Don’t read this if you’re freaked by specifics of dental treatment.
Well, so the upshot of my first dental appointment in 19 years is this:
- 1 probable ‘pegged’ crown (possibly a removal and bridge if the root of the tooth can’t be saved; dentist thinks this second possibility is unlikely, but can’t be 100% certain until he starts prepping the tooth).
- 2 front-facing fillings (possibly requiring, if filling alone leaves the teeth too weak, upgrade to crowns).
- 1 tooth requiring large internal filling (the surface is intact, but X-ray shows extensive decay beneath; how the hell does that even happen?).
- Root treatments definitely required on 2 teeth, and probably on a 3rd.
- Various small spot fillings, but these are “not a priority” and can be treated “down the road”.
- In total, 5 teeth require “priority” attention (some require more than one procedure – i.e. root treatment plus crown/ filling).
On the plus side:
- No abscesses or infections at the root of any teeth, so no need for antibiotics.
- Very little build up of tartar.
- Many teeth require no attention at all.
- Absolutely no mention at any point of the words “wisdom teeth”, or “It’s probably nothing, but just to be on the safe side I’m going to refer you to…”.
- The dentist swears blind he can make the whole thing pain free.
Some of my big potential freak-outs have been accounted for in a positive way: the no antibiotics thing, the failure to mention wisdom teeth (a passing reference to ‘popping’ which out was the proximate cause of me stopping going to the dentist in the first place), and not discovering anything that required a referral elsewhere are especially good. If it turns out that the root-that-may-be-saved can be saved, and removal is therefore not necessary, that will be another relief. Other freak-outs remain, of course. Most notable amongst these is the phrase “root treatment”.
I got the slight impression that the dentist is used to “anxious” patients relaxing within a couple of minutes, once he has shown them that he’s not a psychopathic monster. He’s clearly not a psychopathic monster, and that certainly helps, but I’m also nothing like relaxed. It was all I could do to submit to a visual inspection (i.e. one with a mirror, but without the horrible sharp poky-proddy thing) and an X-ray, and those are about as non-invasive and non-threatening as dental procedures come.
On the other hand, the experience was enough for me to realise that the anticipation of these things was worse than the actuality – it was unpleasant, but survivable. Given that I had more-or-less arrived at a position where I anticipated that the experience would be as horrible as dying, this is not insignificant. Also, the dentist has not abandoned hopes of calming me further – he is hopeful that he can get me to a stage where I feel neutral about dental treatment.
We are considering the possibility of hypnosis (the dentist offers this himself). I have had some previous experience of hypnosis during my teenage encounters with psychology, mainly centred around relaxation, which is what we would be focussing on here. I found it somewhat helpful then, so I’m not dismissing the idea out of hand. I have somewhat indistinct memories of the experience – it was about 25 years ago – but I do remember being made to feel all fluffy and warm, which is a feeling I could do with right now. From my recollection, I tended to feel great while actually under the influence, but the benefits dissipated quite fast. I guess with dentist and hypnotist being one and the same, the likelihood is that I would be hypnotised while actually undergoing treatment, so that might not be so much of a problem.
The dentist also raised the possibility of sedation, probably by oral means (the other option is IV delivery of the drugs, but I got the impression that’s reserved for more serious work). I’m not at all sure about this idea. I’m concerned by the loss of control involved in being drugged up, and after a few years in the mental health minefield I’ve also become very resistant to the idea of taking drugs, as those of you who’ve been suffering through this blog for a while will know.
Possibly the biggest obstacle, though, is that I would need to bring someone to the appointments, and there isn’t really anyone I can ask. I live several hundred miles away from family, and I’ve pretty much lost touch with all my friends. There are definite downsides to being a loner, and I seem to have been smacked in the face with most of them – emotional and practical – over the last couple of weeks.
Anyway, there’s that. Sorry for the preoccupation, but I am preoccupied, to the point of not really being able to think about anything else. I’ve tried my best to keep this out of the realm of self-pity, but not sure if I’ve succeeded, especially in the bit whining about not having any friends which is, of course, my own fault.
Just looked it up and decay below the tooth can be caused by the gum seal becoming loose and bacteria getting in under the gum rather than through the external part of the tooth, weird but true. Apparently they rarely take out wisdom teeth these days unless they’re causing significant problems, I understand previously they were removed almost automatically. Mention of having wisdom teeth out, combined with my mother’s horror story of this, was what put me off going to the dentist too: a) I have since had a tooth taken out where the root was fused to the jawbone, which took about half an hour but did not hurt at all; b) I really should not listen to my mother’s horror stories because we have very different benchmarks for horrible.
Root treatments have a bit of a horror reputation in themselves because local anaesthetics don’t work properly on a tooth that’s currently infected, which is why they give you antibiotics first if it is, and just because dentists in the past seemed less keen on using anaesthetic for some reason. It seems to quite surprise some people (including my mum) that using local anaesthetic is now standard practice!
Give hypnosis a try, nothing to lose. Do you own some sort of music-producing device with a headphone socket? If so you might want to try taking along some music to play to drown out some of the sounds and give you something to focus on – get the dentist to tap you on the shoulder or detach an earphone if they want to talk to you. You may not like being unable to hear what’s going on or what they say straight away, but I’m used to that anyway. :o) Your confidence will increase with each appointment, and it may seem impossible now but it’s entirely likely that you can get to a neutral point, once some things have gone well and painlessly.
Well done! If you’re in the right mood even root canal work can be ‘enjoyed’. Then again, I’m partial to a good nettle thrashing. Joking aside, bloody well done you. I took 12 years out from the auld drillers… It was the toothache drove me back. Atb and good luck, d
Re old-school dentistry – my childhood dentist never used it on us – he said he could tell when he was getting close to the nerve better without it. My Ma used to work for him as a nurse, and went along with it. That’s why I stopped going when I left home! Anaesthetic was a revelation when I returned to the chair.
Thanks for the comments.