Last week I read Audrey's post about her fear of flying, and how she is taking steps to make flights more manageable and less anxiety-filled. Wow, what is it about people bearing their truths on the internet that makes us feel less alone?! Even though I don't have a fear of flying, I do have a fear of the dentist and reading Audrey's post gave me some encouragement that I desperately needed!
If you've kept up here... you may have seen me move "GO TO THE FREAKING DENTIST" on my 2016 goal list from month to month with no progress. In January (2017), I FINALLY made the appointment that I had been putting off. That in and of itself was a big step for me! Anyhow, I could really relate to Audrey's post... so here's my version.
When you're a kid and you go to the dentist, cavity free teeth win you a prize. If you were like me, you grew up fishing out crummy jumping frogs and bracelets out of a giant tooth each visit you made. Luckily, I was a kid who never needed braces either. So I equated perfect teeth, and perfect reports, with that prize. With being "good". Having good teeth made me a good person.
Late in high school I got my first cavity. I had no dental anxiety at that point in time, so while I wasn't looking forward to getting it filled... I wasn't scared. Well let's just say the numbing shot was enough to totally freak me out. All of a sudden I could feel the needle, feel the pressure, feel the drilling, even though I couldn't feel the pain. The sensations were way too much for me. When I left, I had a whole new opinion of the dentist.
Around that same time I got my wisdom teeth removed. Nearly everyone has to do this as a teen, and I wasn't that nervous about it either. I went in to get my consultation at the oral surgeon, the turned on a video to "prep me". Images of diagrams, teeth, etc. etc. flashed before me, and I didn't even know it... but I was crying. They made me stop mid-way through, which is fine I guess. But what a weird response, right?! I didn't even know that I was doing it. It wasn't anything particular, it was just the video as a whole. During my operation I started to come-to during the procedure. I didn't feel any pain, but I did feel the pressure and motion at least for a second. It was so unsettling! I don't think you're supposed to wake up...! My recovery was fine, no issues, no pocket things, no vomiting, etc. I was eating a turkey sandwich just a few days later.
In college my mom kept us going to our childhood dentist. It was about 30-40 minutes from where I was living. Half way through college we stopped going together as a group. The scheduling was too hard. I was supposed to find a dentist where I was living... but I didn't. I think the insurance was confusing, my dad was changing jobs (and insurance) several times during my college years, so I just never did it. I couldn't keep up with the changes, and never made it enough of a priority... though I definitely should have.
After college, I made an appointment with a recommended dentist. Very gentle, very nice, etc. I went in and she reminded me of Mrs. Kim from GG. She was very stern and made me feel awful from the get-go. I instantly felt the reversal of the good teeth = good kid / good person feeling I had. I felt like an awful person... even though your teeth have nothing to do with your character. To top it off, the week before this exam, my IUD (which had recently been inserted) fell out of place, and then had to be removed. (which was another ordeal...) So when they asked, "Is there a possibility you are pregnant?" - I had to say yes. Mrs. Kim did not seem to understand why this situation had occurred, or why I wouldn't know. In addition there were 2-3 other hygienists in there as well, in on the conversation. I did my initial appointment and then I never went back.
Fast forward to now... I've got a new dentist. I told them about my anxiety, and did my initial appointment. They didn't make me feel bad at all, which is great but I still had some anxiety. Now I've got to go back for a normal cleaning (which I'm not worried about) and (some) host of other appointments for cavities and even a root canal. :( It's going to cost tons of money, and my anxiety about it is just as high as it was before. I'm going to make myself do it (of course), while I have the momentum... but I'm very much dreading the experience.
Any tips for keeping calm during dental procedures?!?! - please share!!
Things I'm thinking so far:
- Headphones in with a soothing playlist
- Possibly a weighted blanket or the x-ray blanket... (I've read that weighted blankets help with general anxiety)
- Putting it first thing in the morning so I can get it over with and not have any food/drink beforehand
- Some type of calming mantra
- Taking comfort in preventative measures I'm taking around reducing future dental issues, and tracking those in my habit tracker (brushing TWICE a day, flossing daily, using a prescription (extra fluoride) toothpaste in the evenings, cleanings every 6 months, researching healthier caffeine sources)
I feel like even though your fear and mine may not be the same, we can relate to each other on dealing with them! Another post that was similar to this was Lauren's post on driving anxiety. Which I do have a bit of.
Thanks for reading & in advance for the ideas and support!