Chewing Is a Privilege, Not a Right

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Being afraid of the dentist is a common fear. Knowing that does not make me any less afraid.

And when I say afraid, I mean the clenched fists, sweaty armpits, anxiety attack kind of fear. My teeth hit their decline when I got pregnant. I guess those prenatal vitamins weren’t enough for my sixteen-year-old body. That’s right, I said sixteen. Prior to that, my perfect white teeth had been free of cavities (and soda, and caffeine, and smoking). Following that was a downward spiral of introducing my teeth to evil acidic drinks and the occasional cigarette coupled with what seemed to be a never-ending stream of cavities.

It all leads up to me today. Thirty-years-old, five crowns, a million fillings, and a bad habit of grinding my teeth. I also ended up with a crippling fear of dentists. In fact, I will only see one dentist, DR. WRONG. Okay that’s not his name. It’s Dr. Rong. And he has a lisp, like that kid from The Music Man. But he is the nicest guy ever. He always remembers to not give me lidocaine with epinephrine to numb my mouth (which increases my heart rate sending me into anxiety hell). And he pats my shoulder and speaks to me like the big baby I am. Which is exactly what I need.

Why am I afraid of the dentist? There are many reasons. The sound of grinding down my teeth for crowns. The pain of one dentist who decided to drill a cavity with no local anesthetic. The memory of having my gums deep cleaned. (I don’t remember what they call it but that really effin hurt the next day.) When every time you go in to the dentist despite all of the brushing, flossing, and mouth washing, you are shown a new problem (that will hurt to be fixed) … you really start to dread it. Then you get anxious. And anxiety can become irrational and overwhelming. And then you do what us smart people do. You don’t stop going. You get drugs.

Sure, there some people who will tell you to use breathing techniques and visualization to relax. I use my iPod so I don’t have to here the sound of the drill. But my iPod won’t unclench my fingers from the arm of the dental chair. Nor will it mop up the sweat from my back while I lay there panicking. Some drugs can help me with that. I paid for the gas once. But it requires that you breathe only through a mask on your nose, which may not be a good choice if your are claustrophobic. This time I got a prescription for Klonopin. I have to have a crown redone. Usually I am all about just saying no, but this time I’m saying yes. Because I think that most of take for granted that we can chew our food. But I don’t. Every day I am so glad I can eat without having dentures just yet. And that’s the only reason I keep going back.


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