I started reading some of the posts on these boards last summer because I knew that eventually I would have to face my dental phobia and I wanted to know if there were others out there like me. I never registered or posted though, because I was still ruled by my fear and knew I wasn’t going to deal with my problem anytime soon.
Then fate made the decision for me. I got an infected abscess on one of my teeth, and the pain was like nothing I’ve felt before.
I tried to tough it out, but I finally gave in and called a dentist and asked for an emergency appointment.
But let me go back a bit first and tell you a bit about my life. In my younger days (I’m 46 now) I was going to a dentist regularly and really wasn’t suffering any phobia about it. But I never liked the guy much, as he was a preachy sort. He would often make me feel like I was a bad person just because I had a cavity. So at some point, I stopped going.
Well, predictably, my teeth suffered. And things started going very bad. First, I broke a couple of teeth, and then others started decaying badly. The worse things got, the more I was afraid to go back to the dentist. Not because of the work that would need to be done but because of the guilt and low-self esteem I always felt when I left his office. The worse things got, the less likely I was to let anyone look inside my mouth.
As the years went by, I stopped looking inside my mouth. When I brushed, I wrapped my lips around the toothbrush, so I wouldn’t get a glimpse of the terror within. Of course, I stopped smiling. And I covered my mouth with my hand when I laughed. The horror show in my mouth became my shameful secret, and I went to great lengths to hide it from everyone.
After 25 years (roughly) I had reached the point where all that was left of my upper teeth was a forest of jagged root stubs poking out of my gums.
(For some reason most of my problems were with the upper teeth. The lower teeth, though definitely not healthy, were at least all still in one piece.)
I was still able to use those jagged root stubs to eat, so I managed to get by. But my face had become perpetually sad looking, which accurately reflected my inner self.
When that infected abscess forced my hand and I finally went to a dentist, I was petrified to my very core. I was so deeply ashamed of how I had let this happen, and I was shaking with fear that my dark secret was going to be revealed.
So when the pain finally overpowered me, I did a quick Internet search for dentists in my area. There were five listed, four men and one woman.
I decided that a woman dentist would probably be much more compassionate about my situation, so that was the one I called.
I went in and sat in the waiting room sweating profusely, shaking slightly and on the verge of sprinting for the door. When they took me back to the exam room, it was as though the dam suddenly burst and I started spilling my whole story to the dentist.
When she asked me to open my mouth and started looking around in there, I almost cried. Nobody had been allowed within that wall I had built for more than 20 years, so it was an extremely vulnerable moment for me. I think the wrong kind of response from her would have sent me over the edge.
But she didn’t judge me. She didn’t make me feel bad about myself. She just calmly talked with me about the things I needed to have done.
It was… a revelation.
That was last September. Since that initial visit, I have gone through more types of dental procedures than I knew existed.
She worked very hard to repair all my lower teeth so that they should stay with me now as long as I take care of them.
Then last Friday, I had my final and most radical procedure, the removal of the remains of all my upper teeth and the fitting of a denture.
I won’t say it was easy, it wasn’t. But three days later I am pain-free and able to smile again.
Now I now look forward to seeing my dentist, because I trust her implicitly. I think that is very important. I am so lucky that the one random name I picked out of an Internet search turned out to be the perfect dentist for me.
Well, that is my success story. Maybe someone will read it and find some similarities to their own situation and be moved to take action. Perhaps?
Last summer, when I started reading the posts on these boards, I was surprised to find so many people out there like me, not knowing what to do or where to turn. I read other success stories and maybe, just maybe, that made it easier to pick up the phone when the time came? I don’t know. But hopefully, this will help someone else to rediscover his or her smile. 🙂
Story 7 out of 24