So how do you like going to the dentist, having your mouth poked, prodded, and sometimes injected? Up until a year or so ago, I would put it off rather than face the music because of previous trauma. Trauma doesn’t go away easily!
Ironically, it’s very rare that you find someone that actually likes going to the dentist. More people stress out about the dentist than any other practitioner. It’s probably a profession that has more depressed practitioners than any medical profession because most dentists are feared rather than revered. A brain surgeon is looked upon with such respect, Action movie stars get accolades for their craft, but the poor old average dentist would rarely be on someone’s Christmas card list let alone have happy kids and parents bound into their surgeries exclaiming, ‘come and get it - can’t wait to have an injection!’
If you are terrified of the dentist, you’re not unusual. The UK’s Adult Dental Health Survey (2009) found that 12% of adults had extreme dental anxiety. And over a third (36%) had moderate dental anxiety. Your fear may be extreme and you suffer from actual dentophobia, or you have specific dental fears or a feeling of anxiety that makes any visit to the dentist difficult or impossible, help is at hand! First, let me share with you why I once felt traumatized by the whole experience of the dental visit.
When I was just a little tacker, I enjoyed my visits to the dentist, because it meant a train ride into the city with my mum, accompanied by one of my four brothers. Initially, I had a positive association with the 6 monthly visits. We would make a day of it. The practice was in Collins street Melbourne, and usually, we would go to MYERS afterward or before and enjoy a look around, hot chocolate, or a movie at the cinemas. The other reason why this was a good experience for me, was my teeth were always good, the dentist would say to my mum, ‘her teeth are perfect, they are fine, no need to do anything today,‘ and I’d have a clean, get to rinse and spit that spearmint tasting water, receive some sort of dental toy, a brand new toothbrush and possibly some free toothpaste, life was bliss. This utopia was short-lived however because in my teens I experienced a few fillings, which meant the injection and the numbness etc, but still, my worst experience was yet to come…..
Before I married Darryl in May 1985, we lived in a little two-bedroomed duplex in Montmorency. Darryl had found a local dentist in a suburb called Lower Plenty, which was next to our suburb, within walking distance from our home. I had not seen the dentist for a while, deliberately putting other activities in the way of that experience, but Darryl had been regular with his visits, just the way he is. Finally, he convinced me to go to his dentist, so I went and had an annual check-up. Let’s just call the dentist ‘Brutal’, that’s appropriate! Brutal, gave me the news that I would need to have all my wisdom teeth out, because my little mouth was too crowded, and that was forcing my teeth to push into each other. Mmm, what a joyful proposition. ‘What’s required?‘ I innocently asked. I remember he wasn’t such a bad fellow just very blunt, with a dark sense of humour. He suggested I go to the dental hospital, and it shouldn’t be too difficult because it will all be done in one go, and I will be feeling better in a week or so. Of course, what could possibly go wrong? At the same time, I was having my wisdom teeth removed, Darryl was recovering from a knee injury, so he was on crutches!
Some dentists recommend removing wisdom teeth if they don’t fully emerge. Many dentists believe it’s better to remove wisdom teeth at a younger age, before the roots and bone are fully formed, and when recovery is generally faster after surgery. This is why some young adults have their wisdom teeth pulled before the teeth cause problems. I was a little over 24 years of age!
The Dental Associations believe that wisdom teeth removal may be necessary if you experience changes in the area of those teeth, such as:
- Repeated infection of soft tissue behind the lower last tooth
- Fluid-filled sacs (cysts)
- Damage to nearby teeth
- Gum disease
- Extensive tooth decay
The only issue I was aware of was, I had a smaller mouth, I had no pain, no fluid-filled sacs or even damage to other teeth, for me going into that surgery felt so unnatural, but I went ahead because ‘Brutal’ said If I didn’t have them removed, I would most certainly have issues in the future! Hmmmmm…..
When I came out of surgery, the pain was the first thing that hit me. I’ve given birth the natural way, that was purposeful pain, this pain stays in my memory as the feeling of absolute ‘take my life sort of pain’. I mean my jaw felt like it had doubled in size, when I looked in the mirror, it was 3 times the size of my usual shape! The pounding, throbbing pain did not let up. I must have been given pain killers however, the agony worked its way through the drugs like water through a sieve.
I was underweight, and very faint when I made my way to the reception for discharge. I had been there no fewer than 20 something hours, including the time under anesthesia, very motivated to leave because I was paying for the hospital time with my own ‘non-insured funds’. I told myself I simply couldn’t afford another night in the hospital. As the glass doors opened, I saw Darryl approach me on his crutches, then the world spun around, and I nearly hit the hard concrete, as Darryl caught me just in time, crutches dispersed, and he carried me back to reception. “She’s staying another night!” So I did!
The following days are a blur to me, but I remember the straw feeding tube, the ache, and the weakness, and the feeling my nerve was severed, which was on the right side. The dentist didn’t agree with me on that, but I know it was severed, and I’m still numb there to this day! During that time I was feeling like an ‘Elephant woman’, experiencing excruciating pain and the gaps in the back of my mouth, tittering on the verge of further infection, if I couldn’t keep my mouth clean! It was just too much for me. I lost more weight because I couldn’t really eat anything, and it hurt to put anything in my mouth. Ughhh, what a horrible experience. Oh, and Brutal, I went back to him for a follow-up visit, but let’s just say he was off the Christmas Card List.
We moved up to north Queensland in the late eighties, I still hadn’t found a dentist up north that I could feel good about, so I just stayed away from them. On a visit to Melbourne to see my family, it’s now the nineties, I had a toothache, a particularly bothersome toothache, so I went to a dentist in Greensborough. He was a nice enough guy, but my second and most traumatic experience was about to happen. This dentist let’s call him ‘Cruel’ told me the tooth had to come out! ‘Fine with me, but don’t make an appointment with me, it needs to come out now, or I will just throw myself off a bridge!’
During that period, if a dentist made an appointment with me, I would find a way to cancel, no problem, but because I had this aching tooth, I just had to do something about it. Cruel blocked out his appointment diary for 1 hour. 2 hours later, he was still working on my mouth, I had to have more anaesthesia, due to the dose not being strong enough or lasting the distance. Another injection, which I remember feeling! Cruel was sweating, pressing hard on my shoulder. The ache in my upper body took weeks to disperse. Because of my insistence, Cruel showed me what he removed from my now traumatized mouth socket, and I could see why it was so difficult, the back tooth had a hook in it, and came in two parts. I nearly passed out when I saw it.
Cruel, now soaked in sweat, looked at me like it was the end of his career, submitting the invoice/bill, which was clearly the end of my savings account. I left the practice and walked to the station, caught a train to Montmorency station, and called dad to pick me up. I must have looked horrible, as dad took me home and kept passing tissues to me to wipe the blood from my cheeks, I couldn’t feel anything until four hours later, and then I felt it. Cruel had his receptionist check in on me the next day, and that was the last I heard of him. I didn’t want to go near a dentist after that, the very thought of it made me throw up.
So, fast forward to now, I have managed to get through a dental visit, it’s usually good news, but I have had a filling or two, my current dentist is lovely, let’s call him ‘Nice‘. ‘Nice’ (Darian) is one of the practitioners at Hinterland Dental. I like ‘Nice’, we have a laugh about the videos on the pacifying video screen mounted above the ‘action chair‘, in his surgery. One time I looked up and viewed the hunting and stalking of a lion to its prey, not exactly relaxing viewing! Jokes aside, I have developed some excellent techniques for visiting ‘Nice’, the first one being, applying liberal amounts of my grounding essential oil blend, Balance. I inhale this oil and dab a little on the back of the neck and on my arm. I also apply Frankincense, liberally and deep breathe all the way into the reception area. They can smell me coming which means they feel calm too. I greet the receptionist happily and cheerfully, even though I’m still nervous, I’m breathing really deeply through my left nostril (parasympathetic activation). Lisa, the receptionist jokes with me and says ‘I’ll have what you’re on!’ Another essential oil I use is a roll-on rose essential oil that stays plastered all over me too. **
I mentioned to ‘Nice’, that I always clean my teeth first thing when I wake up in the morning and several times during the day. I use a soft brush, I’m not too abrasive, just consistent with the cleaning. I use the On Guard Toothpaste He said it’s great to clean the teeth first thing, and better to wait 30 minutes after you eat before you brush your teeth because of the acidity in the mouth. After watching schools of fish on the video monitor while having my teeth cleaned, I thought about writing this article because I just know that there are others out there who fear the ‘dental visit’ and I reckon I can help you or someone you know that has this phobia.
I’m not saying it’s going to be a bunch of fun, but you can make it more palatable by preparing in the lead-up to your appointment. Rinse your mouth after food, clean your teeth before bed and on rising, and include more chewing activity within your meals. The advice I can give you, and no one is paying me to say this… don’t put off seeing a dental practitioner it only makes it worse. Get counseling about your fears, and talk to me, I’m happy to share a little more about what I’ve done, however, at the end of the day, you need to anchor a different attitude/emotion about your appointment.
I say before I go in, ‘I’m so happy and grateful, now that I will have a wonderful dentist experience’. I say this out loud, yes of course I’m lying to myself, but my brain hears the words, and if I keep saying this, word gets out and the rest of my nervous system, like frightened little kids, my nervous system team have a meeting and agree that it’s going to be alright and provided I don’t get the ‘lion stalking the dear video’ I’lI feel good about my visit.
Can’t wait for the next appointment! See, that’s a wonderful lie, but don’t tell the rest of my body!
** Check out Annie’s Essential Oil Master Class available online **
PPS. Love to hear your dental stories, go into a prize draw to win $120.00 Frankincense.