I hadn’t been to the dentist in 10 years before today. For most of that time I had no insurance, and then when I finally got insurance I was too terrified to make an appointment. When I finally worked up the nerve to start making phone calls, I couldn’t find a dentist that would accept my insurance. I called every dentist on the list that my insurance provided and all of them rejected me. Fortunately, the last one I called gave me the phone # for another dentist who they knew would accept it.
When I filled out the paperwork, there was a question of “Do you have dental phobia/anxiety?” Doesn’t everyone? No, actually, I know my mother doesn’t. She loves going to the dentist because having her teeth cleaned makes her feel all fresh and sparkly. I, on the other hand, have flashbacks to pain every time I think about a dentist, and my last dentist was kind of mean to me about the fact that I had some cavities.
It’s not an excuse, but the depression tends to make hygiene fall by the wayside. Even now, when I’m relatively stable, I can’t make myself shower on a day when I have nowhere to be (okay, and sometimes when I do have to be somewhere). I try super hard to brush my teeth before bed, but sometimes I get lazy and only do it in the morning. The idea that one should diligently brush twice a day was not instilled in me as a child – I was taught that it’s okay to let it slide sometimes, and if it’s okay sometimes then I’m going to have trouble judging how often sometimes is.
At any rate, I was not looking forward to today’s dentist appointment. I had visible cavities, and was sure I would be shamed for it. Much to my surprise that didn’t happen. The dentist and his assistant were both very nice. The next patient had cancelled, so he offered to do my fillings right then instead of having me schedule another appointment.
Since I wasn’t experiencing pain when he poked around at the cavities, he decided to try doing the fillings without Novocaine. I was so relieved. Part of my dental anxiety is about how horribly the Novocaine shot hurts, and how uncomfortable it is to spend the rest of the day drooling. I stay numb for hours and hours after they say the shot should have worn off. The dentist said that if we had time for the fourth filling then he’d numb me for that one, but after I got through the other three with no pain he decided to try that one as well and it was no problem.
He told me I was his bravest patient ever. Ha! I would have put up with a LOT of pain from the drilling to avoid the Novocaine. It wasn’t that I wasn’t scared, it was that the alternative scared me more. So now that’s over, and I don’t feel ashamed of my smile anymore. I’ll still probably smile with my lips closed, but that’s just who I am. I take the DBT Half Smile to a whole new level.