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Friday, October 24, 2008

Irrational fears

Before I start let me just say that I have an irrational, unjustifiable, and borderline-psychotic fear of dental work. Seriously. And I'm not exaggerating.

So, yesterday I went to the dentist. No big deal, just a routine cleaning. At the end of the cleaning the dentist casually mentions that there is some staining on my molars. She probes around a bit, and tells me that it doesn't feel like a cavity, but she wants to polish/grind the stain to see if it was on the surface, or if there was something more happening. I sat calmly, and agreed she should go ahead and check.

At this point I really should have been afraid for my life. Last time I sat in that very same chair the same thing happened. Deja vu. Except it was with my front tooth. She casually mentions that she noticed slight discoloration (note to self, "staining" and "discoloration" are dental code words that mean bad things are about to happen to you), and tested the tooth for sensitivity. Of which I had none. Apparently the tooth was dead. She referred me to a specialist for a root canal. Cue the freak out. I floss, and brush, and rinse with Listerine. I am a freak about my teeth specifically so that I will not have these problems. I don't even get cavities. On the contrary, I am the person who sits in the chair while the dentist lavishes me with praise, and compliments me on my impeccable dental hygiene. I do not get root canals.

Seeing that I am a half step from a complete mental breakdown at the mere thought of a root canal the dentist wisely prescribes me some elephant tranquilizers (her words not mine) for the day of the procedure. She assures me I won't feel a thing.

Fast forward to The Day. I take one of the elephant tranquilizers. 20 minutes before I am supposed to have my butt in the chair I feel nothing. Nada. I start to panic. Exasperated, my husband tells me to take the other one. That's why she prescribed two, right? So I do. I'm called in to the exam room, and still nothing. That stupid dentist tricked me! She probably gave me a placebo. To make a long story short the specialist did some additional tests, determined that the tooth wasn't completely dead, and decided we'd take a wait-and-see approach. In and out in five minutes with no root canal.

My head was literally buzzing with relief as I moved to stand up. Except it wasn't relief that was buzzing around in there - it was the elephant tranquilizers. I had to focus very carefully as I navigated my way back to my husband. He mentioned that he had cleared the afternoon to take care of me and suggested that we go have lunch instead. We rarely have time together during the day, and I was thrilled with the prospect. It should have been fun. Except for those elephant tranquilizers. By the time we got to lunch I was walking a little funny. Pat claims I all but passed out onto my plate of food. And that he had to practically carry me out of the restaurant. All I really remember is waking up in bed with a little bit of a hangover, and realizing that the kids had somehow beamed themselves home from school.

So here I am back in the dentist's chair. Foolishly calm. Praising myself for staying composed despite the fact that the polishing sounds an awful lot like drilling. Waiting to receive praise for my healthy gums. Waiting for my new tooth brush. The dentist finishes her work, and tells me I need a root canal. Now. Apparently the stain was the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and bad things were happening underneath. The more she polished away, the more she could see, and the more she could see the worse it looked. And now that she has started she really needs to finish. As she was talking the hygienist was pulling out ominous looking instruments. Holy Cow! And so, without my lovely elephant tranquilizers and without the opportunity to work myself into a state of near hysteria, I got my root canal. Plus some bonus work on four other teeth to prevent more root canals. Talk about getting blindsided. I got hit head on by a train, and I didn't even see it coming.

And today I have a whopping sore jaw to prove it. And a new toothbrush.


Anonymous said...

Kathy! I feel for you and I share the same fear, anxiety, terror of the dentist. I would have lost my marbles had they told me "hey we are doing this thing now", I cannot wait to hear the details. It was odd that I saw you at target, because I had just been thinking about how I never see you any more and then, bam, you were right there!