I read this board to gear up for my much dreaded dental visits, but never posted. Now I thought I'd share my experience to
help anyone else who might need it.
I am 29, and before about a month ago, my most recent dental experience was as a 4 year old. My family was extremely poor,
and my mom took me to a clinic for a dental exam. Even though I was only four, the dentist would not allow my mom in the room,
which terrified me. As a reflex action to a tired jaw, at one point during the exam, I bit him. He slapped me across the face.
I didn't go to the dentist again.
For awhile, it was fine. My teeth are naturally straight and stayed more or less perfect though just brushing up through
the end of high school. Then my wisdoms came through. And cracked. And got cavities from food trapped down in the cracks.
And huge cavities started to form. Soon, almost all of my molars had cavities, and started breaking off. My front teeth were
still really nice, though, so I smiled along and tried to ignore the pain (which got fairly unbearable at times).
By the end of college, many back teeth were broken off, and I couldn't eat carrot sticks, crunchy chips, or anything that
might require hard pressure to chew. It was really sad, and started to be embarrassing. I wouldn't go to the doctor because
they'd check my throat and see all those bad teeth. so I started suffering through all manner of ear and throat infections
without treatment. I didn't smile wide, and covered my mouth when I laughed.
I was still without dental insurance at that point (and on a full-ride scholarship to school, plus I eloped halfway through
college and had a baby a year later cause I just love a challenge). So I had an excuse to avoid dentists - I still had no
money. But somehow, even though my husband and I both got good jobs with full insurance I still made excuses. Truthfully,
I was embarrassed, afraid to be yelled at, terrified of the pain (cause I knew how much toothaches hurt, and figured dental
work would be worse) and nervous about the whole "dentist" thing.
About a year ago, the bottom teeth in the front started to get brown spots, then small cavities between the teeth. Now
I worried that the kids I teach at school could see them, and that everyone would know my teeth were rotting. Terrible, isn't
it, that vanity would be one of the motivators to finally end all this? Then I got an abscess over Christmas that had me crying
and miserable through a special family holiday when everyone else was having a great time. I was out of state though, and
by the time I got back home, the abscess was better - guess what? Put it off again.
Finally, a month ago, I got a painful, horrible abscess again. I was home. I had money. I had insurance. I have teeth
in front starting to show my phobia. And I had internet sources like this message board telling me how bad an abscess can
be. In tears and shaking, I finally picked up the phone and stopped the excuses. I made an appointment, and the dentist amazingly
said "Come TODAY." That helped, it really did. Because if I had had time to think about it, I would have skipped
it. And sitting in the parking lot in a cold sweat an hour later, I almost did. But the pain motivated me through the door.
The dentist took panoramic X-rays, without touching me. He prescribed antibiotics, without looking in my mouth. He said
that as a child, he had no insurance and had many cavities and bad teeth before he got to dental school. He sent me on my
way, with a follow up to check the swelling, and advice to remove several teeth following the course of anibiotics. He NEVER
actually touched me!
This helped, for reasons I don't fully understand. Also, the aquarium in his office reminded me of Finding Nemo, lol.
Stupid, huh? But I found myself heading back for the follow-up. And again, he never touched me, only peeking in my open mouth
at the abscess site. He advised that I come in, get knocked out with drugs, and get rid of (COUNT THEM) __8__ molars (including
my four wisdoms) all at once. He said it would take 40 minutes and I'd be on my way, sans teeth.
Well, I knew it would be harder than that, but I agreed, since I wanted to stop the vicious cycle I was on. The appointment
was made (gotta love the $40 cancellation fee, too - kept me honest in the last few hours) and I planned to come back.
Except in the intervening time I started to get creeped out by the anasthaesia aspect. I thought horrid thoughts about
going to sleep and never waking up. So you know, I refused all drugs in childbirth, and even had my son standing up, lol.
I'm less afraid of pain than of drugs - they make me feel all otherwise and I hate it. The loss of control really messes me
up, and the horror stories of death in the dental chair freaked me.
So I went to the appointment, cause I wanted the teeth out. But I asked the surgeon (who was not the dentist) can I please
bring my husband back until I fall asleep. Answer: flat NO. To be clear, I DID not expect him to watch the surgery or anything
else. Just hold my hand while I was put under. Complete refusal.
So I get in the chair, and I'm shaking, and crying, and on the verge of complete hysteria. The surgeon says, we don't
have to do this today, let's send you home and you can come back under Valium, yada, yada. Uh-uh. I had Valium once because
I'm claustrophobic and needed an MRI. It did NO good. And I'd never get myself back in the door, having once walked out. So
I say, no, give me a minute, I'll do it. They give me a minute to settle and the nurse starts prepping the IV. I blurt out,
"Listen, can you use local anasthaesia and still remove all 8 teeth?" The surgeon looks surprised and says "Yes,
of course." I told him to do that then.
For me, the loss of control was WAY scarier than even the thought of the pain. I was just too frightened to be put under.
So, still super nervous, but now breathing, I settle back to get the whole deal over with. In short:
1. The needle looks scarier than it is. I didn't like the shots in the back of my lower jaw, or the ones inside the roof
of my mouth, but they were very quick and not much worse than say, a bee sting (without the lasting ouch).
2. The surgeon put a small amount of Novocaine in, then went back to put more in because he said it's painful to do it
all at once.
3. The actual teeth removal felt like it SHOULD hurt, but it didn't. The cracking noises and pressure was uncomfortable,
but I couldn't feel it.
4. The worst part for me was leaning back at that angle I felt like I couldn't breathe. And when I would try to sit up
to take a full deep breath when he took a break from the extractions, he would scold me.
5. The hygienist assisting was nice.
6. Stitches suck. I hated them when I had my kids, I hated them in the dentist office. And hearing the surgeon say "Oops!
Tangled that one up, hold on..." is not reassuring!
So anyway, the let my husband come in when the surgery is over (in the same room they said was too small before the surgery??)
>:( We paid $200 ($120 more than they quoted, but they upped the extractions to "surgical" from "simple"
apparently), they gave me a script for Vicoden, and I headed home, biting gauze.
I hated the gauze in my mouth, it made me gag. I absolutely detested the numb feeling in my tongue and lower lip that
didn't go away for 8 hours. I still really dislike the stitches in my mouth. But I took Vicoden right away, and after about
4 doses (24 hours) stopped taking it, and never had pain. From _8_ extractions! The whole thing was more discomfort than pain,
and it never came CLOSE to my least painful toothache.
I ate soft stuff for the first 48, am still only chewing with my front teeth on day 4, but have no pain. Less than I did
WITH the teeth, in fact.
I have a root canal and a BUNCH of fillings to do still, but I'm no longer scared. (Irritated that I waited so long so
I have to go through multiple jaw numbings, yes, scared, no.)
Good luck to all of you still struggling! The pain and embarrassment of bad teeth can be fixed - be strong!
Hugs, and thanks for all the messages I read that helped me, and the excellent FAQ on surgery recovery.