How to Cope with Dental Phobia - Secret Tips
Lets get rational!
Mind Over Matter
If you'd asked me this time last year what state my teeth were in you'd have been given a much different answer than the one I am happily able to give you today.
My fear of dentists goes way back to when I was 7 years old. I remember very clearly being led into the dentists room and being told they needed to give me something to make me sleepy in order to remove a decayed tooth. I can still smell the gas and taste the blood now. It was a truly disturbing experience and one that really did scar me for life, leaving me with an absolute fear of the dentist and all dental procedures and thus causing me to spend months and months of my life in horrible pain with bad teeth and abcess'.
It wasn't until one of these episodes nearly lost me my life ( an infection travelled from my tooth to my heart! ) that fear was over ridden by my need to be healthy for my husband and children. My objective here is to help any of you out there like myself, and to say honestly I promise modern dentistry is a million miles apart from what we remember as children.
So , lets look at some of the issues and procedures I've had over the past 3 months.
1 - 2 root canal fillings
2 - 15 extractions (10 with local anesthesia only and 5 under a general anaesthetic)
4 - Normal fillings
5 - Impressions created and a partial immediate denture
I'm only going to talk about the first two on this page and will discuss 4 and 5 on a later page because theres a lot to say and a lot of fine detail to include.
If you're like me you'll want to know all those details too. As soon as I know a procedure is on the cards I am straight onto google looking things up and scaring myself half to death most of the time.
Someone once said to me "People only post on those forums when something goes wrong!" and its fair to say that's pretty true, you don't hear many peoples 'good' stories, the vast majority of stories... where everything went exactly to plan and there were no complications.
It's not really news worthy is it? So please keep that in mind when you're searching for "Wisdom tooth removal" or another procedure, and you're bombarded with page after page of horror story. Even though there may seem to be hundreds of tales of woe they are in-fact the minority. The vast majority of operations are carried out every day with no problems whatsoever.
Ok so moving on. How do you eventually get yourself to go to the dentist in the first place?. If you're anything like me you've left it years and are fully aware that your teeth are in a bad state of disrepair. The embarrassment of letting anyone look in your mouth ( I spent several years smiling with a closed mouth ) coupled with the fear of getting the bad news from the dentist about what your teeth need doing to them is pretty overwhelming.
Please read this next sentence twice.
Your dentist cannot do anything to you, that you don't want him to, he works for 'you'.
Once you get it into your head that you are in-fact in control you should start to feel less apprehensive. The first appointment with the dentist will be you checking him or her out, seeing if you feel comfortable with them, asking them questions, and possibly if you like them letting them have a look at your teeth (no instruments). You should be prepared to see a few dentists until you find one you're absolutely at ease with. There is no reason whatsoever to go with the first one that comes along. Spending time finding a dentist that is sympathetic and experienced with dental phobia will make a world of difference to you. Phoning around a few Dentists in your immediate locality and asking if they have a dentist within their practice who is especially good with people suffering from dental phobia is a good start.
So now lets look at the very first treatment I had done "A Root Canal Filling"
Definition: Root Canal Therapy or Root Canal Treatment is a dental procedure to fix a tooth by removing the pulp chamber of the tooth and filling it with a suitable filling material. A root canal is usually performed when the tooth cannot be filled or restored any other way because the decay has reached the nerve of the tooth or the tooth has become infected.
Root Canal treatment has long since been one of the dental phobics biggest fears. My experience with it however wasn't nearly as bad as I had built it up to be in my mind. The dentist started off by rubbing some topical numbing gel on my gum, it tasted pleasant and must've done the trick because when he began injecting the local anesthetic I never felt a thing. I have since been told by him that injections, even the notoriously painful roof of mouth and 'eye tooth' injections need never be painful if done slowly enough. Apparently it's the speed at which the anesthetic is administered that causes the stinging sensation, so its worth mentioning to your dentist if you do need local anaesthetic, you'd like him to go real slow.
The local worked fine and the root canal began, it did take some time and the dentist used what I can only describe as little cone shaped file object, to push up into the root of the tooth to make sure all the pulp was removed and it was clear and clean to minimise the risk of infection. All of this I am surprised and pleased to tell you was 100 percent pain free. When the tooth was cleaned out a temporary filling was placed, which would a week later be removed and replaced with a permanent composite filling which looks just like my real tooth. I honestly could not be happier with that experience. If you don't think you would care to see the instruments being used or keep up with what your dentist is doing there are some neat ideas that help with that, one of them is to take your MP3player/Phone along with you, stick your headphones in and either listen to your favourite band, or maybe an audiobook, this has the added benefit of not letting you hear anything either, the shrill sound of the drill we all shudder with horror at whilst in the waiting room! Things will feel like they are being done much faster if you let yourself drift away to the music or a book.
I walked out of that dentist room a changed woman. I had gone from petrified, I mean literally petrified. I'd cried the night before going to have the root canal, I'd been moody and snappy with everyone the week prior to it, very shameful ( I'm glad they put up with me! ) However now I could say I'd had one of the most notoriously treatments in dentistry and was no longer scared!
Trouble was lurking though, and just when I started to beat the fear I was struck down with an abscess that simply refused to go away. I tried antibiotics for it 5 times, far too many, eventually antibiotics aren't as effective as they should be and simply wont work. The last time my lower jaw was so swollen the swelling moved down to my neck and threatened to cut off my airway. I took two lots of antibiotics that time, and decided it was time to sort these teeth out once and for all.
That abscess caused pain like I had never experienced before, unrelenting throbbing, I recall being up in the middle of the night pacing the kitchen simply crying with pain, there was nothing that would even take the edge of it, I could totally understand how some people end up pulling their own tooth out if they have no other option.
We however, do have options! My husband called up a health helpline for advice ( NHS 24 in the UK, I'm not sure which services there are like this in other countries, sorry ) and was told because of the location of the access I needed to be seen asap, when an abscess swells up under the side of your jaw/chin area its a medical emergency, it can cut off your air supply. Honestly, I would probably have taken the loss of air over the pain. Seriously!
I was told I needed ten upper teeth removed, back ones 5 each side, and 5 lower teeth removed on the left side again back ones. For the uppers my dentist felt I coped so well with having my root canal treatment that I could have them done by him under local anesthetic again. I was so proud he felt that I was brave enough to do that and I agreed to come and have 5 done the next day. I was to come in and have my 5 upper left teeth removed.
Just like before, I was scared but a little more relaxed, and he was just fantastic, very slow again and I never felt any pain from the injections. Stunningly the actual teeth were out in what felt like seconds. The root canal had been a much longer experience. There was a little blood but not a lot so please don't dwell on that if that is one of your fears. Two of my teeth when I arrived were broken off at the root and I worried about how he would manage to get them out, he said they were actually easier to remove, so again if that's one of your worries you can relax.
I could have hugged him when it was all over, the sense of achievement was huge. I walked home feeling on top of the world, and more than ready for next weeks appointment that he had made for me before I left, to get the next set of 5 upper rights out.
I'd like to say the second set of extractions were as simple as the first ,but unfortunately that wasn't the case, not everything can always go exactly to plan. One tooth just didn't want to play ball, it wasn't budging. The dentist struggled with it for a long time and did eventually get it out, he was a real star. Even though this was a lot different to the last removal is still felt zero pain, just a lot of pressure from tugging, which left me with a small headache that a paracetamol took care of easily enough.
The experience shook me a little, but not enough to scare me off going back to arrange for the last set of extractions. However once again things didn't quite go as planned. The dentist said he didn't feel I should have the lower teeth removed by him, and he wanted to refer me to the dental surgeon at my local hospital . He said the back tooth was very close to the nerve and one of the others had its roots imbedded in my jaw bone slightly, making it a difficult set of extractions. I was also suffering from a recurrent infection in those teeth in my lower jaw and he felt that getting me numb would be a problem as anesthetic doesn't work well in infected areas.
I was very apprehensive but I had my consultation at the hospital with a lovely female dental surgeon who said that in her opinion IV sedation ( twilight sleep as its sometimes known ) wouldn't be enough for me because of the infection in my lower jaw, because even though I would be relaxed and wouldn't much care I would still feel the pain where the local couldn't numb me. She said she felt that was pretty barbaric, and the easiest way to do this and make sure the teeth were taken out with the least trauma was to put me to sleep under a general anesthetic.
I panicked at this. I as well as being dental phobic I am also emetophobic ( I have a fear of vomiting ) and GA always made me think of people who were sick afterwards. However the dentist assured me the anesthetist would give me special meds in my IV to deal with sickness and my mind once was again put at ease.
I have to say even though I was utterly petrified ( again I was crying at the hospital as they wheeled me in to put me to sleep ) but I couldn't have wished for a better outcome. I remember the anesthetist saying "Ok now I'm going to give you something that will make you feel really good" and oh my gosh he really did, I was on cloud 9, I don't remember anything else after that until I woke up, not even slightly queasy and no blood! They had stitched me up well and given me pain killers via IV that were fantastic. It was my best experience to date and would advise anyone if they were offered that to take it in a heartbeat!
For more info on my experiances and how they can hopefully help you keep an eye out for my next hub page.