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Tooth #30 extraction, sleep apnea problems



Junior member
Oct 17, 2022
North Carolina USA
Hi! I'm new here. I have sleep apnea and my apnea problems have made going to the dentist torture for me. I used to enjoy going to the dentist. I found it pleasant to lie back and let my mind wander. But that was before the sleep apnea started. My throat closes up if they tip me too far back, and the facility I go to is designed to have the patient lie flat on their back. I'm sure it makes it easier for the dentist, but lying on my back makes my throat close up and I suffocate.

For several years I didn't realize that was what was happening, however. I thought I was just suffering anxiety. So I got that figured out, spoke up and explained my problem. And they freaking ignored me! They said they would not tip me too far back, but they did so. They said I could raise my hand if I needed to stop for a moment, and they ignored me waving my hand around frantically. Then acted annoyed with me.

This was with a particular dental assistant. I no longer see her, thank god. My new one is very kind and tries to accommodate me, but the years of suffocation then being ignored on top of that have created a huge anxiety problem. When I went this past Friday I was literally shaking, and the appointment before that I shed tears.

My dentist this time is really nice and trying to help me but he is a resident and his supervising doctor must be a flipping idiot. He referred me to an endodontist to see if my tooth could be saved by a root canal. The endodontist took one really quick look and immediately said there is nothing to be done but extract it. It is a molar and is cracked down past the gum line. A tooth that is cracked past the gum line cannot be saved. It just can't, his experienced supervising doctor should have known that, and he should have told my resident dentist this. Instead I get referred out, spend $120 on a useless consultation that should not have been recommended in the first place.

So now I am trying to get an oral surgeon to extract the tooth for me. The front office is bungling the whole referral process. My dentist got on them though and finally I have been referred to an oral surgeon. I see them tomorrow for a consultation. I'll be paying out of pocket, so at least I have some choice. A friend went to this place a few years ago and had a good experience, so that is encouraging.

I have to get my dental treatment at this teaching facility because they are the only people in town who take Medicaid. I have no choice for my routine care. I have no idea what will happen after the extraction. Implants? A bridge? Just leaving a space? The teaching facility has a sliding scale fee for certain things not covered by Medicaid, so I will probably want them to do whatever comes after the extraction.

Wow it's a huge relief to come here and vent. My friends are sympathetic, but don't really understand the intense anxiety and fear. Nor do they know exactly how awful it is to suffocate. Thank god they don't know, I wouldn't wish it on anyone. But it leaves me feeling a bit alone. So I'm glad I found my way here. Thank you for reading through this huge long post. Any encouragement or understanding would be greatly appreciated.
Hi @CarolinaAnne, best of luck with your consultation tomorrow :clover:! That sounds really promising about your friend having had a good experience with this oral surgeon, so hopefully, they will be caring and accommodating :).

Just leaving a space is always an option, unless you find it too annoying (from memory, #30 in the US tooth numbering system is an upper first molar, correct?). A bridge might not be a good idea in that position unless the adjacent teeth are already crowned. Implants can be a great option but as you're probably aware they're not cheap, though they might be more affordable at a teaching hospital? I'm sure you will find out when you next visit your dentist (glad to hear that your current dentist is really nice BTW!).

Anyway - please let us know how it goes! Keeping my fingers crossed that you get on well with the oral surgeon 🤞
@CarolinaAnne sending you well wishes for today.

That's awful you had a dentist they blatantly ignored your hand signals. It literally just takes one horrible experience to make us doubt the lot of them doesn't it?

Sending you good thoughts. You can do this! Also as for cost, they should have some sort of payment plan right? Most places seem to be on that now. I hope things go well.
@letsconnect Thanks so much for the encouragement and information. The dentist residents work for one year, then are replaced, so I usually see the same dentist twice in a year for cleaning, then get a new one. I think my current dentist is not leaving soon, however, so that is comforting, as I like him.

@mariyam Thanks for the well wishes and support. :) Yes, since the staff is constantly changing at my dentist's office, I am always fearful my next one will be awful again. There is no stability there.

Cost is not a big problem as I have a credit card, they have sliding scale fees, and my father has pledged to help me. I know it's going to be expensive as all get out, even at a teaching facility, but between myself and my father, it should be manageable.

My appointment today is just a consultation, so I am not too nervous, although I don't like the idea of getting the financial estimate. I'm sure it will really hurt my pocket book.

I'm glad my pain has calmed down. At one point, for over 24 hours, my pain was at a 9 out of 10. Now with ibuprofen and Tylenol it's staying below 4. Trying to look on the bright side. :)
Oh jeez. I suppose it makes sense they have a constant stream of new faces since they're a teaching facility. I think a take away from that is they wouldn't be there if they didn't want to learn and just because they're technically still students doesn't mean they are "not good" just like simply because a dentist (or hygienist) is no longer a student makes them super amazing. We can all testify to some pretty horrible licensed dentists and hygienists out there.

I hope things went well. I can't even imagine the level of uncertainty that often leaves you in but I think you're so brave to go. Having financial help is always a great thing and a weight off your shoulders.

For my extraction my dentist said the cost saving of not doing an implant was more of a short term savings because there's a gap where there shouldn't be and our bodies are kind of dumb and can create problems while trying to "fix" that gap, but at the end of the day she wouldn't do anything I didn't want but she wanted me to remember she's already there, I'm already in the chair, these are no longer all day events like they were 15 yrs ago and dentistry has advanced leaps and bounds, but whatever I am able to do she will do, whatever I am too anxious over unless it is a medical emergency, we won't do.

There was a strange comfort in knowing all the things on the "MUST DO" were deemed medical emergencies. Strange right? But knowing somehow they have to be done made my brain go "I can do this, ok there will be days when I cry and say no I can't, but they are actual emergencies so she doesn't just want to save my teeth she also doesn't want my whole body to suffer. She is not out to cause me suffering, she is trying to save me suffering." I say that as part of me is going "Yes you can do this!!!" And another part of me, the traumatized part goes "maybe we can ignore it, it'll go away won't it" and honestly on the journey we're all on, I'm sure there are going to be days when the traumatized part wins and I'll need to hit the brakes and try to refocus.
Thanks for checking back, mariyam. I went and I don't like the doctor I saw but I have become fatalistic. It's going to be horrible and there's no getting around that. It just has to be done, and then it will be over. I've invested $200 in this practice, non refundable if I back out, and I can't justify to my father losing $200 because I didn't like her very much. It will be what it will be.

I found out that they cannot put me to sleep because of my sleep apnea, it's too dangerous. Not sure why... it is being on my back that triggers the apnea episodes and I will be on my back no matter what. But they will tranquilize me heavily and have nitrous oxide available on top of the tranks.

I saw a most beautiful thing when I was in the waiting room, though. A young couple was there, waiting for the wife to be called for her procedure. It was obvious she was petrified. The guy was so so kind and supportive, rubbing her back, encouraging her, holding her hand.

A good friend volunteered to give me a ride. It will be nice to know he will be waiting for me when it is all done. Then I can stumble home and collapse.

It's hard to explain why the dentist is so awful for me, to someone with no real phobias. A friend assured me that nitrous oxide was the thing, it made him not care. I cannot imagine being in a dentist's chair and not caring. (Although, technically, I don't think I have a dental phobia, just extreme dental anxiety. I have a full blown phobia of stairs and that feels very different.) But hopefully the tranquilizer will do SOMETHING. If nothing else, I can enjoy being spaced out after all is done.

My date is set for Halloween morning. The friend giving me a ride, kidding around, asked if he could dress up. Sure, why not? lol He asked if he should be a witch or a sexy nurse, lol. Gotta find humor where you can.
Oh gosh I'm so sorry you didn't get on with the dentist, but it is good to have someone there with you. And that couple you described, forget expensive dinners or fancy vacations, that there is not just a relationship goal it is a relationship must. Our anxiety no matter how minimal or severe is so deeply personal to us that even letting someone know how we feel is sheer bravery. A lot of times people say just keep a stiff upper lip. What if I don't want to! What if the best I can do is tremble the whole time petrified? That doesn't make the person less brave, in fact I always thought the person doing something that terrifies them with tears and shakes are the bravest people on the planet. And I so admire them because when petrified I genuinely do not know if I could keep going forward, I'd like to think I can.

Believe me I understand the fatalistic mode. You feel trapped and at the same time liberated. It's not exactly the comforting feeling you wanted but it's got a weird sort of comfort because there's really not another (viable) option. It's also a way for us to cope. And there is nothing wrong with that and if that morning you don't feel particularly brave remember that you're still there and trying and that's more bravery than anyone without what we deal with can muster.

Like right now I'm crying my eyes out over getting fillings tomorrow (fillings! Given the work I need done you'd think I'd be calm about fillings) and I'd like to convince myself I can do it because waiting for it to go away isn't realistic and I'm telling myself the dentist is good and kind and wants to save our teeth, but I'm still embracing the crying and the fear, I figure if I get as much fear out of the way now it won't spring up tomorrow.

Maybe you'll never run into the dentist and say "hey want to grab a coffee" but it doesn't have to mean they aren't good at their profession.

I'm glad the laughing gas is an option though. I don't really understand why they can't sedate you but they can give you tranquilizers. Isn't that basically doing the same thing in regards to breathing? Sounds really frustrating. My therapist told me that for the larger procedures to practice a "stop" signal so that it becomes so automatic that even at the height of panic I can manage to put it up, it might be something of an option for you to do too.

You'll have to update us on what your friend decided to wear and how everything goes. I'll be cheering you on.
So sorry to hear that you don't like the oral surgeon but it sounds like you'll get through it with your friend's support. At least it's a (probably pretty quick) once-off, never to be repeated!

Good to hear though that your current dentist will likely be there for a while, that's really great :)

Wishing you a not-too-spooky Halloween morning :ghost:, followed by this: :halloweendance:
@mariyam Thanks so much for supporting me. I don't like the doctor, but she seems very competent. So I'm not too worried about her professional capacity. I'm trying very hard not to think about the things that can go wrong even under the most optimal conditions. I've been getting through the pandemic by just assuming I will not get covid. I would have gone crazy with worry, pre vaccine, if I had allowed the idea that I would catch it. So I'm just running on the assumption that all will go as well as possible.

@letsconnect Thank you for your kind words. I don't think I'll be up for a full dance, but I might manage a chair dance when all is over. lol

I think I'm going to leave this forum until my procedure is over. Reading about all the things that can go wrong, thinking about how much bravery I need to gather, ruminating on the horribleness ahead of me, is not a good thing. I need to break my rumination circle.

Thank you to all who replied. I feel really welcomed and supported. I'll be back if the fear gets intolerable and I need more support, but otherwise, I won't be around until I can report success. ❤️ to all.
@CarolinaAnne you're very welcome. I think it's so important to try and support each other. We've all come here for one reason or another, sometimes we just want to vent and other times we need someone to tell us it's going to be ok, you're going to be ok. We may not be in the room with you physically but we can be in the room with you mentally and it's so comforting to know you aren't alone in the struggle.
I decided that I hated that dentist so much, I cancelled my Halloween appointment for extraction. I made that appointment when I was in pain and eager to get it done. I am out of pain now, so I am less willing to compromise on getting a good dentist who handles anxious patients well. I am also less willing to pay hundreds of dollars, if I am in no pain. So I called the place that takes Medicaid. It is over an hour away and has a huge waiting list. They got me a December appointment. My co-pay for Medicaid is $4 per visit, so it will be $12 for the consultation, extraction, and follow up, as opposed to $800. I asked my regular dentist if there was any harm that could come of waiting so long and he said No. So I feel like I made a good decision. I actually went to this Medicaid place years ago to have 3 wisdom teeth removed, and I remember it being a not bad experience. And the ladies on the phone are so sweet.
@CarolinaAnne glad to hear you aren't in pain anymore. That's a big step in advocating for yourself. Something I think our panic makes us compromise with. But recognizing that them dentist really made you feel uncomfortable is a big step in finding the right one and it'll be something to add to your list of requirements for care. It seems like despite the distance the new place is a better fit. Front desk reception gives you a good idea about what kind of place it is.