My fear of the dentist started around the age of 10 or 11. Up until then, I’d been quite happily attending my six monthly check up with my mother, I’d gone in, opened up my mouth and gone out with nary a cross word spoken and only a small filling required every now and again.
That all changed one dark and stormy night with the first pronouncement of a raft of fillings. It may not have literally been dark and stormy but it may as well have been for the effect it was to have on my future feelings about fillings, cavities and someone other than myself taking care of my general oral hygiene. I’d gone for a the usual checkup, only to find that something strange had obviously been going on with my teeth as I needed 8 fillings and an extraction. Being a compliant little thing (at that age anyway – I learned how to be belligerent much later) I can’t remember much about the whys and wherefores. With hindsight I still remain surprised that there was no earlier indication of the trouble to come: we didn’t eat sweets or massive amounts of sugar in our house as a rule, didn’t snack between meals and there weren’t really many “convenience” foods around in those days (yes, I am old enough!) so my diet wasn’t that bad. Anyhow, I digress slightly. And not for the last time I’m sure.
At some point in the middle of all these dental appointments for fillings and the like, I became a little distressed, especially at the prospect that this current suite of discomfort was going to include my first ever numbing injection. I was, quite frankly, terrified at the thought of that needle sticking into my gum somewhere and so I became understandably anxious, squirmy and eventually tearful. Rather than trying to soothe me, the dentist said something along the lines of “… if you don’t calm down, I’ll put you out of this surgery at the end of my boot …” (I remember the end of my boot clearly but the rest of the wording is lost in the mists of time). Nice guy eh? And the best bit? My mother really stood up for me. Not. I did eventually calm down, had the injection and the fillings and found out years later that he was eventually kicked out himself owing to the fact that he was an alcoholic. That may explain why the decline of my teeth went unnoticed for so long.
Needless to say, that particular incident clouded my judgment of the dental profession for quite a while and I became deeply mistrustful and dreaded any visit, even a check up. Whenever I called to make an appointment, I’d start to sweat and my hands became all clammy and eventually it got to the point where I had to have full sedation even for the smallest fillings. I’m much more calm about the whole thing now, but it took an extremely good and patient dentist a long time to allay my fears. It turns out that I’m one of those people for whom numbing injections in the lower jaw don’t always take properly. So when I say “it hurts” or “I can feel it” I actually bloody well can. I’m pretty stoic about every type of pain except the dental variety. Sadly this wonderful woman moved away from the practice (and the city) and I had to be assigned to another dentist. I still need to be sedated for extractions but I can cope with locals for fillings. I absolutely refuse to have my teeth cleaned by the dentist though, despite it being free on our good old NHS. I have very sensitive teeth so why on earth would I be prepared to sit in that chair and have someone torture me by directing an ice cold (in comparison to the temperature of my mouth) jet of water at my teeth which causes me so much discomfort that I feel like someone is stabbing me in the head? With a very very very sharp object?
“Oh but you should have your teeth cleaned” says my dentist.
No Shit Sherlock
(She’s a very nice woman but sometimes I really do have to tell her how things *really* are)
“I realise that, but whilst you’re using cold water during the cleaning process, there isn’t a chance of a snowball in hell that you’re getting anywhere near my teeth to clean them”
“You could have your teeth numbed for it”
Yeah right – if I visit their hygienist and pay a lot of money for it). Bless her. She really doesn’t get it. In fact, anyone who doesn’t have sensitive teeth just doesn’t get it. Neither does anyone who doesn’t live in fear of the six monthly check up.
I’m now at the stage where all but about five of my teeth are filled, capped or crowned. Any teeth that are filled have lots of filling and the next time they decide to decay, they’ll probably need to be capped or crowned. Or worse – extracted.