I posted a long time ago about my phobia of the dentist, and yesterday things stepped up a gear as a day I was both dreading and looking forward to arrived. I have been waiting a long time for a tooth to be extracted, as it had cracked after being filled and was beyond repair. I went to my own dentist in May last year when it broke, and have had a considerable wait since then to be seen by the Community Dental Team. (A little warning before you read on-this is a graphic account of my experience.)
Because I have such a severe phobia (of the needle, of having the tools in my mouth, everything) I was unable to have this done at the regular dentist. It took 5 months for my initial referral, then I was given a date another 6 months after for the procedure itself. At my initial appointment, I felt quite dismissed by the dentist there, who was rather cross that my own dentist hadn’t tried to remove the tooth himself. My own dentist, when I mentioned waiting times said to me it would be easier if I would ‘let’ them do it there too. The thing is, I don’t choose to be afraid. The fear consumes me every time I am in the chair, and I can control it well enough to have a regular check up without tears streaming down my face now. But I still cannot have anything else done without extra help, not yet. I’m trying-I can distract myself to an extent by counting squares on the ceiling and so on, but not when it really hurts.
I was booked in to have my tooth removed under inhalation sedation (gas and air), and the 6 months wait turned into an 8 month wait when the first appointment was cancelled. Due to past experiences with appointments being cancelled on the day (frustrating when you have had to organise childcare), I was on edge until the moment they actually called me in. When I had a missed call from them on Monday my heart sank, until I checked my voicemails and it was just an appointment reminder. Mr C had managed to get a shift change to take me, as I wasn’t allowed to drive afterwards and I needed the moral support.
When I got into the room, the dentist seemed far nicer than at my first meeting with her. I even had a choice for which scent I wanted my mask to have (I chose vanilla, by the way). Once I had signed the forms and was in the chair, the mask was on and it began to feel real. They turned on the gas and air very gradually, and I scoped out the ceiling for distractions. There were two butterflies there, but nothing to count. Gradually, I began to relax and feel a little drunk as the sedation took effect. Then they tried to do the injections…
I was still quite aware of what was going on, and I began to cry. It was uncontrollable, I was trying so hard to control my breathing, counting slowly in for 10 and out for 10, but the pain disrupted that cycle. I have a vague recollection of them quickly turning up the flow of sedative gas! Once I had relaxed a little, they did the injections and waited for my mouth to go numb. The dentist tried to relax me by telling me to imagine the butterflies were flying, but I don’t think I was quite sedated enough for that.
After a while, they tried to remove the tooth. This part was horrific for me, unfortunately I felt a really sharp pain and had to stop them. I was quite floaty feeling by this point, but still far too aware. Even now, I get flashbacks to that pain. I recall another injection, which Mr C informed me was from ‘a very locked up cabinet’ so I suspect it may have been slightly stronger than the first ones. They waited for it to take effect, whilst I (in a very slurred voice) informed them that it tasted disgusting. Mr C found this quite amusing.
Then the dentist proceeded to get to work with the big tools, and there was still some slight pain and a lot of pulling. I had to change my distraction techniques to counting the smears from cleaning on the metal backing to the big lamp, as the butterflies just weren’t cutting it. I accidentally bit the dentist as I closed my mouth, so I focused really hard on keeping my mouth open as well as counting. It must have been a tough tooth as the dentist had to take a little break from pulling it, but then she managed it. They quickly put gauze in my mouth and told me to bite down, which I did. At this point I think they began to reverse the sedation process by switching on oxygen.
I gradually came round, and they gave Mr C instructions for how to look after me if it started bleeding again and so on. They asked if I wanted to keep the tooth, and I said no but Mr C persuaded me to take it as he thought our 7 year old son might like to see it! They very kindly gave me it in a tooth fairy envelope (zero chance of getting anything for it when I am the tooth fairy in this house!)
I took it easy for the rest of the day as it was a bit tender once the anesthetic wore off. (It was a good excuse for some daytime crochet!) Today my mouth feels like I have been punched, and it is really sore. I’m hoping it feels better soon, work today left me feeling exhausted as I had to try really hard to focus through the pain.
Well done if you made it this far, I know it isn’t my usual type of blog post but I do find it therapeutic to write those things down. I am also very grateful that, despite the long wait, this was available to me through the NHS. I shall keep working on my phobia.