Certainly my fear stemmed from my childhood when I had braces, but most probably it came out of a Frenectomy surgery when
I was 8 or so. (that's the little tissue connecting your upper lip and your gums)
I dreaded the Dentist, but until I turned 18, my mother FORCED me to go... and I do mean FORCED! Until the age of 25 I
didn't go to a dentist at all. Imagine the irony that my mother-in-law worked for a Periodontist! After years of coaxing by
them, and seeing for myself the deterioration of my teeth and gums, I decided to make an appointment and made it VERY clear
that it was just to "talk" and that NOTHING except gloved fingers was to enter my mouth!
At the appointment, the dentist and I spoke for a while and we talked about my fear... He had a very easy going way about
him and was known for taking his time with his patients. He put all of his instruments very far away except for the little
round mirror that they use and he told me to open my mouth. I was nervous, but he had gained my trust that he wouldn't use
anything except the mirror and his own gloved fingers at that moment. We talked about my "perio disease" in my gums
and what would happen if it doesn't get taken care of... suddenly, the fear of LOSING MY TEETH FOREVER was looking worse and
worse as compared to the fear of the dentist. Not to mention that I learned that Perio Disease has a ton of other side-effects
throughout your entire body that I hadn't been aware of.
He asked if he could lightly probe the edge of my gums with one of his instruments. Before he did though, we worked it
out that I could lift my left arm and he would immediately stop to give me a break for as long as I needed. He proceeded to
probe and it felt uncomfortable a few times (because my gums were so inflamed), and I did have to lift my arm a few times,
but I got through it and he was able to run off a bunch of numbers to his assistant who was writing it all down on my chart.
That was the extent of the examination. (I had already taken Xrays which was no big deal... no pain and nothing sharp
there!) We continued to talk about how we can fix my problem. He asked me if I had ever been under Nitrous Oxide before. I
hadn't and he explained this was what was called "Laughing Gas" or N2O. Basically it makes you feel drunk and light
and just kinda goofy... but the point is, you just didn't feel anything that was going on. He told me I needed a Root Planing
and Curretage (RP&C) or what was also called a Scaling and Root Planing (S/RP). I was very nervous about this, but he
assured me that he and his hygienist would take very good care of me.
On the day of my first RP&C (they did one half of my mouth at a time so I could still chew with the other half), the
Dentist gave me several pills I had to take. I took an Ativan the night before which let me sleep the whole night instead
of staying up all night and worrying. Then an hour before my appointment I took another Ativan as well as a Vistaril with
breakfast and then I had someone drive me to my appointment. I was VERY upset and nervous by the time I got there. I was absolutely
positively CONVINCED that the pills hadn't done a single thing. I kept thinking, great, I'm so freaked out that my body is
just burning through all these drugs and they're having no effect whatsoever!
Finally, in near tears, I sit in the chair and the hygienist hooks on the N2O. I started feeling warm all over. The elevator-type
music they had on was starting to all sound the same and I could have sworn that they were looping the same song over and
over and over. I remember somewhat the dentist coming in and telling me that this is going to be a "Three Martini Cleaning"
and asked me if I preferred Strawberry Daiquiri or Pina Colada. The taste of Pina Colada filled my gums and then I saw the
needle with the local anesthesia for a second, but he must have decided not to use it because I seriously didn't feel anything.
I was already under a nice level buzz from the N20 and I could feel myself relaxing into the chair -- the drugs were finally
kicking in. The Pina Colada taste in my mouth made me start thinking of previous Caribbean vacations and next thing I know
I faded into sleep.
About a minute later (or at least that's what it felt to me), I started waking up and heard that "Rock the Boat"
song AGAIN or was it still the same one that was on when I closed my eyes? I couldn't tell and to be honest, I didn't care.
They told me to swish some water in my mouth and spit in the sink thing. It was all kind of blurry, not sure if I made it
entirely inside the sink, but they were all very good about it. They let me breathe in some oxygen and some of the buzz started
to go away, though I kinda liked it and wished it hadn't.
On the drive home I slept in the car and then slipped comfortably into my bed under a blanket for the rest of the afternoon.
It felt great.
Two weeks later when they went to do the other side of my mouth, I had very little fear left, but I did still take my
pills anyway... just in case. And once again I enjoyed the nice buzz and relaxed part of the RP&C. Since then I've done
regular cleanings under N2O and have even begun to look forward to them for the N2O buzz. I'm now starting to work toward
weening off the N20 slowly. Under MY control, they have started scaling me back to lower N2O levels and I tell them what is
ok and what isn't. This is definitely one story of "better living chemically" that I do advocate. It's a controlled
situation that has helped me significantly overcome my fear of dentists and dental procedures.
I recognize now that the positive experiences I have recently had have overpowered the negative childhood experiences
from before. So it took a few pills and laughing gas, but the result overall will be much better for my teeth and general
health long term. The key to all this is to find a dentist that you can trust, is very professional and that understands the
fear process and is willing to work with you so that YOU maintain control as much as possible. I hope this helps some of you