I have dental anxiety. As in, I’m a shaking, sweating, crying mess when it comes to visiting the D-word. YEARS of orthodontics, a dental injury or two and more orthodontics have done a number on my fragile psyche. So I’ve avoided the dentist (successfully) for double-digit years.
Then the moment happened. A couple years ago I looked at a selfie and realized my teeth have shifted, a lot. I told myself, I can’t smile anymore. Close your lips. Smirk instead of smile. ANYTHING so you don’t look like you have teeth missing or are a previous substance abuser.
Then I ran across some honeymoon pictures and burst out crying. I was so sad, heartbroken really, that my smile had changed so much. I used to think my smile was one of the most attractive features of mine (one of the only, if I’m honest). I didn’t feel like me anymore.
The decision was made in that moment. I’m going to get my groove back. Then the terror set in.
I cried when I called to make the appointment (on the phone, yes). They were very kind and gentle to me; I was a wreck. I cried the night before I went. I cried in the waiting room, trapped in the Twilight Zone of anticipation. Why does time seem to stop in places you don’t want to be? When I went inside talk to the Dentist, I got up the nerve to say why I was there, the ugly cry reared its head; I LOST IT. She told me it was all going to be OK, they would be slow and gentle, I could stop at any time, and I was safe.
I was starting to calm down and think I was going to get through.
The x-rays were terrible and I hated them. Pokey. Just, pokey. The poor assistant had to watch me gag about 20 times while shoving those things in my mouth, running in and out of the room countless times. I had to count to four over and over and over. You can do anything for four seconds, right? Kimmy Schmidt said she could do anything for 10 seconds, but I needed a quicker cycle.
Exam time. The Dentist talks to me, looks over the x-rays, says it’s not too bad in there. I’m feeling better. Then she grabs her sickle of torture and “looks inside”. My whole body tenses up. The shakes start again.
One. Two. Three. Four. One. Two. Three. Four.
Now she is muttering letters and numbers, Latin words only those skilled in this form of torture understand. The assistant takes notes. Cavities, blah, blah, filling, blah, blah. What I heard was, get the drill, we have to crack this one and pry it out piece by piece, this will take years, drip water on her forehead for extra measure.
Then she talked to me about getting the (shockingly few) cavities filled and some whitening. The strategy around the rebel tooth, the one already root canaled as a result of said dental injury, to get it the same-ish color as the others. All seems reasonable, and frankly after years of neglect, it ain’t too bad.
Time for the Cleaning. Oh God. I caught a glimpse of the Hygienist’s “tools”.
It may have looked like this:
But I saw this:
Dentist told hygienist that I would need the nitrous gas. Yes, please. After a brief talk about how it would make you feel, I was in. I mean, I guess it could have been bad, but I figured the disemboweling my mouth was about to endure would be worth a side effect or two. Plus, I had had nitrous gas at the dentist when I was a kid. I remember astronauts and space travel. Can’t be all that bad, right? Oh man, was I right.
Within about 1.5 minutes, it was ‘The Weeknd’ up in there. I can’t feel my face when I’m with you… but I love it. She asks, “Is it working?” “Oh yes,” I reply, “Oh. Yes”.
The dentist also told hygienist to use the gum numbing gel. OK. So she smears that on my gums. And she tells me that my mouth will be numb, but only temporarily. I feel a wave of shock and awe flow over me. What if I need to periscope? Wait. Can I still twitter? I need to periscope this, right now! I can’t reach my phone. Oh man! What if I had had this in my mouth when @Surferwife and I were periscope-ing our brains out last weekend? I laughed out loud at myself. Nitrous.
Oh I almost forgot! Enya. They gave me Enya to listen to. On a CD Walkman. Let me repeat that… on a CD. Walkman. And it was bliss. Chanting and monks carried me away to a far off land where I was a periscope-ing ninja getting lots of hearts and replays, of course, and I was writing this blog post, and I was standing on stage accepting my golden globe. Amy Schumer was at my table, with Tina Fey. They loved me. I digress.
So there I am… happily supine in the mechanical chair of horrors, listening to Enya, with my dentist-provided crocheted, chevron afghan a la your grandma (it’s amazing how LESS vulnerable you feel with a nice afghan), my personal box of tissues, a nitrous mask on my face, inhaling deeply (even though they said not to), while beeping and something is going on in my mouth. It was glorious.
Then I tried to speak.
In my head I clearly said, “I’ve written 2 or 3 blog posts in my head already about this!”
What came out was “I’fe wreppun doo or free blog smosts in mah hed…” and I quit.
“Oh, you’re a blogger?”
“Kind of,” I slurfed.
The hygienist carried on. The office manager comes in to take notes for the hygienist while she rattles off numbers and stuff. I think she is doing the thing to my gums that the dentist said she could IF I handled things OK. Oh, I was handling.
I casually slur that I’m going to write a blog post about this. I feel the office manager freeze above my head. I said (pretty clearly), “Don’t worry, I won’t link to you unless you pay me.”
Laughter all around. You notice no names are mentioned here, right?
The next time, I tried to say something witty about me spontaneously shifting in my seat.
All that came out was “Eef I muff dun wrrryyy….” I quit. I waved her off.
I still can’t feel my face, either, for the record. And I don’t care.
Torture continues. If I started to think about what was going on, I just refocused on the wandering melodies of Enya and imagine I’m somewhere exotic, with someone exotic.
Then it hits me, I’m the drunk girl in the club! At my next available opening, I tell the hygienist this, and she WITHOUT MISSING A BEAT says, “Yes! That’s it!” she says. “But without the hangover.” I concur.
“Ok, we are done. I’ll just turn on the Oxygen now.”
Aw, bummer. I give back my blankie, go to the consult room for the treatment plan, and get my fluoride gel and white strips. I will go back. Next up are fillings. That should be interesting.
And I suddenly want to do whip-its.
And I hear Julia Roberts echoing in my head… you shouldn’t neglect your gums. She was right, btw.