he knew that was hard for me and said it would be easier as I move forward.

The next step after that was taking care of the tooth that was hurting. It needed a root canal, so I went to the endodontist last week. He is wonderful, and I'm happy to say, a big believer in effective anesthesia. Still, the appointment was a little rough for me. There was no pain, but I was having a little trouble adapting to having all that stuff in my mouth. It was just that trapped, suffocating feeling that I get. He's ask me if I was doing OK when it happened, so he must have noticed I was getting weird. I know I could have stopped him too, but when he'd ask if I was OK, I'd snap back to reality.

My next step will be the hygiene appointment. I need to give myself a little time before I make that appointment. Not too much time. I don't want to lose momentum, but taking a little time will make me feel like I'm more in control. Plus, I want the tooth I just had treated to calm down. The endodontist said he really tugged on the ligament, and I'll be sore for a bit.

Kind of a long first post, but that's where I am now. I'll keep updating as I go on.

I guess I should say hello. I'm new here. :giggle:
 
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Bastet

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 10, 2014
Messages
112
Location
Illinois, USA
I feel like writing again even though I haven't made another appointment. This whole situation still feels weird to me. I'm trying to make sense of the fact that I stopped going to the dentist for eight years when I had been doing so well. I guess it will never make sense. Looming in the back of my mind is the thought that even if I get straightened out again, I could easily fall back into my old patterns. I can't let that thought take control though. I need to take one step at a time.

Another strange thing is that I really haven't had any feelings of success. Maybe it just hasn't sunk in yet that I went to that first appointment and that I went for the root canal too. Maybe it will take that hygiene appointment to make me feel like I'm on my way again. I'm worried about it, because I have to let another person to see all my problems, and I really don't know what she's like. If she says things to make me feel bad, I'll just have to work through it.
 
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lizd

Member
Joined
Oct 25, 2014
Messages
45
Bastet,
Good for you for taking the first steps to deal with your dental issues! I'm just starting treatment after ten years away from the dentist, and about five years of dental phobia. Things are definitely better now that my teeth are getting worked on and feeling healthier, but I share your concerns re backsliding. For me, a crucial step in seeking treatment was admitting my phobia to a few people in my life who I know I can trust, both not to judge me, and to hold me accountable down the road, should it be necessary. A big part of what made my phobia feel so overwhelming these last few years, I think, was just that I thought I had to keep it hidden. I didn't want people telling me I had to seek treatments I wasn't ready for, and I felt like the anxiety over something so basic was a shameful thing that no one would understand. When I finally sat down and told people, it was incredibly scary, because it felt like I was losing control over my situation. Ultimately, though, it's been so good for me to not keep this to myself anymore. On my good days, when I get through an appointment without panicking, or floss my teeth without it being a big deal (this used to terrify me, as I thought my teeth would fall out or become loose), I have people who can feel happy for me and congratulate me. On bad days, when the anxiety seems to be getting the upper hand, I have people I can call for help. If you have someone in your life who you can imagine entrusting with your fears, and I hope you do, I would strongly recommend telling them at least some of your story. Finding backup, both for the good times and the bad that will come up as you battle your anxiety is something you can do to take care of yourself. You deserve to have a support system in place , if and when you need it. Best wishs!
 
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Bastet

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 10, 2014
Messages
112
Location
Illinois, USA
Thank you lizd. I wish you all the best on your dental journey.

I know it sounds strange, but one part of my problem is that I don't know that I even have the right to call myself phobic. Years ago, there was another dental phobia board that I used to frequent. At that time, I could read all about dentistry without having it bother me too much and I could pretty easily make appointments. I commented that it wasn't until I actually got to the office that it was hard for me. A dentist on that board said that I wasn't really phobic. I thought great, I'm not phobic, just weak. :( It made me feel like I didn't deserve help.

Whatever anyone wants to call it, the results are the same. I'm back to avoiding treatment.
 
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Bastet

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 10, 2014
Messages
112
Location
Illinois, USA
I don't know that the past really matters at this point, but I guess I will go back to the beginning now, just for completeness. I'm going to write about things that scared me. I won't be very graphic, but I want to warn those of you reading to skip this post if you think it will scare you too much.

My mom was truly phobic. She had all of her teeth extracted when she was young and had a hard time of it. Once she had her dentures, she never went back to the dentist again. When she was dying, a nurse at the hospital gave me her dentures and many of the teeth were missing. I'm not sure how she even ate with those things.

Anyhow, my mom was phobic and didn't take me to the dentist when I was very young. I remember a family party where someone took a picture of a bunch of us kids and my teeth were all decayed and broken. I remember someone telling me that my smile ruined the picture. What a horrible thing to say to a four year old. What a horrible thing to say to anyone.

I had severe pain and abscesses. My mom used to try to numb the pain by rubbing alcohol in my mouth. Sometimes she gave me baby aspirin. The day came when I had to enroll in school, and I was required to get a dental exam. The first dentist looked in my mouth, but he wouldn't treat me. My mom then took me to my cousins' pediatric dentist.

He was OK I guess, but nothing special. He sent me to an oral surgeon for eight extractions. The oral surgeon should never have been treating children. I remember they used gas back then to put patients to sleep, and I was terrified. I was literally kicking and screaming. My mom and the assistant had to hold me down so the surgeon could force the mask on me. Afterwards, I was very sick, but I honestly don't remember having any pain.

I had additional work done by the pediatric dentist. He also wanted me to get space maintainers, but my mom couldn't afford them. I don't know what happened behind the scenes, but she stopped taking me there.

After all of that, I still didn't take care of my teeth. My permanent teeth came in, but I didn't go to the dentist again until I was required to do so for school. I think it was 5th grade, so I was around 10 years old. My mom took me to the same dentist that did her extractions all those years before. He too should never have been treating children. I have since learned that he graduated from dental school in 1930, and I honestly think he had never modernized his office from the day he opened it. It was the early 1970s then, but he still believed someone my age did not need any local anesthetic. He also used a metal clamp to hold my mouth open. The times I went to him were like torture, but I didn't fight it.

My mom stopped taking me to him, and I didn't see a dentist again until, you guessed it, I was required again to get an exam for school. I was around 13 years old. I had been completely neglecting my teeth. I couldn't smile. My front teeth had gaping holes in them. I was so scared to go to the dentist again. I remember praying that the dentist would be nice to me.

My prayers were answered. The dentist was very nice. Unfortunately, I forgot to pray about the hygienist. Let's just say she was not nice. She's the reason that even now, hygiene appointments are very scary for me. I got through everything though. I had to go to some specialists for extractions and an apicoectomy following a root canal, but in time I was able to smile again.

That dentist moved on, and as a young adult I tried a couple other dentists. No big deal, but I didn't connect with anyone. I thought I would find someone, but eventually I just stopped trying. Things got bad again after several years, and I had to force myself to go.

My biggest fear then was embarrassment. I thought once I got started again, everything would fall into place. I was wrong. The first dentist was very nice, but wow, anesthetic was not his strong point. Long story short, I flitted around and finally found my current dentist.

I was pretty scared at that point. I really had not expected the bad experiences I had with the first dentist, and it was hard for me to deal with it. I immediately liked my current dentist when I met him. I usually don't immediately like anyone. With his and the endodontist's help, I got back into shape again.

The visits were sometimes hard for me, but he was always patient with my fears and let me move at my own pace. He always scheduled enough time for me to take breaks and let me feel like I had control over what was going on.

So what happened? Good question. I'm not sure. I looked for any reason to find fault with him or his staff. One time I just decided to go to a different dentist. She told me I had some beautiful work in my mouth. Yes, I do. :D I eventually had her send my radiographs to my dentist's office. I went back to him, and we both acted like nothing had happened. I'm truly not sure why he puts up with me.

On my last hygiene appointment, some eight years ago, the hygienist did not have me schedule a recall appointment. I thought "Aha! I'm free!" Odd, I know. I had another appointment with the dentist after that, but then I stopped going. I work near my dentist's office, so I would sometimes see him outside and wave. In my mind, he was still my dentist, but he must have thought I had gone off to someone else again.

Anyhow, that gets me to my first post where I sent him a note to see if it was OK to come back.
 
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Bastet

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 10, 2014
Messages
112
Location
Illinois, USA
I had the day off yesterday, and when I came in this morning, there was a voicemail from my dentist's assistant. Maybe it's just me, but I thought she sounded annoyed. I also thought she was kind of condescending. She said I need to come in to finish the work on the tooth that had the root canal, because "you don't want to have a temporary filling there."

Really? I don't? Gee, who knew? You would think that I would have figured that out with the 10 root canals I had before. What an epiphany! OK, sarcasm off. It's just the way she said it.

It's hard to think I have a dentist that is on board with working with my fear but to be so often made uncomfortable by someone on his staff.
 
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Bastet

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 10, 2014
Messages
112
Location
Illinois, USA
One positive thing is that I finally told my boss that I'm probably going to need several dental appointments, and some could be long. He said I should do what I need to do. He doesn't know my fear got me into this mess. He asked me when my next appointment is, and I told him I don't know because I'm avoiding making one. He just smiled.
 
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Bastet

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 10, 2014
Messages
112
Location
Illinois, USA
I called the dentist's office this afternoon to make an appointment for the crown. I'm still putting off the cleaning appointment. I don't know how I feel about it. Jittery, I guess, but dazed too. I wish I could have that "Yay! I took another step" feeling.
 
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Bastet

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 10, 2014
Messages
112
Location
Illinois, USA
After spending most of yesterday with my heart pounding, I went to my crown appointment today. Since the tooth already had a root canal, my dentist told me that I didn't need anesthetic unless I wanted it. He barely even got the sentence out, before I told him not only that I wanted it, but that I wanted him to get my tongue numb too. I'm so glad that I did. Even the time that he was retracting my tongue to give me the anesthetic was hard for me.

He went over the stop signal with me, but I didn't feel the need to use it. Almost, but I just reassured myself that I wasn't having trouble breathing. Whenever he stopped, I did close my mouth and take a deep breath to get myself back together. A couple times I wasn't ready to open my mouth when he was ready to start again, but he patiently waited for me. He asked how I was doing several times. In short, he couldn't have been kinder or more considerate today.

I have a temporary crown now. It's nice to feel like I have a whole tooth there again. It's been a long time.

He gave me a choice for my next appointment: another crown or a cleaning. I picked another crown. I think it's my last reprieve for the cleaning appointment. He's on to me now. Ha ha. I'm not going until after the holidays, so I can relax for a bit.

Edited to add: I just realized that the smilies that mark the different forum sections change if I am logged in. Cool! That made my day. OK, I'm easily amused.:grin:
 
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CollegeBound

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 18, 2014
Messages
482
Location
Indiana, USA
Congrats on your success thus far! It is great that you have a kind dentist that works with you instead of works only with your mouth.

I just had a cleaning about 2 months ago, and it was painless except the hygienist accidentally poked my gums while scraping my teeth, but that was the worst of it.

Maybe you can try engaging the hygienist in pleasant conversation at the start of your visit? That might loosen the tension a bit.
 
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Bastet

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 10, 2014
Messages
112
Location
Illinois, USA
I just wanted to make a short entry to say that I think it's finally starting to sink in that I've made some progress. They're just little things like when I realized I didn't have to worry anymore about getting ice water on the tooth that just had the root canal, or when I was able to put on my health assessment form that I've had a dental exam within the past six months. I still have a way to go, but at least I'm not so down on myself all the time. :)
 
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Bastet

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 10, 2014
Messages
112
Location
Illinois, USA
I had to login to write about my tooth dream. I dreamt that the tooth that will be getting the crown replaced on my next visit to the dentist shattered, but somehow the old crown stayed attached. I could hear pieces of tooth rattling around inside of the crown. It reminded me of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine gave the sideler Tic Tacs so he couldn't sneak up on her, except the rattling was coming from inside my head. Ha ha. It all made perfect sense while I was dreaming.:giggle:
 
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Bastet

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 10, 2014
Messages
112
Location
Illinois, USA
I'm feeling very stressed out right now. Tomorrow I have to go back to work after having taken a good amount of vacation time. I also have a dental appointment to have one crown seated and another toothed prepped to replace a crown. Plus, the weather is going to be horrible tomorrow with wind chill advisories. The combination of things makes me want to curl up in a ball and whimper. Well, I am whimpering. I'm just not curled up in a ball.

I'm worried about this appointment, because I had a hard time when I had the crown done in the first place. The tooth had a root canal, and my dentist told me I didn't need anesthetic. I wasn't comfortable enough with him yet to tell him I wanted it anyhow. I was panicky through the whole appointment, and I gagged once on some water. We had to take a short break, so I could calm down. He told me since I had a root canal, he could turn the water off for some of what he was doing. He was very helpful in getting me through it.

He surprised me at the end of the appointment, though, when he told me I wasn't ready for that, and that it should have been easy since I didn't need anesthetic. I felt like he was scolding me, and I wasn't expecting it since he was so helpful during the appointment. Maybe I misinterpreted. I don't know. After that appointment, they started putting more time between my root canal and crown appointments. The important thing is I don't have trouble asking him for anesthetic now, and I know I'll do that tomorrow.

I'm worried, though, that I won't tell him not to grind around on my natural top teeth to adjust the occlusion for the new crown. He's done a lot of that already when he was helping me with my jaw pain. He's gone so far that it started to be painful. I don't want that to happen again. I'm so afraid I won't tell him until it's too late. :(
 
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CollegeBound

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Joined
Jun 18, 2014
Messages
482
Location
Indiana, USA
Obviously I am not a professional, so take my words for what you want. I think that you should make a list of things that you want/need to say and take it with you and either give him the list or talk about the list BEFORE he lays you back and begins the work. You have to be honest about how you feel about things in order for him to help you, which it seems that you two are off to a pretty good start.

As for his comment at the end of the last appointment, I think that sometimes dentists may forget or truly not understand the extent of our fear in the depth that they probably should. That is why it is important to say exactly what is on your mind. For inspiration on this, please listen to Brave by Sara Bareilles.

We are here for you if you need anything. Feel free to message me. I will probably be on here later, so I will respond quickly.
 
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Bastet

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Joined
Nov 10, 2014
Messages
112
Location
Illinois, USA
Monday didn't start out so great. It was really cold, and the trains were messed up. I ended up having to stand all the way downtown. My middle-aged hips were pretty sore from standing in one place. My bad luck rubbed off on the dentist. The chair didn't work. He couldn't adjust it at all. I thought he would reschedule my appointment, but he said he would stand. The poor guy. I could tell it was really uncomfortable for him.

I had kind of a hard time. There was no pain, but I was having trouble with all the stuff in my mouth. I had to stop him twice. I tried to hold out, but I really couldn't. He was very nice about it.

Afterwards, he talked more about our next steps. He of course mentioned the cleaning again. He said I should come in next week for that, or I could do it the same day as my appointment for two more crowns. He said something about spending the day there, but by that time I was tuning him out. It was just all too much for me.

I went to check out, and the receptionist asked when I wanted to come in for my cleaning. I told her I was holding off on that. I made another appointment with the dentist.

I realize I'm still on very shaky ground with my fear, because as soon as I left I told myself I was going to break the appointment. I just felt like he was pushing too hard and wasn't seeing how panicky he was making me. I told myself to give it a couple days before breaking the appointment.

I decided instead to send him a note to tell him why I'm having so much trouble scheduling the hygiene appointment. I told him if he wants me to hold off on my next appointment until I'm ready for my cleaning, he should just let me know. I'll see what happens and take it from there. I wish I would just talk to him instead of sending him annoying notes.

On the positive side, he also cemented the crown on the other side of my mouth. It's so nice for my tooth to look like a tooth again.
 
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Bastet

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Joined
Nov 10, 2014
Messages
112
Location
Illinois, USA
I've been thinking about what I expect will happen as a result of the latest note I sent the dentist. It's possible that someone will call and tell me not to come for my next appointment, but I'll be surprised if that's really what happens. I think he will still have me come in to have my crown cemented, but he won't start the work on replacing two other crowns. I also think I'll get a lecture on why I need to schedule a cleaning appointment next and why he won't do any other non-emergency work until that happens.

I wish I hadn't met so many judgmental hygienists. Maybe it would be easier for me. I know I got myself into this mess again, and I'll just have to take whatever she dishes out before I can go on. I had a nice hygienist once before. Maybe I'll be lucky once again.
 
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Bastet

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Joined
Nov 10, 2014
Messages
112
Location
Illinois, USA
Well, the dentist's office didn't call to tell me not to come next week, so I guess it's still on. The problem with mailing a note instead of talking to him outright is that I won't be sure he got it until I see him again. In the meantime, I received a second automated e-mail asking me to confirm my appointment. Yeah, yeah I will. :)
 
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CollegeBound

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Jun 18, 2014
Messages
482
Location
Indiana, USA
The fact that you will know when you see him next week kind if answers some of your questions. I am sure that he will call if something changes. You are doing great. Keep up the good work!
 
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Bastet

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Joined
Nov 10, 2014
Messages
112
Location
Illinois, USA
So, I guess I'll write about my last visit.

When I walked into the office, the receptionist wasn't there, but the assistant was standing in the background. I smiled a little, but her expression didn't change. She didn't even acknowledge me, but she went to tell the dentist I was there. It was like she was warning him about an intruder. Ha ha.

She called me back and took off the temporary crown. I wasn't comfortable with her at all.

I was nervous about what my dentist would say about the note I sent, especially since the assistant acted so weird when I came. He said exactly the right thing though. He told me that I never have to feel embarrassed there, and he just wants me to get healthy again. It eased my mind.

I had a hard time with the work again. I gagged once, and I'm not sure how many times I had to stop him, but I know I did. I got panicky during the impressions. He let me take a fairly long break at one point. At the end he told me that ideally my next appointment would be to cement the crowns and start work on the bottom teeth, but if I just wanted to cement the crowns, he would understand.

I wrote about some of this on the support page, but I want to add it here for completeness. After he left, the assistant reiterated what she said, but then she said that tooth is all rotten, and it's bad for your body. Rotten. It's such a painful, negative word to me. Use the word rotten in a sentence. Eew, something in the garbage smells rotten. Or how about, eew those rats are chowing down on that rotten carcass. But I never have to feel embarrassed there, right? Even the not-nice hygienist I had when I was a kid was more professional than that.

I've been trying to tell myself that it's not really that big of a deal. I'm not doing that anymore. If it hurt me, it hurt me, and my feelings are valid. At one point I asked myself how I would react if something similar happened at my dermatologist's office. I realized that I couldn't even conceive of it. No one there would ever say anything like that.

I'm not sure what, if anything, I'm going to say or do. I'll let things work themselves out naturally.
 
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CollegeBound

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Joined
Jun 18, 2014
Messages
482
Location
Indiana, USA
I have been in your shoes. The words "rotten" or "your teeth are really bad" cut like a knife, and make you feel like shit about yourself. I hate that this happened to you. I hated myself for other people knowing how gross I felt. I thought that made me the nastiest human on earth! But after I had my cavities fixed (there were only 6 instead of 14 like the first two dentists said...) I felt better not only because I could smile without seeing the black holes on my teeth, but also because I won this battle for now. Still fighting the war, but wars have many battles, so I have not lost hope yet, and neither should you!

I admire how well you are doing, and thank you again for sharing this! I am inspired!
 
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