I wasn’t going to write about this because it’s humiliating on so many levels. Humiliating that I’m so fearful. Humiliating that I couldn’t overcome my fear. Humiliating that it’s now affecting my health.
I haven’t been to a dentist in 23 years.
And yes, I realize that if I now meet any of you in person you’ll be staring at my mouth.
Why am I so afraid? It was a combination of things. Dental surgery when I was in elementary school (done in a hospital where I was put under and they used dissolving stitches but nobody told me so on a Saturday morning as my parents slept and I watched cartoons, the stitches came out in my mouth and I thought my gums were splitting open), a bad experience getting a filling, my orthodontist confusing my records with someone else’s and sending me to have two teeth extracted and last but not least, me becoming an ortho-patient at the school of dentistry where the fourth year students practiced on me through two years of braces and retainers. And I’m not knocking fourth year dental students, they have to learn somewhere.
Just, you know, not on someone who’s already mentally dentally scarred.
So once my braces were removed and I was good to go with life sans retainer, I never went back.
Two summers ago I had to take Son No. 1 to the dentist to get some cavities filled. Just walking into the office left me feeling faint and fighting off a panic attack, while I simultaneously tried to calm my son and help him fight his fear. Irony much? Since then, it’s been my husband’s job to take both kids to the dentist.
A year and a half ago, I noticed the gums surrounding one tooth were starting to recede. I brushed diligently, flossed and even purchased a water pick. But to no avail. The gum recession is now so bad the root is exposed about ½ cm. And it’s starting to happen on other teeth as well. I can’t avoid it any more, going to a dentist is no longer an option, it’s a necessity. And yet even just typing this leaves me feeling panicked and in tears.
Part of it is fear and part of it is that I’m embarrassed. I can actually see the receding gums but I also know there’s probably a whole bunch of other stuff going on that I can’t see. My mouth is a mess and I’m embarrassed to have a dentist look at it because I can’t even imagine how horrified they’ll be.
And, of course, there’s also the money issue. My husband and I both work for ourselves so we have no coverage. I’m pretty sure there’s going to be dental surgery in my future and it’s not going to be cheap.
But I need to go because it’s not going to get any better. So today I thought I’d share my fear with you just in case there’s anyone else out there feeling the same way and you need to know you’re not alone.
And maybe you can tell me the same thing.