Tag Archives: teeth

The Tooth, The Whole Tooth

I’ll announce the winner of the Crochet At Play book tomorrow (Monday) but today I wanted to talk about teeth.

I’m a dentist’s nightmare. Actually, I’m a hygienists nightmare – and that is in no small part because my own nightmares often include dental hygienists.

I am phobic about teeth. My teeth, your teeth, my kid’s teeth – anyone’s teeth.  I’m SO fearful of teeth that I can’t watch a movie when some tooth nonsense is afoot (Zombie Apocolypse? No problem. Lose a tooth? I’m out the door…)

When my kids had loose teeth, they were directed to daddy, who had to deal with the whole tooth fairy thing. Even now Hannah can make me turn white by discussing the oral surgery involved in her braces. I am a tooth wimp.

Because I’m a redhead I bleed freely (at least, that’s our family lore and I’m sticking to it!) so any time I’m in the dentists chair there’s the added horror; ‘The Return of the Tsarovitch’

Add to that an insane sensitivity (I have always been able to ‘hear’ loud noises in my teeth) and I find myself putting off dental visits.

My own father had weak teeth, also pain filled and with the same sensitivity as mine, and his were all removed at age 42 when he began wearing dentures.  I’ve been luckier, but my avoidance of the dentist means that in my visits (usually every 5 years or so, coinciding with a boost of courage and erratic dental coverage) I generally have at least one cavity to be filled and sometimes a root canal.

Thursday I had a dental visit, a trip to a whole new hygienist (the last one was simply doing her job, but her disgust at my fear was palpable) so I was terrified.

It was warm enough here to bike, which calmed me and gave me a sense of control. I had every strategy in place (I’m actually tearing up as I write this – teeth are a great source of fear for me)

I had a good book on my iPhone along with soothing music by Anonymous4 (my favorite musical group to bring me peace!) I’d taken a pain pill prophylactically, and I was practicing the same deep breathing that got me through delivering my 11lb baby boy (with no meds, my claim to fame!)

I explained my situation to the hygienist, who was absolutely lovely; kind, warm, human and very understanding. She listened, she was careful, and she praised my courage. She took my blood pressure and the fact that I’m usually 120/80, but on this day was 160/90 was pretty telling. We waited, she chatted more, explained what she’d be doing, and my blood pressure came down.

This woman is a walking saint, and I hereby announce that I would follow this hygienist anywhere.

Xrays were taken (painlessly – I have had hygienists who were pretty brutal with those cardboard pieces) and my gumline was measured. The hygienist was smart enough to realize I was afraid, practically phobic, but also quite interested in the goings on in my mouth. She explained what she was doing in a very easy yet clinical way, taking my mind off the pain of her little measuring tool. The few times she dug deep enough to hurt, she was apologetic but firm and we continued.

I really liked her style, as I said, she was very human.

The dentist came in and we discussed my two cavities, and the fact that one might actually turn out to be yet another root canal. I explained my fear of teeth, my various forays with flossing (always ending badly, in tears and recrimination) and my use of dental washes and rinses (which hasn’t taken the place of flossing, but apparently has helped this non-flosser beat back gum disease for another year)

It was decided my cleaning should take place over 2 visits, with a local anesthetic, and that an anti-anxiety med should be used before the visit. I felt like a baby, but I also felt grateful that my fears and VERY real pain issues were being addressed.

I left feeling better than I’d felt after a dentist visit in many years! I used to see a dental student at the NJ Medical and Dental school in Newark (Hi Vinny!) and he was kind and gentle (and gorgeous!)  Since then I’ve been looking for a dentist who has the same gentleness (if not the same amazing Italian looks – sigh…)

I may not have found the dentist (the one who saw me is leaving the practice, I’m scheduled with a different dentist for my return visit, but I’m assured he’s a kind one) but I have CERTAINLY found a hygienist I can trust.

After I left, though, my mouth was so sore from the poking that it took about 3 days for me to feel myself again. I sound like a baby – I FEEL like a baby – but this is my tooth reality. The first week in December is when the next round of visits occurs, the prescription for lorazepam’s been called into the pharmacy, and I’ve actually begun flossing with those little floss-on-a-handle things.

My mother kept her teeth until her death at 85. I’m beginning to feel hopeful that I might do the same!