Haven't visited a dentist in 15 years, two broken teeth, spiraling into depression

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colorfulmess

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Nov 7, 2020
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I'm 30 and haven't been to a dentist since I was 15. I was given laughing gas for a filling and had a panic attack that almost resembled a seizure. I remember watching my legs kick and feeling like I couldn't control my body. The dentist kicked me out and told me to come back when I was done being a baby. I haven't been back since.

In 2016, I broke the tooth that never got filled. Since then I've been using this temporary filling stuff you can get at the grocery store. I plug the hole with it so my cheek and tongue don't get irritated. A few weeks ago, a tooth on the other side of my mouth chipped. This hole isn't as large, so I think this tooth could be saved if I can just get myself in to see someone. The tooth that is more severely broken is starting to turn gray.

I'm terrified of two things. First, that any procedure will wipe out the entirety of my savings (about 20K). I've lived in poverty my entire adult life (even finding myself homeless 4 different times) until my grandpa died and left me that money in his will. It's the first time I've ever had any kind of safety net and I don't want to lose it all, especially with covid putting my tourism-related job at risk. I'm uninsured and do not qualify for Care Credit, so any payments would have to come out of that savings.

Second, I'm afraid they will have to pull multiple teeth and I'll have gaping holes in my mouth that everyone will notice. I already think I'm an ugly person and I feel like if I have gaps in my mouth then surely no one will ever love me. I was bullied all through school for having crooked teeth (before braces) so I already hate what I see in the mirror. I'm chronically single as it is and I'm sure my appearance is partially to blame.

I guess there's a third thing. I have an anxiety disorder and a literal phobia of talking on the phone. That makes it very hard to schedule an appointment, unless I could find a provider that allows online booking.

I know the danger of letting an infection spread, but if it killed me, would that be so bad? Sometimes I think I'd literally rather be dead than have an empty space in my mouth and I feel bad for saying it, but that's my number one lifelong fear.
 
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scaredandanxious88

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Nov 1, 2020
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Hey there,

I completely understand how you're feeling. I had not gone to the dentist for around 15 years until this week when I finally went in and got a whole checkup with x-rays and diagnosis. It's so scary. Trust me, I know, but it's completely worth getting these things taken care of and you'll have so much more mental space from not worrying about your teeth. I also have a history of high anxiety and panic attacks. Everything will be okay :)

As far as cost goes, have you researched dental insurance? Or maybe have a close friend or family member who could help you out and even hop on calls for you?

I'm also in the US and I signed up with Cigna Dental specifically because I knew I needed work done and I don't have lots of money to spend. I pay around $30/month. It might be worth researching because it will save you a significant amount of money should there need to be major work done. Be aware that there are waiting periods before coverage for certain procedures kick in (6 month waiting period before fillings are covered, 12 months before root canals etc.) You can read about all these things on the plan. The perk to signing up with dental insurance this however is even if you have to pay out of pocket through your insurance, you will pay the rate that the dentist and insurance have agreed upon which is usually cheaper than paying out of pocket without insurance. Some offices also accept payment plans so there is a solution to alleviate potential money issues.

I have like 7 fillings I need to get done in the upcoming weeks. It would have cost me triple the amount if I did not purchase dental coverage.

I'm rooting for you :) It will all be okay and you and your health are worth taking care of <3 Getting started is the most difficult part but you can do it!
 
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colorfulmess

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Nov 7, 2020
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You still saved money even though the coverage hasn't started yet? I'll definitely look into this. I also emailed a charity clinic in my city, not to make an appointment yet, just to ask a couple questions.
 
Enarete

Enarete

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Hi colorfulmess:welcome:,

thank you for sharing your story.. I see a contrast there - you have many worries and anxieties and I believe you are really suffering and dealing with your worst fears. At the same time you described it all very briefly and down to the point. You seem to know yourself well. That‘s a great thing and believe me, having such a huge clarity in what are your fears is the step to find ways to fix your situation.. without those fears coming true.

As far as I got, you are afraid of the cost of the possible treatment, of several teeth having to come out possibly and you have a phobia of talking on the phone which may make it difficult for you to schedule I guess. Let me take those one by one and share some ideas.

Costs and needed treatment. I was wondering whether this is more the fear of how you would react if you got the bad news, some people are afraid of losing it when they hear it, but even that can be solved.. but for now I am assuming you are afraid about the costs and what needs to be done.

I am taking those two together just to illustrate one point: both of them are simply information. If you get a check-up, they take a look and tell you, what needs to be done and how much it would cost, then this wouldn‘t change anything about your situation. It would only give you clarity. It is good to understand that having a quote and having the information of what needs to be done doesn't mean that anything will be done. You decide. The only risk is the initial fee for the first exam to get that information. When we have fears, we often think too much ahead instead of step by step. By the way, clarity is what can help with fear already and people scared of the dentist often expect more treatment than they actually need.

Another advantage of having this information: if you have them, you can plan. A good dentist will be willing to work with you as a team. They can tell you what needs attention in your mouth and they can give you options. You give them your worries and together you find ways around that. Most people cannot afford huge treatment, so then you can just see what needs to be done first and how to spread treatment so that you can have security for your job, don‘t have to worry about existential things, but can start to move forward slowly. Dentistry is really flexible nowadays, it‘s just about finding someone who you like and who is willing to work with you instead of on you.

The same goes for any missing teeth. Lets assume the worst case scenario just for a moment (and I don‘t believe it would come, because if you look around, everyone expects more treatment than they need) and you find out that a tooth needs to come out. Not wanting to have gaps is normal. Everyone would fear that. Teeth are not just there for eating, but we need them to smile and not to look weird. Of course we do. So no dentist would remove teeth and let you go with gaps. Again, this is about planing the steps in a way that won‘t make you suffer.

Last but not least.. your fear of talking on the phone. I don‘t have a phobia of it myself, but I would rather die than calling a dental practice. Never ever. So now as you know that this is a barrier, you can look for a practice that has an email address and tell them that you are only available via email. There should be no problem with it.

What do you think?
 
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colorfulmess

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Nov 7, 2020
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Thanks for explaining things in a way I can understand. My concern about the pricing is this: let's say I can't afford thousands of dollars of work in one go. Would they be able to spread out one procedure at a time over a period of months? I have this feeling that if I say, "I can't pay for everything all at once," then they'll say, "Okay, then there's nothing I can do."

I've been pretty much on my own since my mom died when I was a freshman in college, so I never know who to ask about these kind of "adulty" medical things.
 
Enarete

Enarete

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Would they be able to spread out one procedure at a time over a period of months? I have this feeling that if I say, "I can't pay for everything all at once," then they'll say, "Okay, then there's nothing I can do."

I've been pretty much on my own since my mom died when I was a freshman in college, so I never know who to ask about these kind of "adulty" medical things.

Sorry to read about your mom... the world must feel like a lonely place at times :( glad you reached out here.

Yes, a dentist can spread out things. There may be things that cannot wait and would be sensible to do as soon as possible and some that may wait. There may also be different options of treatment with different costs. It's the dentist's job to explain those things to you.

Now while a dentist can spread things, you will come across practices that just give you a treatment plan and may suggest doing all at once.. I suspect because they just prefer to work that way. That however doesn't mean that you have to comply with it. Your financial worries and also your fears is a good reason to take it slowly. So if you find a dentist who seems to want to want all at once, you can just look for another provider. This could be a good question to ask via email beforehand to get a sense of how the practice works.
 
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