Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Confessions of a Dental Coward

I had an...interesting...weekend. A back tooth broke on Friday night and it turned out my dentist’s office was closed until Monday. Coward that I am, that gave me 2 days to worry (all right, let’s be honest, panic...) about what it would mean when I did go in. Add to that some difficult personal issues to deal with and...well...let’s just say it wasn’t the best of weekends.

Monday morning I called my dentist’s office bright and early. They told me to come right in and sure enough they told me I would need a crown—my first. I did what any self-respecting coward would—I told the dentist that previous dentists had had trouble numbing my teeth and that I was just warning him that I was a terrible coward when it came to dental work. He didn’t laugh. He didn’t pooh, pooh my concerns. He quite seriously assured me that he would make sure the tooth was numb, would stop at any moment if I was in pain, and that it would be okay.

He was as good as his word. Mind you, I’m not thrilled at how much dental work costs. I’m not thrilled I needed the dental work at all. Of course it helped that I did deep, calming breathing as I waited and soothing images while he worked but....still. I am profoundly grateful he listened and was so respectful of my concerns. And that’s why I’m sharing this story.

Lots of people are cowards when it comes to dental work. For survivors of abuse, there’s something more at work, though I’ve never been able to properly explain—even to myself—what that is. I do know that I’ve had times in my life when it was impossible to get myself to go to the dentist at all.

I tell this story because I think it’s important. I think we’re often afraid to tell people we’re scared. It feels like it makes us too vulnerable. And I’m not suggesting telling everyone we meet what our vulnerabilities might be! What I am suggesting is that we are not always powerless. We can tell doctors and dentists if we feel scared. If they are not respectful about how hard the experience is for us, we can look for other doctors and dentists.

In my life, I have been impressed with how often people have reacted with kindness and understanding when I have shared a vulnerability. I hope it gives hope and encouragement to others to know this because we all have to deal with doctors and dentists—at least sometimes.

Sending blessings and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),


Enola said...

This - - is a link to my prior post about dentists which quotes you. I think so many of us struggle with this. I'm glad you were able to tell them to take extra care (I use the "it takes a lot to make me numb" thing too). Last time I lucked up with a female dentist and it was SO much better.

So how bad is a crown? Compared to a filling or root canal? I need one of those but keep chickening out

gypsy-heart said...

I so understand your fear. I have a wonderful dentist too..but he is getting old now. I have two that he may retire and two that he won't retire when he should. :O

Childhood experiences do tend to remain with us, and it can be difficult to overcome the fears. SO EMPOWERING when one does though...right?

I see strength in your words here!


therapydoc said...

It IS scary to admit fear. But sometimes, face it, it's the only way to go. And you're right, it brings out the care-taker in healthy individuals. It's those unhealthy ones. . .

Rising Rainbow said...

Confessions time, huh!

I have NO PROBLEM telling the dentist I am scared! I won't go in without my husband to hold my hand and keep me from running! So they darn well better find a place for him to sit right next to me!!

AND, I broke a tooth right before Christmas, nope to be honest, it was more the middle of Dec. It took me until NEw YEar's eve to get to the dentist. Then I found out I had not only one but two newly broken teeth. Those go along with the other four I already have! So I need 6 crowns. My insurance will pay for 1 a year. That's good enough excuse for me to put the others off!

Sorry, I'm healthy about lots of things but the dentist sucks!

I did a temporary crown in place and must go back the 22nd to get the permanent one in place. That will be 3 times to the dentist in less than a month. Just that thought is enough to make me run for the hills!!

So you want to talk coward!! I think you're doing way better than I !!!

jumpinginpuddles said...

i was wondering april if you could see our latest blog "we were never anyones daughter" and tel us your thoughts

Marj aka Thriver said...

Thanks for writing this. Sometimes it takes a pretty extensive search--but there ARE caring and respectful dentists (and other healcare providors) out there. I'm going through a lot of fear about some tooth crack repair I need right now. So, this was good for me to read.

BTW: I had my first crown put on a little over a year ago. It really wasn't that bad. I think it's a LOT easier than a root long as you have somebody doing it who cares and respects your safety needs.

April_optimist said...

Enola, I've never had a root canal. Fillings? Well, this was more work to be done. Better because this dentist actually got the tooth fully numb. (Note: One dentist once told me that adrenaline pushes the novocaine out of the system faster making it harder to keep the tooth numb. That's one reason I was doing the calming breathing.)

Gypsy Heart, So glad you have a good dentist. Here's hoping when he retires you find another good one.

Therapy Doc, Absolutely right! As I said, I DO NOT recommend telling everyone our vulnerabilities! We should be cautious. And it's one reason we need to be ready and willing to walk away if we get a bad "vibe" and/or the person isn't respectful of us.

Rising Rainbow, Okay, you've got me beat! Since I don't have dental insurance at all, I didn't have that excuse. Thank heavens for my discount card which saved me close to half the cost!

JIP, (((Hugs))) How I wish you'd had that kind of acceptance all your life. You deserved to have it!

Marj, Thanks. And sympathies on needing dental work yourself. Here's hoping it goes smoothly and with a caring, skilled dentist.

casey said...

I too have much difficulty with the dentist. The fear overwhelms me....and I know that the dental assistants think me a huge pain. I have tried to explain to them...but how does one explain something that they dont even fully understand.

I know it is about control on a big level...but for me there is another component. When I was around 7, I was sent to the dentist alone. ( a neighbour took me). This dentist slapped me...very hard. I remember being so terrified...and very alone. Its a terrible thing to have to sit as a young child, and hold your mouth open...not move a muscle while some strange miserable man plays with the inside of your mouth. I dont recall telling anyone...and even if I did...that was a time when I was supposed to do whatever ANY adult told me...without question.

I really need to go to the dentist now...and I am terrified.

April_optimist said...

Casey, Much sympathy. Sounds like you have good reason not to like going to the dentist! I don't explain WHY I have trouble at the dentist other than to say other dentists have had trouble numbing the pain or that I've had some bad experiences at the dentist and to please bear with me. If I have a good experience, I make sure to tell the person they did a great job and how grateful I am. If I don't, then either I find another dentist or (if it was the hygenist) ask if there's another one I can request next time.

That's now. When this was at its worst for me--my fears--what I did finally was decide what strategy would work for ME. I went in and said that having any dental work was difficult for me and that if I raised my hand I needed the person to stop for a moment. They were remarkably agreeable to this. They didn't have to understand why and I didn't ahve to try to explain. All I had to do was present them with a strategy that would work for me and which would allow them to do their job.

Kahless said...

Hi April,
I along with you struggle with dentists too. Causes sheer terror.

I heard you havent been tagged with Marj's survivor meme so I have tagged you! Hope you don't mind a tag from a stranger.

Lynn said...

I had a lot of dental work done a few years ago. It was an absolute horror. Back then, I didn't understand why I was so afraid, I just was. I interviewed many dentists before I found one. The one I found is an hour and a half away from where I live. The funny thing about all that work I had done - I HAD to tell him that I was afraid because I didn't want him to be surprised if I had a panic attack in the chair. I explained to him how bad the fear was and he was patient even when I had to postpone some appointments. He was very kind and so was his staff. Looking back, because of some of the care he took, I think he might have understood why I was like that. What's awful to me, is now that I know the cause, I am still just as afraid, possibly even more than before. Lucky for me, I don't really need anything right now. I truly, truly hope that I won't. It would be more than I can handle.

keepers said...

e are so glad your dentist understood and assured you of it being painless. the most recent dentist we visited was the same way and we are so grateful to him and his staff. he even commented on how no one ever wants to go to the dentist!

peace and blessings


Rising Rainbow said...

I wasn't trying to compete with you, only wanting to say you're not alone. lol

Enola said...

I have a double long ortho appt today - please send all good vibes, thoughts and prayers.

April_optimist said...

Kahless, LOL! As you can see by my latest post, I don't mind at all.

Casey and Lynn, I've tagged you in my latest post--in case it's something you would like to do.

Lynn, Something occurred to me after I wrote that post. We were helpless when we were being abused. Now, it goes against every protective, self-defense instinct we have to purposely let someone hurt us! And that's what going to the dentist (and sometimes the doctor) requires. Every instinct screams at us to fight back.

Rising Rainbow, I knew you weren't. And it was nice to have someone else know exactly what I meant. (grin)

Enola, Big (((hugs)))! I hope it went okay for you.