• Adventures in Dentistry

    I went to the dentist today. I’m glad that I did even though my wife had to make the appointment for me. I was at least able to drive myself there. You see, I am deathly afraid of dentists.

    It’s been five years since my last trip to a dentist. This, in spite of me having complete coverage dental insurance for the last five years. My teeth don’t hurt, I kept telling myself. I totally understand that by the time your teeth are in pain, it is much to late for easy fixes.  The logical mind can only overcome so much, when the lizard brain is screaming at us to RUN AWAY!!!!

    My first trip to the dentist was when I was nine years old, I know because it was my 9th birthday and I’d never been before. My mother is also afraid of the dentist as well and she didn’t want to put me through that. Give her an A-plus for parental concern and an F minus for judgement. It was, one of the top three most miserable experiences of my entire life. No one in the office believed that I had never been to the dentist before… until they saw my teeth.

    My next real adventure came three weeks before I got married, when three of my wisdom teeth became impacted/infected. The marriage ceremony was only slightly marred by the fact I was doped to the gills on antibiotics and painkillers and my best man was holding on to me to keep me from falling over… and I couldn’t enjoy any of the food we had.

    A week later (no honeymoon for me), I had oral surgery that resulted in 17 shots of Novocaine, one wisdom tooth shattering and having to be picked out of my jaw in pieces with tweezers, and a damaged jaw joint on the other side. This was also in the top three most miserable experiences I’ve ever had.

    It wasn’t until I was in my late 30s that the dentist and I came to the understanding that Novocaine doesn’t really work on me as well as on most people. I thought the pain that I felt was just normal and I had to suck it up. I never realized that I shouldn’t really be feeling anything at all.

    None of this is helped by my vertigo. Having my head lay flat is very painful and usually results in a vertigo attack. This new dentist informed me that it is quite possible that my vertigo has been exacerbated by the damage to my jaw joint.  The same thing with the loss of hearing in the ear on the same side. While tinnitus and vertigo do run in the family, until the dentist today mentioned it, I never realized that I had never had a vertigo attack prior to my wisdom teeth surgery. It was so long ago that my mind didn’t really correlate the events.

    Apparently (and one class I have never taken, quite on purpose, is anatomy and physiology), the damage to the jaw joint causes swelling and inflammation in that area, which just happens to have the auditory canal pass through.

    The dentist is hopeful that we can at least stop the worsening of the symptoms. My hearing in that ear is about half of my other ear. Of course, now that he’s brought it up, I’m getting psychosomatic pain pulses in that ear… as I type this.

    I am seriously going to be very pissed off if my years of vertigo attacks and the steady loss of hearing could have been prevented. I’ll be going back in a month to have a more detailed exam done, since this was just technically a cleaning.

    Even though it’s been five years, my teeth are in remarkably good shape.  I do not condone or endorse not seeing a dentist. I’m just saying that it could have been much worse for me than it was. I’ve never held, in my hands, a chunk of plaque that has just been chiseled off of my own teeth before. The fact that this chunk of plaque was roughly the size of an aspirin tablet was pretty disturbing.

    I will say that the staff at this new dentist office was not condescending to me in the least. The normal reaction is “You have to brush better.” As if I have never brushed my teeth before. These guys listened to me and calmly explained that my mouth chemistry results in plaque (something I know) and then suggested some things to help out.

    That’s another reason that I never enjoyed the dentist (as much as anyone can enjoy the process) was the attitude towards the patient by most of them. Yes, I understand all the things about teeth that you are telling me again. And yet, I can brush twice a day and floss everyday and still, after six months, you need a chisel and dynamite to properly clean my teeth. It’s the way it is. Dentists need to quit being a part of the problem.

    Fear is a powerful motivator. Even in a skeptic like me, fear can overcome reason. Fear of pain. Fear of rejection. Fear of being told I’m an idiot for not taking care of my teeth properly. Fear of being ignored. Fear of having things done to you that you don’t understand.

    There’s not much dentists can do for the pain. I will say that this was the first time I’ve ever been offered nitrous for just  cleaning though. They listened to me. They understood my fears and dealt with them as if I was an adult that need support.

    It was an amazing as an experience in the dentist’s office can be. And what’s sad that it is as amazing and atypical as it was. Patients are people. With fears and concerns and sometimes problems that they don’t even realize are problems. Doctors and other health care professionals need to pull back from the assembly line medicine mentality and get to know their patients. I think that everyone will be very glad that they did.

    Category: Life


    Article by: Smilodon's Retreat