Hello, I thought I would post my story here in the hope that maybe it will help someone else and its also a thank you to those who helped me get where I am now. Get ready for some epic eye strain ?
I know that when I first discovered this site I wasn’t interested in the “success stories”, they just made me feel worse, because I was never going to be able to add one myself. I had so many aspects to my dental fears that I was sure there was no hope for me.
Here’s a list of the issues I had.
- Fear of failed anaesthesia due to past experience.
- Choking phobia.
- Fear of allergic reactions.
- Panic attacks.
- Fear of not having control.
- Fear of Xrays revealing some horrific illness.
- Fear of not being able to cope with the news of what needs to be done.
- Fear of losing all my teeth.
- Oh and also a fear of looking at my teeth, which led to me brushing in the pitch black.
So that was all ?
Dental phobia has (had) been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I have at times considered suicide as being an easier option than having to get my teeth fixed. That may seem dramatic, but I’m sure for some of you reading this, you will understand how you can be that scared and that stressed, that it seems like an answer. There is another answer though and that’s finding the right care. Enter my dental super heroes !!
Although before you start picturing dentists wearing their pants over the top of their scrubs, I’ll explain how I arrived at this site in the first place. Throughout my life I avoided the dentist like the plague. I endured years of chronic abscess pain, watched teeth rot down to the gumline and even attempted to dig one out myself… all because I simply couldn’t face the fear of seeing a dentist. Eventually, my health suffered from all the infection and I got dragged to an NHS sedation clinic by my mum, and all was dealt with. I remember nothing, but my fear very much remained. Minus some teeth, I happily got on with my life but continued to neglect them.
Once I hit my 20’s pain returned. Once again I avoided the dentist but eventually found someone who was sympathetic, but I still had problems. I was difficult to numb, to the point where I felt pain on 80% of the work. I also had massive problems with those cotton wool sticks. I would go for treatment but was scared stiff the whole time. I stuck with this dentist for a good few years, but my fear never really lessened and eventually the stress of being that scared… all the time… became too much. He also didn’t offer sedation and that was something I felt I needed, or at least to just have the option.
Last winter I completely lost my nerve, I was already suffering from depression, OCD and anxiety and then I got an abscess. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I approached my dentist and asked about oral sedation and also about taking a few steps backwards and dealing with current problems in very small steps.
I got a “no” to both requests. This for me was devastating, I felt I had no control, no options and no hope. I also knew my time with that dentist had come to an end. He was good and I’m grateful to him for keeping me ticking over for the years I was with him, but he simply couldn’t provide me with the level of care I needed.
Ok, now you can start picturing the underpants and scrubs. I then found this website and after lurking around for a few weeks, put out a post asking for dentists’ opinions on my situation and how I could only handle the smallest steps. This is when I found Lincoln and Jean. Lincoln replied and from that first reply I knew I had found someone who may be the answer. I also found a few of his previous patients on here and after sounding them out, decided to give him a try…
Lincoln and I messaged a few times and then I emailed him. In the past, I had never really explained the reasons for my phobia, but this time I decided to take a risk. I told him all my dental history, all my current concerns, certain events in my past, the fact that I suffered from depression, from suicidal thoughts, from OCD, and from severe anxiety.
You might be wondering why on earth I shared so much, but I wanted to be totally open from the start. I also wanted him to know what he was dealing with and have an insight into the root of some of my fears and how they may possibly impact on any future treatment. Most of what I told him in that email I had never told anyone else before, so it was a massive risk but I needed a way forward and I needed to know that this dentist was the right one for me.
His reply was calm, warm, understanding and more importantly, gave me some hope. Off the back of that email, I made my first appointment.
Then I looked at the location – it was nearly a 2-hour drive. I wasn’t sure, what if I regretted switching dentists, was it too far, what if I didn’t like him, what if he didn’t like me, what if the nurse was one of those evil ones who hoovers up your tongue with that sucky machine. I worried, I fretted, but I went to that appointment, promising myself that if I didn’t feel comfortable I could leave and never go back.
I then met them. They aren’t like your typical dentist and dental nurse, these two are… well… normal. Apologies to all dental professionals now who are rolling their eyes and muttering about all being normal, but I’m sure other phobics will agree; some dentists are scary and very dentisty! I always used to feel a bit ganged up on, like it was 2 against 1.
With Lincoln and Jean, however, I felt only one thing and that was cared for. That first appointment was taken at my pace, there was no metal probe thing, no panoramic x-ray (I had already said I couldn’t handle that) and no raised eyebrows at the state of my teeth or gums. One thing really stood out to me and that was how gentle the examination was and how attentive they both were. This was hugely reassuring.
The news on my teeth, however, wasn’t so much. I was told I needed to have quite a few fillings replaced due to decay underneath existing ones and my abscessed wisdom tooth extracting. This was bad, I went hot, I went cold, I felt a bit faint, but I was assured we could go as slowly as I needed and my worst fear – having the extraction, could be left until I was ready. We agreed to focus on the fillings and with my abscess behaving, that would be tackled at a later time.
The first appointment was scheduled for a month later.
I then spent the next 4 weeks fretting. Would he get me numb enough, would I choke on the cotton wool, would I have a panic attack.
The appointment was a totally new experience for me. Everything was done so much more slowly and gently. Thanks to some gel and a buzzy thing attached to the syringe, I hardly noticed the injections. Previously I had 1 injection and work was immediately started. Here though, I must have had 5 or 6 to ensure numbing would be successful and the biggest difference was the length of time left until they started work. It was half an hour!! I was so numb that I’m sure he could have sawn my head off and I wouldn’t have felt a single thing. It was fantastic….a lifetime of unsuccessful anaesthesia was sorted with a few extra injections and time.
The cotton wool sticks were attached to some floss so I could keep a hold of them and this meant I could relax (well as much as possible). Lincoln quietly worked away, whilst Jean assisted and looked after me. I’m not the kind of person to really show how I’m feeling, I tend to keep it all inside, but she noticed every single time I started to get anxious and not once did she suck up my tongue with the hoover ?
That appointment was a total success. I went off to celebrate afterwards with a picnic, where I discovered that even my tastebuds were numb… it was an interesting experience eating a prawn sandwich that tasted of absolutely nothing and an even more special moment when I got a prawn stuck to my lip and didn’t even know… foxy ? The next appointment was the same and just as good. I was on a dental roll !!
Then the summer came.
Nothing changed with my teeth, or indeed my feelings about my new dentist, it was instead my mental health that decided to throw a wobbly. My pre-existing conditions which had been behaving themselves came back with a vengeance and this meant I struggled to cope with pretty much anything. I cancelled my next appointment, but for the first time ever, was honest as to why I had. So none of the usual “I had to work” or “my cat ate my car keys” or “I got bitten by a rabid frog”, I was just honest and this was much easier because I had been so open from the start. I explained that we needed to rethink my treatment plan whilst I was going through this rough patch and possibly consider IV sedation. Now, this is where my previous dentist lost me, he wasn’t prepared to be flexible and couldn’t understand how I could suddenly go backwards. Lincoln, however, was perfect and was happy to look at sedation as a way forward.
We agreed on 2 extended IV sedation sessions to finish my outstanding work. I felt better, more in control, then I started googling…. why do we do it ???? Then I started panicking. What if it doesn’t work, what if I’m awake and in pain but can’t move, what if I stop breathing, what if I have an allergic reaction, what if I need a wee, what if I share all my secrets, what if I have a stroke, what if I don’t like what it feels like, what if I have a panic attack ???? By this point, I needed sedating just from all my worrying and “what ifs”.
My main concerns were me panicking as the sedation took effect and then it not working well enough. I wanted to not remember a single thing, but I had read a few times of some people having an awareness. They all reported not being scared in the slightest, and even feeling really good, but how could that be. If I had awareness I would then have fear. I didn’t want to hear things or feel anything. I wanted a complete memory wipe. I’m going to go into what happened because I’m hoping it will reassure anyone with the same concerns as me. For those of you with eye ache, in brief, it went fine ?
For those obsessively searching for reassurance, here goes. Both appointments were pretty much identical in how they went so I’ll just include them as one. The sedation appointment day arrived and I was still worrying. I walked in the room and it looked the same, apart from a blood pressure/pulse thingy. There was also an oxygen tank – well it was that or a very large fire extinguisher ? I sat in the chair (I must add that we had already done all the paperwork at this point) and they took my blood pressure reading and heart rate. I believe I was something like 150/115 and beating away at 114 bpm…I was scared !
For all you needle phobics I’m going to talk about the IV line, but please try to read on because it’s not what you expect. I didn’t look, purely because I think your brain anticipates pain more if you know when it’s coming. However, I hardly felt a thing. Seriously, I couldn’t believe it was done. The needle must be tiny, and it was far better than a blood test. Also, jumping to the end for a second, when I was coming round I turned my head as he was removing the cannula. I was very surprised to see no needle come out. There was the plastic bit which sits on your arm or hand and then a tiny, weeny, little tube which looked soft and floppy. Clearly, the needle must only be used to introduce the tube part and then removed. So if you think you will be laying there with this massive needle in your vein, you won’t be.
With the IV in I then waited and prayed I didn’t feel any weird sensations which would cause me to panic. Jean started to talk to me, I remember saying it wasn’t going to work… she assured me it would. I felt no sensations and thus no panic. The only thing I noticed was as I was talking to Jean there was a fleeting moment when I slightly paused, like I ever so momentarily forgot what I was saying. That was then it, my memory stops at this point. It’s not like falling asleep, or passing out, it’s just like nothing. It’s hard to describe and comprehend, but one moment you’re talking, the next it’s an hour later.
Please believe me on that and also, that you won’t have a panic attack. I can have one at anything, I nearly had one this morning after I coughed too much….and both times I had IV sedation I didn’t even come close. I remember NOTHING of the injections or the first couple of fillings, but then I started to have awareness. Now beforehand this was the thing that freaked me out the most! I didn’t want to come round, but I’m apparently quite resistant to the drug and as it was a long session it started to have less effect. Don’t panic !!! This was my worst nightmare before that appointment BUT it was fine. After 90 mins or so, I can remember bits… I remember a part of a conversation they were having, then later I remember biting on that blue paper stuff, then I remember asking for some more sedation, and also staring at Jean…a lot !! Here’s the thing though, I wasn’t scared at all. I mean AT ALL. I was so comfortable, so happy and the bits I remember were fleeting. Some people who have reported remembering, have likened it to being very drunk. It’s like that in the sense that you are stupidly happy to be there, but there’s no “woah, the room is spinning” feeling. It’s more like if you wake briefly from a dream and then go back to sleep.
At one point Lincoln asked if I wanted him to continue. My reply was “hell yeah”. I’m going to say this again, because I know you will doubt me… I had no fear, no pain, and of the 5 hours work I had done under sedation overall, I can remember about 2 minutes worth. It’s honestly like you are simply unable to feel fear. I could have stayed there all day and I wouldn’t have cared, in fact, I was a bit disappointed when it was time to go. Once finished, I proceeded to wobble to the car, speak a load of rubbish to my driver and then fall asleep for the next few hours. Those 2 appointments were the easiest ones I’ve ever had and as such, I’ve decided it is the way forward for me. The next day I always feel a bit tired and wiped out, but it’s nothing that I can’t sleep away.
This now brings me to the present time and I have finished my first course of treatment. I’m pain-free, niggle-free and have a massive weight off my shoulders. Next year I will be returning to say goodbye to my dead wisdom tooth and that will be an epic hurdle for me. However, for the first time ever, I have trust in the people looking after me and know it will be ok. If you are looking for a dentist, please give Lincoln Hirst (Welwyn Garden City) a try.
He is kind, gentle and caring… he’s also rather funny, too. As in humorous… not funny odd ? Seriously though, I can trust him completely because I know that if he thought for one second he had caused me any pain or distress that he would be devastated. I think this a key thing, I’ve found a dentist who not only cares about my teeth, but the person attached to those teeth. As for Jean, she’s kind, attentive, caring and has perfect timing with her reassuring pats to my arm. She also puts up with Lincoln’s singing, so she’s got to be alright ? They are truly both my dental super heroes !
The point I would like to finish on is this: the most important part of getting help is finding someone who you feel comfortable with, someone who you can learn to trust and most importantly, someone who cares. Be open, be honest and believe that all those bad past experiences are just that… bad experiences, in the past. Your treatment doesn’t have to be like that. You don’t have to put up with toothache and fear. You just have to find the right person to help you.
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