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Determined to start my dental journey in my 30s, but also terrified

  • Thread starter CourageAndBraveryASAP
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CourageAndBraveryASAP

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Hi. I am in my mid thirties and have not been to the dentist since I was 7 until just recently. I had a traumatic experience where I was restrained by five adults at the age of 7, without my parents' consent or knowledge, and a painful injection of novocain that I did not need (I was mistaken for another child) while screaming that they had the wrong kid. I never went back to any dentist after that.

I have naturally decent teeth. They have a visible orthodontic blemish but they are white and about 70% straight. I took bad care of them as a kid but good care of them as an adult - brushing, flossing (but I have crowding so this is not super easy), water pik in the last two years, fluoride rinses at home, etc.

Recently I saw a dentist who is known for being gentle and working with phobic patients and who also offers sedation services. Unfortunately my treatment plan requires several visits: a root canal that must be done with an endodontist, a crown placed by the dentist afterward, a full mouth scaling and root planing, three cavities filled, then all four wisdom teeth extracted. Once that all is done, I'd like to explore orthodontia if invisalign is an option. Once ALL of this is said and done, I will be in debt by $30-35k, and that is assuming nothing else is discovered along the way. I am also on the borderline of gingivitis/periodontitis so I will have at least four cleanings/dental visits per year going forward.

My husband and I want to start a family, and that is the impetus for me getting my mouth healthy. I also have always wanted straight teeth. I am determined to be courageous and brave and start this journey. But I am terrified. To the point where I can hardly sleep or think about anything but these multiple procedures.

I have my root canal with the endodontist scheduled. I also have the scaling/planing, cavities filling, and crown placement appointment scheduled (happening in one session ideally, under sedation.) After all of that, I need to have consults for the wisdom teeth extraction. Two of mine (both lower) may require coronectomies.

On top of all of this, my jaw cannot open very wide - the widest I can get it is two fingers worth, but just barely. My jaw has always been like this. If I force it wider, it is extremely painful for months and I am miserable. I have been examined and not found to have TMJ, both dentists feel it is an issue with the joint that recovers in time.

What I am asking for your support on:
1. My very first dental experience ever, since I was 7, will be this root canal. This will be my first time since 7 in the chair. I have no idea what to expect even in terms of the basics - like the tools they will use on me, what will be placed in my mouth, how I should breathe, if I will be able to swallow, what my position in the chair will be, etc. I did tell the endodontist that I'm very afraid and I gave him a literal three-second version of what happened to me as a child. He was sympathetic and kind, and said especially for the shots (remember, this is where most of my fear originated) he'll count to three before he injects, then I should feel a pinch and pressure for two seconds, then it should be ok, and i'll likely need a few of them. I AM TERRIFIED OF THIS PROCESS.

Can you give me a basic primer on what to expect - tools they'll put in my mouth, things I would know if I'd had routine cleanings along the way, tips, etc?

2. I had a very open conversation with my doctor (the general physician I've seen for many years - BTW, I have no medical phobias) and told her EVERYTHING. She talked with me for a while and was very empathetic and agreed this is all scary but that I'll feel so amazing when it's all over. She prescribed Valium 10 mg to take one hour prior to the procedures. Since I have never taken anything stronger than 400 mg of ibuprofen, and never experimented with any drugs, she said to test drive half the dose well in advance. I did that last night - took 5 mg of valium. Her hope was that it would alleviate anxiety, make me drowsy, and help me get through the procedure. Her hope was also that it would help my jaw. I took the 5 mg of valium last night - started with 2.5 to make sure nothing bad would happen, then took another 2.5 an hour later - and felt no impact. My husband didn't observe any change either. I felt just as anxious and afraid, and did all the regular stuff I do at that time - bills, dishes, work, etc - and went to bed at my usual time, about seven hours after taking the valium. I did notice that my jaw felt marginally better though.

The dentist also prescribed Xanax .5 mg (which my physician is aware of, don't worry.) I haven't taken that yet. He gave 3 pills. My physician said to try the valium first as she was comfortable prescribing me enough for ALL procedures, whereas I had limited Xanax. So I have not tried the Xanax yet. She is open to prescribing me other drugs, but I don't know enough about this to know what would help me.

Can you advise as to any drugs to take prior to the procedure that will GREATLY alleviate anxiety and stress? My husband will be with me before and after all procedures, and will do all the driving, and stay with me after. My doctor has no concerns about potential abuse of drugs and is supportive. She thinks is the valium didn't help, the xanax won't either.

3. Regarding my jaw: how do I make sure the staff do not over-extend or force my jaw to open wider? The endodontist said they'll see a bite wedge/pillow that will go on on side of my mouth that I will rest my back teeth on. It doesn't seem like drugs will knock me out beforehand, so I should be able to indicate if they do anything painful. But when I'm on IV sedation, I will have less agency and self-advocacy (but also think I can't get through it otherwise.)

Thanks for your support - I really appreciate it.

Signed,
Determined to be brave
 
Gordon

Gordon

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1: See the Dental Topics part of this site most of your questions are covered there in some detail.

2: Xanax is not licensed for use in Europe, so can't help with that.
In my experience IV sedation is the only reliable means to achieve the kind of sedation you're looking for. Does the endodontist offer IV sedation?

3: You can still quite clearly self advocate when under IV sedation. You won't actually remember that you did do it but you can :)

Well done on taking such positive steps after such a horrific experience, I wish you every success with it.
 
M

MountainMama

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I had my first root canal last year. I also had traumatic experiences as a child with shots, but mine revolved around the shots not numbing well enough and the dentist not believing me and extracting teeth anyway. I also had overcrowding, which the extractions were for.

I don't like prescription meds, so I opted for nitrous oxide. It worked great for me and the procedure was smooth and I was relaxed but could tune in and out as I wanted. I don't remember most of it. I had another root canal on a front tooth, later, with no nitrous. It was a little bit of drilling, then a lot of filing, which basically just feels like gentle tugging. It didn't hurt at all.

The shots to numb are not pleasant, but have come a long way since I was a child. They use topical anesthetic first, now, before giving the actual shot, so it doesn't hurt like it did before. It really is just a pinch, like a flu shot.

Good luck on your journey!
 
C

CourageAndBraveryASAP

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1: See the Dental Topics part of this site most of your questions are covered there in some detail.

2: Xanax is not licensed for use in Europe, so can't help with that.
In my experience IV sedation is the only reliable means to achieve the kind of sedation you're looking for. Does the endodontist offer IV sedation?

3: You can still quite clearly self advocate when under IV sedation. You won't actually remember that you did do it but you can :)

Well done on taking such positive steps after such a horrific experience, I wish you every success with it.

Thank you. The Dental Topics section was very helpful. One thing I didn't see covered in there is info about these bite wedges that the endodontist told me he'd use - I'm getting the root canal on tooth 15 (upper left molar) and and he said they'd put the bite wedge on the opposite side of my mouth and my teeth would rest against it. I'm trying to figure out how wide it will be because if I force my mouth open too much, it will lock and be horribly painful.

Your question about whether IV sedation is offered:
So, my DENTIST offers IV sedation. I'm having the scaling and root planing (full mouth) and three cavities and a crown placed by him, under sedation.
He said he CAN do the root canal too, but he doesn't have the same equipment as the endo (that microscope thingy that shows you the canals, etc, in detail) and he initially recommended extraction of that tooth, which the endodontist really balked at - he said that was extremely aggressive for the condition of my tooth.
I didn't feel the dentist had confidence in doing the root canal and that the chance of success would be diminished.

But if I could get it all done with him - under sedation - even if it were two trips instead of one - I'd do it.

I'm in NYC and the people I talk to say you must get root canals done by root canal specialists to truly save the tooth for the long term.

Do you have an opinion on this? I am still TERRIFIED of the root canal, which is happening before my sedation appointment, and would be the VERY FIRST DENTAL EXPERIENCE I've had since the age of 7.

I also tried 10 mg of valium tonight after talking with my doctor. It alleviated my anxiety for 20 minutes. After that, I felt completely normal, and my husband remarked that I seemed normal too. I had few late work conference calls that went well. Haven't felt sleepy at all.

My doctor does not prescribe halcion or sleeping pills in her practice.

I had my first root canal last year. I also had traumatic experiences as a child with shots, but mine revolved around the shots not numbing well enough and the dentist not believing me and extracting teeth anyway. I also had overcrowding, which the extractions were for.

I don't like prescription meds, so I opted for nitrous oxide. It worked great for me and the procedure was smooth and I was relaxed but could tune in and out as I wanted. I don't remember most of it. I had another root canal on a front tooth, later, with no nitrous. It was a little bit of drilling, then a lot of filing, which basically just feels like gentle tugging. It didn't hurt at all.

The shots to numb are not pleasant, but have come a long way since I was a child. They use topical anesthetic first, now, before giving the actual shot, so it doesn't hurt like it did before. It really is just a pinch, like a flu shot.

Good luck on your journey!

Thank you for sharing. I was told I cannot have both nitrous and the valium or xanax. The valium did not do anything for me. I fear I can't even get into the chair if that's what I rely on.

Feeling scared about the root canal without any kind of sedation.

My husband had a root canal done at a teaching college several years ago and fell asleep during it. He says it was a non-event. I wish I could be like him so badly.
 
grumpybear

grumpybear

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I personally would get a root canal done on a molar by an endodontist. Apart from that fact that they have special equipments and tools to help them see and locate the canals better, they are also very experienced in root canals as they are specialists who have limited their practice only to doing root canals exclusively.

A gp dentist could definitely also do a root canal, but if your dentist have up front told you that he isn't confident, it would honestly be kind of pointless. If it fails, you would have to go through the procedure all over again, of course you could also choose to just extract the tooth.
 
Enarete

Enarete

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One thing I didn't see covered in there is info about these bite wedges that the endodontist told me he'd use - I'm getting the root canal on tooth 15 (upper left molar) and and he said they'd put the bite wedge on the opposite side of my mouth and my teeth would rest against it. I'm trying to figure out how wide it will be because if I force my mouth open too much, it will lock and be horribly painful.

Hi CourageAndBraveryASAP,

I get your worry about the bite wedge. Actually it's something that makes the treatment more comfortable and easier for you as you are biting on something instead of just trying to keep your mouth open. Your mouth and jaw will be more relaxed in this way. You can imagine it as a piece of rubber that gets placed on the other side and you just bite on it. They do not just place it and keep on working, but ask you how you feel and adjust it until finding a way that is comfortable for you.

Your worry about instruments and what will be done is a very understandable one, after all everything will be new for you. It might be a good idea to just ask your dental team to show you what they would be working with before they use it if this will make you more comfortable. You could also ask them to run you through the procedure before they start. My point is: if there is anything that you feel would help you cope better, let them know and they should be happy to help you. Agreeing on a stop signal (and testing it few times) also helps, it will show your mind that you are in control.

All the best wishes
 
Gordon

Gordon

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I'd get the endodontist to do the root canal, the results are much better and more predictable under a microscope.
The rubber bite block is to make it easier for your jaw, it saves your muscles from the constant effort involved in keeping it open.
Would it be possible to change the order of treatment around a bit so that you get the easier stuff done first by your general dentist, with IV sedation if you want it, which will then make the root canal a bit less of a big step into the unknown for you? Basically a root canal is just a longer more boring filling procedure :)
 
C

CourageAndBraveryASAP

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Thank you, @grumpybear - I am getting the root canal done with the endodontist.

Thanks, @Enarete - that bite wedge information has quelled my concerns considerably. So I'll remind them when I arrive of my jaw issues and then specify that I want to adjust it around so it's comfortable. Hopefully that will be well received.

The endodontist said he will explain everything before he does it, which I appreciate. The staff seemed a little judgey, but c'est la vie. I am trying to remind myself that I have to just get through this - even if it is without my dignity!

This is my mantra right now:
- This is temporary, will end, and is not dangerous.
- Things could actually go really well. I could breeze through it. I could come back here and write up my story for someone else who is scared. Don't think it will go badly. It could go great!
- From a meditation that really resonated with me: Every breath I take fills me with more courage.
- And, a thing my awesome, supportive husband has been telling me: Courage is being afraid and somehow doing it anyway.

In my home, I can meditate and get myself to a place where I am bolstered and deeply believing of these things. But it goes out the window the second I walk into the endo office. For some reason, the smell is so strong that for the first twenty minutes I waited, I battled nausea (not a common issue for me.) After the first 15 minutes I wrapped some of my hair around my fingers and breathed that in, and that helped a bit. I have to think about how to manage that smell issue before Friday (root canal D-day!)

@Gordon, thank you very much for being a non-scary source of dental knowledge on here and to me, a person you don't even know. THANK YOU. Really, really thank you all.

Your order of operations idea is a good one. Here's the problem:
With the dentist, who offers IV sedation:
I'm supposed to get the root canal done BEFORE this appointment. This appointment is under IV sedation, is for the full mouth scaling and root planing, and to get three cavities filled, one of which is difficult to access unless I've had the root canal done (I think it's next to my tooth 15, the root canal tooth.) I'm supposed to also have the crown placed on the root canal tooth (15) which will have been root canaled about one week prior to this appointment.

I'm in the NYC area, but can't find an endodontist who offers IV sedation. The endo I'm scheduled to have my root canal with was referred by my dentist (the awesome guy who does IV sedation and is great with dental phobia) because he does good work and was likely to prescribe Xanax, which he did (just enough for the day of the procedure.)

So, order of ops as planned is:
- Root canal (tooth 15) (this Friday) with endo. No sedation except what my doctor is prescribing (more on that below.)
- 1.5 weeks later, under twilight sedation with my dentist: full mouth scaling and root planing three cavities filled, and crown placed on root canaled tooth (15.)
Once I am all recovered from the above, wisdom teeth have to come out. Requires oral surgeon. Coronectomies likely.
Then maybe orthodontic treatment, but have to get gums in good shape first - hopefully with scaling/root planing and good care at home and going for cleanings, will be ok.

I opened up to my physician about all of this and she has allowed me to experiment with her very specific instructions.
So far:
10 mg valium - did nothing (period of 20 minutes where I felt less anxious, then nothing)
.5 mg xanax - did nothing
1 mg xanax - did nothing, so she told me to add a benadryl. An hour later, I slept for six hours straight in the middle of the day. I remember everything. My husband checked on me pretty frequently. I woke up whenever prodded and responded to questions mostly normally. I asked him to turn down the tv volume, asked if he'd fed our pets, etc. He said I slurred a little and was off (apparently I told him "I feel quite impaired at the moment", but certainly able to self-advocate. The thing I didn't love is that twice I remember feeling paralyzed for about 15 seconds - like I wanted to move and talk, but couldn't - and it resolved in about 15 seconds.

So my physician feels this plan - 1 mg xanax and a benadryl - all take at the same time, an hour prior to the appointment - could help me really get through this.

I have to call the endo next and ask if he's comfortable with this.

Any thoughts of concerns from you folks?

My doctor's practice does not allow sleeping pills to be prescribed. I know Halcion is used in the US a lot apparently. But she thought I'd have a hard time self-advocating, and neither of us were comfortable with that. And I really trust my doctor of 10+ years.

My husband can be in the room with me for the whole root canal, by the way, if I go this Xanax + Benadryl route. I think if I can squeeze the living daylight out of his hand during the injections and follow this drug plan, maybe I'll be ok.

Thank you for reading and supporting me.
 
C

CourageAndBraveryASAP

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Just wanted to tell everyone that I had my root canal - the first ever experience in the dental chair since I was 7 - today. AND IT WAS GREAT. I will write about it in the success area for anyone in a similar situation. I can't believe I was so worried about it. Ha! Thanks to those of you who wrote to me. <3
 
krlovesherkids777

krlovesherkids777

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Congrats!! And can't wait to hear more about it in the success section :) :perfect::welldone:
 
M

MountainMama

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Yay! I am so glad that it went well for you!
 
S

Scared all the time

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Thank you. The Dental Topics section was very helpful. One thing I didn't see covered in there is info about these bite wedges that the endodontist told me he'd use - I'm getting the root canal on tooth 15 (upper left molar) and and he said they'd put the bite wedge on the opposite side of my mouth and my teeth would rest against it. I'm trying to figure out how wide it will be because if I force my mouth open too much, it will lock and be horribly painful.

Your question about whether IV sedation is offered:
So, my DENTIST offers IV sedation. I'm having the scaling and root planing (full mouth) and three cavities and a crown placed by him, under sedation.
He said he CAN do the root canal too, but he doesn't have the same equipment as the endo (that microscope thingy that shows you the canals, etc, in detail) and he initially recommended extraction of that tooth, which the endodontist really balked at - he said that was extremely aggressive for the condition of my tooth.
I didn't feel the dentist had confidence in doing the root canal and that the chance of success would be diminished.

But if I could get it all done with him - under sedation - even if it were two trips instead of one - I'd do it.

I'm in NYC and the people I talk to say you must get root canals done by root canal specialists to truly save the tooth for the long term.

Do you have an opinion on this? I am still TERRIFIED of the root canal, which is happening before my sedation appointment, and would be the VERY FIRST DENTAL EXPERIENCE I've had since the age of 7.

I also tried 10 mg of valium tonight after talking with my doctor. It alleviated my anxiety for 20 minutes. After that, I felt completely normal, and my husband remarked that I seemed normal too. I had few late work conference calls that went well. Haven't felt sleepy at all.

My doctor does not prescribe halcion or sleeping pills in her practice.



Thank you for sharing. I was told I cannot have both nitrous and the valium or xanax. The valium did not do anything for me. I fear I can't even get into the chair if that's what I rely on.

Feeling scared about the root canal without any kind of sedation.

My husband had a root canal done at a teaching college several years ago and fell asleep during it. He says it was a non-event. I wish I could be like him so badly.
Lol your husband sounds like mine! He falls asleep during those sort of things as well! dental procedures, tattoos lol I want his “devil may care” attitude too. He thinks I worry way too much...he’s right of course however I’d never admit it to him ?
 
C

CourageAndBraveryASAP

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Hi all. I have the second (and final) part of my root canal tomorrow with the endodontist.

Even though the first part a week and a half ago was such a great experience, I still find myself getting nervous now that it's the night before!

Because I need to have so much stuff done as I begin this journey, and because some of it will involve sedation and therefore an "escort", I told my husband he shouldn't miss another day of work (he took the full day off for part one of my root canal, which was my first ever dental procedure since I was a kid.) So he won't be with me. I also really want to head straight back to work because it's an important time and I have a lot of meetings I would prefer not to miss tomorrow afternoon. So I'm NOT taking the benadryl (which I took last time) and I'm taking one half the Xanax dosage I had last time.

It is interesting though. My husband tonight reminded me that I was elated and proud of myself after the first part of the root canal, and he reminded me that the endodontist said 90% was done, and tomorrow is the final 10%, and that I said afterward that it was so easy. Even knowing all of that... I'm still nervous. I'm nervous that my first experience was so good because of the pharmaceutical help or because my husband was there or the endo had a good day and was super careful giving the injections or whatever. So the interesting thing to me is that I can really see the phobia at play here - it's irrational. I know it. It's never been so clear. So why is my heart beating so fast? :)

Anyway, I'm sure it will be OK. I'll have my headphones and my playlist and I'm bringing something of my husband's to hold in my hand and a soft sweater to put in my lap and squeeze when I get my shots. The shots which I didn't feel last time, that is. And once it's over, I arranged to come straight home and finish my work day from home - I can do the meetings by video with the rest of the teams which is handy, but just for tomorrow I'll have access to my own kitchen and soft foods and ibuprofen. And my pets, who are the best therapy! So once I get through it, I can look forward to staying busy with work, then not having the usual commute and instead being able to celebrate my root canal being over.

But not celebrate for too long, because next week I have a very long appointment under IV sedation for the full mouth scaling and root planing, three cavities being filled, and getting the crown for my root canal tooth. Yeesh! And after that, have to sort out the most terrifying thing of them all, getting all four wisdom teeth out with an oral surgeon and a bone graft for at least one. But trying not to get overwhelmed and take it one step at a time. After all, once that's all done, my husband and I can get to the fun of trying to have a baby, and I can know that I conquered this demon, which will be worth its weight in gold.

I do wish my husband could be with for all of these appointments because he's been SO SUPPORTIVE and I'm so happy I started being honest about my fears, but he'll be with me next week for the IV one and then for all the extractions, so I'll hold onto that.

So wish me luck. If you don't hear from me again, it's because I had a heart attack and dropped dead from total panic. :D But more likely, I hope to report good news tomorrow and be able to officially say that the first procedure in my dental journey is behind me!
 
C

CourageAndBraveryASAP

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In the waiting room. Smells like fear and formaldehyde. GAAAAAH.
 
krlovesherkids777

krlovesherkids777

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:grouphug::grouphug: Wishing that this is even easier and better than the first appt. I hate those smells.. My thoughts and prayers are with you .. let us know how it goes!!
 
Dg6300

Dg6300

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You’ve got this.

You can’t fail, since you are already a success: you have come so much farther than before.
 
C

CourageAndBraveryASAP

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Hi. First of all, I love you folks.

Second, it’s over and I’m heading home! Last experience the shots were 100% painless. This time the first one was a 3 out of 10 in pain. Then didn’t feel the next several though he would warn me of the pinch coming.

Hygienist today was the sweetest.

A good experience all in all. I will do a journey or success story if it helps anyone with more detail.

I can’t wait to feel my nose and half of face again.

Thanks for your awesome supportive notes, they made me feel better!!!!!
 
krlovesherkids777

krlovesherkids777

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Courage and bravery,

How are you feeling today!! This is a great report!! So happy you had a great experience and can't wait to read your journal , it will encourage many! I hear you on the shots when most the time they are pain free but sometimes its jsut a few seconds of slight pinch.. My dentist is most the time 100% painfree too, this last time was about 3 seconds of the pinch, not terrible though.

Hope you are doing well today :)
 

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