Yesterday I overcame a hurdle in my life. Now for some of you what I did yesterday would be normal, fine, not worrying at all. For any of you who know me, I am expecting a medal.
A friend called me in the morning. She had a puffy hamster face and her temporary filling had come out. She needed to go to the dentist.
Even typing the word dentist makes me shudder. As far as I am concerned they are evil sadists who are there to terrify me (and yes, I know provide me with good oral care and prolong the life of my teeth). I love having teeth. I want them to stay in my head for as long as possible and do what they do.
I brush them, I treat them to mouthwash and floss sometimes. I want that to be enough.
Like me my friend has just entered the world of mum life. The thought of having hideous toothache and having to take care of a teething baby was enough to make me offer to take her to the dentist.
Even the smell of the torture lounge (waiting area) upsets me. But I did it. I sat and fed my baby in the waiting room.
I watched another mum who was there with her little girl and I realised that I am going to have to face my fear.
It has been five years since my last check up. I can’t even get my teeth cleaned at the dentist without freaking out. I can confirm that while you cry, flap your hands about and have a panic attack as a dentist scrapes your teeth and the nurse has a water thing and a sucky thing in your mouth, they are not happy with you.
The dentist sighs and huffs, he is not sympathetic. He thinks that I am completely ridiculous.
When I was a child I loved the dentist. The curtains in my bedroom were a present from them. When I was five we moved from Wales to Southampton and went to a new dentist. I was told that I would need a filling. No worries. He told me that it wouldn’t hurt at all.
This was my first experience of being lied to by a person in a position of trust. It didn’t hurt a bit, it hurt A LOT. The injection sent me rocketing off the big comfy chair as a searing white hot pain hit my gum. I was shocked and confused and decided that the dentist must be evil/messenger from satan as those were the people that told lies. My mum had told me that.
I remember going home with a giant lip and having to have soup through a straw for my dinner. The feeling did not return to my face until the next morning. By this point I had sworn off the dentist forever.
I would go to check ups, nervous, sweaty and run away from the chair as I was told everything was fine. When I was nine we moved to Brazil so that my dad could build an orphanage for street kids. There was no dentist to go to in Brazil. It was magical.
When we returned to the UK my mum thought it was prudent that we return to the dentist. I was eleven at this point. I sat in the chair, he had a look and informed me that I would need to have four fillings.
This was the first time in my life that I had a panic attack.
I was in full on hysterics, the dentist looked annoyed. My mum was furious. She slapped me round (yes it was as brutal as it sounds) and told me that I had to do what the dentist said.
Have you ever been gripped by panic? You can’t breathe properly, you are wild, you need to put as much distance between the thing that has caused this and you. My mum was stood in front of the door. I couldn’t run away. I bargained with the dentist. The part that I was scared of was the injection. I agreed to have the fillings if he didn’t do the injections. He tried to talk sense to me. I flatly refused.
So, stubborn, terrified eleven year old me had four, unanesthetised fillings in a row.
If I had thought that I had issues with the dentist before that point, now I REALLY had some.
As soon as I left home I stopped going to the dentist. So between the ages of sixteen and twenty five I had nine, bliss filled, dentist free years. However there was a part of my brain that kept on nagging at me that I should go. It was for my own good, like eating sprouts, not nice but something that you are supposed to do.
I thought that I could go and be fine. So I joined the dentist across the road from my house. I went. My teeth were fine. But he wanted to clean them. When I was a child this was pink paste on a whizzy polisher. I could handle that. When you are a grown up it is not the whizzy polisher. I tried to explain that they had put too many things in my mouth, that I was nervous.
They didn’t pay attention. I had a panic attack.
So for another five years I didn’t go to the dentist.
I then tried to “man up” and joined a different dentist. This time I needed a filling. It had been nineteen years since my last experience with this. I made an appointment for the following week. I tried to think of how I could cope with this. Ladies and gentlemen, this may not be the best or most grown up decision but I got very, very stoned. It helped enormously. I had the injection and the filling and I only cried a little bit.
That was five years ago. Yesterday I felt so brave just sitting there and then the realisation hit me. My son is teething. He is going to have teeth. I am going to have to take him to the dentist and show him that it is not scary and that it is for his own good. I am not sure me having a huge panic attack is going to convey that message to him.
So I need to firstly get myself a dentist. A nice, patient one. And maybe some Valium. And then I need to actually go. It is not good to have fears, especially ones that are to my detriment.
I need to be brave. I WILL be brave. I might see if I can find some time to look at some online. I am going to at least think very hard about it. Yes maybe some thinking about it first would probably be best.