Fear Of The Dentist (Or, Ten Years Since I’ve Seen One)

I’m ashamed to admit this, I swear. I’m not the kind of girl who lets her fears take over but here and there in life there have been a few that have done a number on me. Now I’m paying for it.

Years ago (like, fifteen or so) I had a dentist I’d been going to regularly despite the fact that he was the Indian equivalent of Orin Scrivello. My wisdom teeth had been starting to poke through, and the one on the upper right had a cavity. A very small one. The dentist wanted to pull the tooth (along with the other three, despite the lower two being “impacted”) but I was too fearful and asked that he fill the cavity instead.

I saw the cavity on the x-ray. It was small. This man was so angry with me for not letting him pull it (and I’m not exaggerating, here) that he decided to hollow out the whole thing, leaving just a very thin, translucent shell of tooth and filled it with amalgam. Lots of amalgam.

Fast forward a year or so and I’m at the movies. You guessed it, the popcorn “popped” the filling and I swallowed it. Big hole left. Biiiiig hole.

No pain, though. Not an ounce. Not for a few years anyway. I was in Florida in college and it was 1999. I got an infection and went to see an oral surgeon, figuring that maybe he could sedate me for the extraction. He said I had to clear out the infection first, and he gave me antibiotics and pain meds and sent me on my way.

I never went back for the extraction.

Here I sit now, 10+ years later, fighting off my second infection. Bits of the “shell” have broken off over the years, but I’ve never had any pain. It’s bled during brushing before, but never hurt. Wednesday night it was bothering me a little, but woke me up twice in the night with really sharp waves of pain. Thursday wasn’t so bad that a little Orajel couldn’t help with.

Friday, nothing all day but creeping towards bedtime and I knew I was going to be in for it. I was so right. I tried to get to sleep around midnight-thirty and was awoken by the first sharp wave of pain at 1:30 am. Ten minutes later it’d passed and I was able to get back to sleep. Until 2:30 am when it happened again. Lather, rinse, and repeat twice more until I finally was in so much overtired pain that at 4:30 I was debating on going to the ER in hopes they’d give me antibiotics and pain killers so I could sleep. Problem is, I’ve got a $500 deductible on ER visits and I know I’d have been screwed in the pockets if I’d gone.

So I waited until 5 am and called my mom’s dentist’s emergency line. He specializes in “conscious sedation dentistry” and I thought that if I could at least leave a message or something so I could get an appointment as fast as possible (given that this was clearly an emergency), I’d feel better.

Got the dentist’s voicemail, and left a message I couldn’t get through without tears… the pain is worse than any other pain I’ve ever had. I then stayed up and played video games on my computer and drank coffee (believe it or not, the coffee helped ease the pain somehow).

A couple hours later and I couldn’t take it any longer, so I called my primary care doc’s answering service and begged for a call back right away. Their office opened in 15 mins, so naturally I didn’t get a call back. I had to call again and got the office, and sat on hold for 20 minutes. After I told her what was going on, she said someone would call me back.

I waited.

And waited.

I went to the Care Credit site to apply for it. It’s basically a medical/dental credit program where as long as you’re making your payments, you have 12 months interest free. Got approved for $1000, which is $999.99 more than I thought they’d give me, so that was a highlight of the morning.

Around 9am, the dentist called back and apologized profusely for not having had his phone nearby. I told him that I didn’t expect him to call back right away, but that I was grateful he did at all. He immediately prescribed antibiotics and told me to take a combo of Extra Strength Tylenol and ibuprofen, and then pulled his schedule out and told me to come in on Monday morning. I explained how much of a chicken shit I am, and he said that he was sure he could ease my fears. I told him he’d better have plans on sedation and he said that wouldn’t be a problem at all. He joked with me and I could barely laugh, but I promised I’d be in on Monday.

Since then, the painkiller cocktail has worked wonders. Worst I feel ever is a dull ache, and that’s when I know to take another dosage of the Tylenol and Motrin. I’ve also been rinsing with a 50/50 peroxide and water mix, and that too has helped a ton. (Don’t worry ladies, I’ve also been downing yogurt with these 875mg horse pill antibiotics. No itchies for me, thankyouverymuch!)

So that’s that. I’m finally facing my fear and heading in to the dentist this morning. I have no idea if he’s going to pull it or tell me I’ve got to wait, or what… but I’m going to add this all to my list of improvements for 2010, and finally get all my teeth taken care of. Just because I have a nice, straight, white smile, doesn’t mean there aren’t problems, and I need to make sure they get resolved.

Will report back this afternoon I’m sure!

If you don’t know who Orin Scrivello is, the video below may help you remember… ;)

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