The Dentist

Since we are just throwing all my medical issues out for the world to see lets talk about the dentist. And you will see in the end that it is going to relate back to the anxiety. The dentist has been a source of extreme anxiety (fancy that) for years. Until last month I had not gone in 20+ years. It's a long story, but the shortened version is that my mother didn't like to go so only took me occasionally, my grandparents *forced* me to go in my teens and it was such a traumatic experience I hadn't been back.

When I would think about going to the dentist I would get very upset and cry, the anxiety was so great. (Stay with me here before you make any final decisions about previous discussions.) I would feel twinges of guilt when friends would mention their trips to the dentist. I finally decided this year that I was tired of being scared and that I wanted to go. Summer was obviously the easiest time to deal with all this so I waited until then to begin the process. First I found an amazing resource online, Dental Fear Central. I can't say enough about how much this forum helped me. The website has lots of great information about common fears, what the procedures feel like, what to expect. And the forums are full of stories of people going through the same thing (see the internet CAN help!). Once I started reading I realized that I was lucky not to be in some of the same positions that these people were. I wasn't forced in to the dentist because of some extreme pain. I hadn't lost all my teeth. I was making the conscious decision to go.

After much angst I finally got around to making some calls. The first place I called was very nice to me on the phone especially because just calling caused me to start crying (Trust me... stay with me). The lady I talked to on the phone was extremely patient and kind and didn't belittle me for being upset. I gave her my insurance information and set an appointment and felt much better after that. Unfortunately a few days later she called back and told me that I was on the HMO plan and they only took PPO and up. I can change the plan, but not until January. So I set out to find a dentist who took my plan. I found a list and started calling around. Well the response I got on the phone was nothing like the first place. For the most part, the places I called sounded like I was bothering them, they were in a hurry and they certainly didn't feel like dealing with some crying person. Periodically I would call the first place back and ask a question about pricing or scheduling and they were always the same. Nice. So I made a decision. Screw the insurance I'm going to the first place.

Best decision ever even if it meant paying out of pocket. I met with the dentist a month ago and I did break down talking to him, but I wanted him to know everything I was feeling and afraid of. And since that moment I have not had anxiety about the dentist AT ALL. I made an appointment and confirmed it without nary a twinge about who I was calling. Today I had my first big procedure, deep cleaning on two quadrants, and I felt a heaviness in my stomach, but I wasn't sure if it was from the impending dental procedure or from all the anxiety medication debate. But no tears, no rending of the garments, nothing. It didn't hurt and while I had to talk to myself to relax and breathe, and it isn't my preferred way to spend an hour, I survived with my head held high.

So what does this have to do with previous debates? First off I think that if my anxiety was at such a level that I need medication I would never have been able to go the dentist at all. Yes, I had reactions to facing the problem, but then I faced it and kept going. And once I faced it the fear went away. I set my mind on doing it and it was done. I feel like I can set my mind on learning to deal with the anxiety without medication. I'm not so bad that I'm avoiding situations. (Twitter meetup Saturday? Great, I'll be there.) I'm not lying in bed afraid to face the world. I have moments. It's probably better for me to be working than to have all this time off. Do I have anxiety issues? Definitely. Do I need to have the heavy hitter drugs? I don't think so. Am I a doctor? No, but I want to exhaust all other possibilities.

Second, the person matters. I know in my heart, believe without a doubt, that my experience at the dentist wouldn't nearly be the same if I hadn't chosen the right doctor and staff. They are welcoming, comforting, supportive and I truly feel cared for when I am there. I have no qualms or issues or fear about going back. And if you knew how scared I was of the dentist previously you would realize what a gigantic statement that is. The doctor matters. I need to find a medical doctor that will care for me and about me and take the time to listen to my concerns.

Buckle Down

Doctor's Visit