This is my story so far.
I have been lucky. I live in the UK, and every child has free dental treatment until the age of 16, and then to 18 and maybe even 21 if they’re in full-time education. My mum had problems with her teeth in the past and was a really good parent and took me and my sisters to the dentists regularly. I only ever needed one or two fillings when I was little. I think I was a little lazy when it came to brushing, and one of my favourite snacks was bread and sugar ?
At around the age of 17 or 18, I started to suffer from panic attacks. These were not just panic attacks from being in one situation; they were chronic and lasted pretty much all day every day. I used to go to bed at night believing that I would not wake up the next morning.
My last visit to the dentist was around this age when the dentist told me I should ‘clean very carefully around my bottom front teeth’. This is a good piece of advice, and if he told me to do it now, I would. However, in my panicky state of mind, I began to believe there was something really wrong and that if I brushed my teeth too much that they’d be wobbly. I used to prod them with my tongue and imagine them moving. So I guess I just tried to ignore them and pretend nothing was wrong.
I say I tried to ignore them; nothing could be further from the truth. From then on, my teeth became a constant worry (even though at that stage NOTHING was wrong with them). Slowly tartar began to build up, right where the dentist told me I should clean. I tried to ignore it further and even stopped feeling around that area with my tongue. Hence it got worse and worse. Over a period of about 6 or 7 years, it got worse. From lower canine to lower canine, a huge line of tartar had built up. Every minute I was checking it to see if it was still there, I was petrified it would break away and take my teeth with it. Sometimes bits did break off, the largest bit that came off in one go was about the size of my middle fingernail. (That happened in a pub when out with some friends, we’d been out for a Chinese meal beforehand and I had spent the whole meal eating really carefully fearing that my whole tooth would fall out).
Still I did nothing about this, it was hell, but at least no-one could see this but me. I pretended that nothing was wrong. Four years ago, I was a couple of months away from getting married when I noticed a red line next to one of my teeth. It got worse, but still I did nothing except worry. I smiled a half-hearted smile in my wedding photos because I didn’t want to see the redness when I looked back on my wedding day. The best day of my life when I should have been carefree and happy was spent trying not to smile too much. Still I did nothing.
The years have ticked by; the tartar has gotten worse. I have some on almost every tooth; the front bottom teeth still were the worst. The red gums spread everywhere, it wasn’t just a little line anymore, it seemed as if the whole of my mouth was red. I now began to hate looking at myself in the mirror. I cleaned my teeth really well now, trying to make them better, but I could only look at my teeth by looking in the mirror from the other side of the room. From there they didn’t look too bad. However on the one or two drunk occasions when I’d plucked up the courage to have a close look I knew that I needed to do something, my gums looked almost completely red. I began to use a variety of mouthwashes, the most recent was Corsodyl.
Up till a couple of months ago, I broke out in a cold sweat at the thought of the dentist, or when someone mentioned going to one, or when watching toothpaste adverts on the TV. I went to bed at night panicking knowing that I had to do something but was too scared. Every morning the first thing I’d do was check that the tartar and my teeth were still there and that nothing had changed in the night.
Most recently (I’m ashamed to say but I know other people will have experienced this too), I have noticed that my breath isn’t the freshest going, this and the red gums have caused me to feel very self-conscious and my self-esteem has really suffered. I try not to speak too close to anyone, and I haven’t given my husband a great big kiss for ages because I’m so conscious of it. Also, over the last few months tartar has migrated around to the lower front teeth, they looked completely yellow. I thought they were dying. I really had to do something.
Eventually, I plucked up the courage. It took a little while. I started telling my husband that ‘I really should make an appointment with a dentist’. Eventually, I let little bits of information in until I could tell him that I had a lot of tartar build-up and my gums were red. I told him I was scared and asked if he would come with me, and, top bloke, he asked for me to make him an appointment too so we could go together.
I at last made an appointment at the same dentists my parents use, they said they were nice. I was shaking just picking up and handing in the registration form but I did it.
It was at this point that I found Dental Fear Central and its message board, and it has completely changed my life. I thought that after all these years I’d left it too late, I thought I was going to have at least some of my teeth taken out in the most horrible and terrifying procedures possible. The people on the message board gave me really good advice. The dentists told me that it wasn’t too late and told me about the treatments I might be in for, I would need a cleaning and maybe deep cleaning. People who’ve had this done gave me huge support and reassured me that it didn’t hurt a bit and said that they’re gums are now pink and healthy!!!! I couldn’t believe it! After so many years of worry and thinking I’d lose all my teeth, a huge weight was lifted!!!
I now began to feel much more positive about going to the dentist, though still apprehensive I wanted to get the ball rolling. I began to feel more confident about brushing my teeth well, I also started to floss, though due to the huge amount of tartar I wasn’t able to reach all areas very well, and at first, some gaps seemed too small, but it has since gotten much better with practice.
A couple of weeks later, it was time for my appointment. Hubby went in first and came out looking absolutely happy – he was alive and smiling. I was very nervous at this point but thanks to this site I half knew what to expect and was determined to get through it. I had decided that I’d spent nearly 10 years worrying about my teeth and I’d had enough.
The dentist was very nice, he just looked in my mouth with the mirror and made notes, he didn’t poke my teeth! I was not looking forward to that! I’d put ‘I suffered with panic attacks in the past and still do to some extent’ on my form, I’m not sure but I think this helped him not to poke about too much. Then he took a couple of small x-rays and said that I have no holes in my teeth! Yes!!!!
He said I had a lot of tartar (which I knew) and he wouldn’t be able to remove it all in one go. He then started to clean my teeth with the ultrasonic cleaner and the water spray. At this point I realised that everything I’d heard on the message board was true, it didn’t hurt a bit! I actually quite liked the water spray because it gave me something else to think about ? The hygienist used an instrument to suck the water away and was very nice, she kept asking me if I was alright and I replied with a thumbs up. I admit I did cry a bit, but I think that was through pure relief! After a couple of minutes, it was all over! I had a panoramic x-ray and then went to reception to pay! I was a bit worried beforehand about what the dentist would find underneath the tartar, I had thought that half my tooth would be missing, but I’ve had a look and it’s all there and still white! ?
I can honestly say that looking back on my appointment I can’t believe I waited so long to go. If I’d known what it was like I’m sure I would have gone years ago. I still need to go back in a week’s time to clean the rest of my teeth, fingers crossed I won’t need much doing after that.
In the meantime, I’ve had a very strict oral routine. Every morning and every night before bed, I clean all my teeth carefully, at a 45° angle inside and out, and the biting surfaces. I then floss between every gap in my teeth, making sure to get each tooth (now the major bits of tartar have gone I can reach all the gaps). Last of all, I use a chlorhexidine mouthwash, the dentist said to use that twice a day for 2 weeks.
Since doing this, I’ve noticed a big improvement already, and it’s only been a week! My gums are much pinker than they were, especially at the back of my mouth. There are still some red areas at the front but that is where most of the tartar was (and there still is some) so I’m not expecting immediate results there, but I’ve been having a look every day and think it’s improving.
I never thought I’d hear myself say this (2 months ago I never thought I’d say the word ‘dentist’!), but I now can’t wait to go for my next appointment to get the rest of my teeth clean! I still have a fair bit of stained tartar that is visible when I smile, and I’m so excited for it to be gone. I’ll probably still be a bit nervous but only a tiny bit, as I know I’ll come out the other side feeling much better.
I just want to say thank you to everyone on this site for all the help, advice and support. And to anyone really petrified by the thought of the dentist please go. Hand on my heart, the worst part is the anticipation beforehand, and when the appointment is finished, you feel absolutely wonderful! I really was ecstatic and was telling everyone!
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