My journey part one
I am 39 years old male and have been terrified of dentists all my life. There’s a reason for this. I basically had a very poor experience of a dentist when I was a child, experienced pain, and that conditioned me not to want to visit a dentist again. I have a poor family history regarding teeth, with weak enamel being endemic. I also have acid reflux which meant that my teeth decay quickly.
I did all the usual stuff, self-medicated when my teeth hurt, used mouthwash and chewing gum to cover the smell of my rotting teeth and pulling bits of broken tooth out of my gum with tweezers. I even pierced my gum with a needle to relieve an abscess. All to avoid going to a dentist. I know how insane it all sounds!
It came to a head at work. Two colleagues of mine did an intervention that basically explained that I could not do public-facing work because of the stench from my rotting mouth. They told me that I needed to do something about it; otherwise, my career was shot.
I went home that day in a daze and did a lot of soul searching. I looked online for dentists that specialize in anxiety and bit the bullet. I made that phone call. Making that call and booking the appointment took some of the stress away because I was being active and dealing with the issue and not ignoring it.
I was frightened. Strangely not because of pain or anything physical, but I was frightened of being judged. I was scared that the dentist would ridicule me for my poor decisions and refuse to treat me. I was frightened of rejection and castigation, not of anything real!
My appointment came, and I attended. I actually arrived bang on time. I was obviously nervous, and I stammered and muttered as I went through the paperwork that needed to be filled in. The dentist welcomed me and spoke to me standing next to THE CHAIR. I was frightened to sit in it and show me my mouth, but he comforted me and told me that there was nothing he had not seen before, and there would be no more pain. I lay back and looked at the computer screen above his head – he had Netflix playing in the background. He told me to keep my mouth open and just watch that screen. He did his inspection and then told me he needed to do X-rays. The X-rays were easy. I just needed to hold some plastic in my mouth a few times. He then sat me up and explained what needed to be done going through the images with me.
The upshot was I needed 19 teeth extracted, and partial dentures top and bottom. He said there would be no pain and he showed me the plan. Initially, I thought he made a mistake as he booked me for just two extraction sessions, a repair session (for one of the few teeth he could save), two casting sessions, where they take a cast of my mouth for dentures fitting and a final extraction session where my front teeth would be removed and replaced with the immediate dentures at the same time.
I booked the extraction for as soon as possible. The longer I delayed, the more I would worry about it. I waited a mere week, and in that time I worried about pain. I stocked up on painkillers and soft food and worried some more. But I had a plan now, and I was going to achieve it.
The day of the extraction arrived. My appointment was at two thirty – which made me laugh. The main reason why I was surprised was that the appointment was only for 30 minutes. He was extracting 8 teeth! I need not have worried at all. He sat me down and put some orange gel that smelt of bubblegum on my gums on one side. He then dosed me with anaesthetic: I hated seeing the needle. So guess what I did? I closed my eyes. In fact, I did not open my eyes until the surgery was done, exactly 25 mins later, and I was pain-free. I felt nothing. I felt pressure and heard a popping sound as each tooth was removed, but it was completely, totally and utterly pain-free. The dentist made sure I was ok after the surgery, talking to me about post-extraction care and avoiding dry socket. I followed his instructions as if he was a cult leader and given me cool-aid. Saltwater rinses every two hours. No sucking actions (no straws and no smoking) and I can honestly tell you all that all I needed for pain relief was ibuprofen and paracetamol taken together just an hour before the numbness started to wear off.
My journey had started.