Monday, July 9, 2007

Dentists


The other day I went to the dentist. I can’t stand the dentist. It’s such a harrowing experience each and every time I go – which of course means I have to go often. Bad teeth. I’m on my third root canal.

The first time I went to the dentist on my own I cried. Actually, I cried every time I went to the dentist. Having no insurance I didn’t have the luxury to shop around and thus ended up in a place with a surly man named Mr. Sun to spend over 500USD to drill and crown a tooth. He asked why I cried each time (not sobbing, just tears that wouldn’t stop) and I had no idea. I just felt – overwhelmed.

That crown lasted for a few years before the tooth hurt again – by then I had moved up the insurance ladder in America – you know, the one with every other rung sawed through so you step on it and fall? Yeah, our structure for health care is bad enough, but often times dental isn’t considered important. So I had good health insurance at that point, but a dental HMO.

I ended up going to a dentist somewhere in Washington Heights. Those who live in NY are probably shaking their head from side to side at this point. The Heights isn’t known for their dentistry skills. There the crown was replaced and in doing so the guy drilled through the crown on the tooth above it, to force it ‘to fit.’ But the pain had stopped. A year later it hurt again and he said he no longer accepted my insurance. Oh, and while I was there, yes, I teared. I also have a bad gag reflex and the hygienist refused to clean my teeth, even though it was free under the HMO.

Now we’re on to the third dentist. He came recommended, he was congenial at least and I felt at ease. When I’m at ease, the gag reflex lessened. This is one of those ‘childhood’ trauma things I think. When I get stressed out I can’t have anything touch my neck or come close to it, I start to choke and can’t breathe.

So this guy takes off the crown and sends me to an endodontist. I needed a root canal. Luckily, the HMO for some reason covered the whole thing. I get it done, go back, and get the crown on. Only – the crowns keep cracking. Three into it and the dentist is yelling at me because the crown doesn’t fit, because I say it’s uncomfortable. I tell him it’s the labs fault, he tells me I bite down too hard. Finally, with a temporary in, I run out crying.

I went months with that temporary in, not wanting to go back. Then finally I switched jobs and got a new insurance- a limited one (it pays 80% of dental bills up to 1K a year I think) but better. My boss sends me to her guy. They do the x-rays and find out . . . the other dentist, before putting the crown on, sealed cotton in my tooth. He had told me he ‘built it up’ but all he did was plaster over a cotton ball. I wonder how many other people he’s done that too. I remember calling the insurance company after that, the old one and telling them not to pay. They told me with an HMO they don’t pay per procedure; they just send a monthly check. That explained a lot to me about this guy’s mentality.

Here’s the interesting thing, with this guy now the gagging is minimal. He’s friendly, nice, and knowledgeable – and I owe him thousands of dollars because he had to redo the previous work, and then I needed another root canal and crown and he has to redo the crown the other guy drilled through.

The dentist is a major anxiety, but now the times the anxiety creeps up is when he asks about the past. He keeps talking about that drilled through crown, and I have no idea when it was put on. X-rays show an impartial root canal. He figures it was a temporary put on a long time ago, but I have no memory.

Dental care was tough when I was younger. I remember we went to the dentistry school. My mom’s bridge fell out in a burger once. McDonald’s – now there’s a future post. There were a few months when we ate nothing but McDonald’s because my mom worked there and they let her bring the food home at the end of the night.

What I don’t remember is the dental work done. It was the dentistry school, the smell is there. That latex and hot breath smell. There was a treasure chest – I remember that. If you were good you could pick out a toy. I had a sticker from there; it was of a man in a barrel. I thought it was funny; he had suspenders to use the barrel like clothes. He had a long white mustache.

When I was in college I started getting headaches. My mother said PMS, my friends said wisdom teeth. My closest friend, R., had just had her wisdom teeth taken out and was in a lot of pain, but my symptoms mirrored hers. I hadn’t seen a dentist in years and asked my mom to take me to one. “No,” she replied. “You were always too much of a brat at the dentist.”

“But I need an x-ray,” I replied, “and I’m not five years old anymore, I need to go to the dentist.”

When I told her I wanted to check out my wisdom teeth she replied, “Mine came in fine, your brother’s came in fine. It’s not your wisdom teeth.”

Thanks ma. I ended up taking her insurance card (I knew I was covered under it) and my friend’s father drove me to her oral surgeon. He took x-rays and sure enough, they were all impacted. One was even causing a cavity of another tooth under the gum line. We made an appointment to have them all removed the next time I came home from college- December 24th, Christmas Eve. The only thing that wouldn’t be covered was the anesthesia.

When I talk to my friends now, they are amazed that the surgeon took all four out at once – but I had no choice. There wouldn’t be another time and I didn’t know how my mother would respond in the first place. Luckily, she saw it as a chance when I needed her and was wonderful once I proved that I needed her help. She drove me there and stayed in the room with me (so I’m told) the entire time I was out. She paid the 240USD for the anesthesia so I didn’t have to be awake as they cut into my gums, lasered my teeth into pieces, and then extracted them. She helped me to the bathroom when I woke up and set up the reclining chair at home so I could sleep upright the first few days.

I think with the dentist – there’s fear. There’s confusion. There are flashbacks. There’s a major feeling of being trapped. You are in a chair on your back staring into a light and can’t move because of sharp objects in your mouth. How much more trapped can you get? I tell my current dentist I feel like I’m being abducted by aliens. “Maybe that’s what all these abduction stories really are, transformed memories of dentists” I say. He laughs.

There was one time I walked out of my current dentist’s office, and it was when his hygienist was cleaning my teeth. You know how there are some people that can just somehow, through their personality and inability to stop making inane banter take up an entire room? Well she has that ability. I tried so hard to let her clean my teeth, but as she kept going on and on she ended up talking about childhood and mothers and praising them and I just couldn’t take it anymore. She had gotten to the point of just suffocation, I felt so trapped I couldn’t think. I started to tear up and tried to ‘be brave’ but in the end I just got up and left. I can’t take being trapped.

But really, does anyone like dentists?

photo from http://www.cartoonchurch.com

9 comments:

Amel's Realm said...

I haven't had too many problems with dentists, though I don't particularly like them, either. Except this one dentist that's so cool and gentle and he's so neat and clean, so dependable. I like him SO much also 'coz he's also generous - if he thinks the patient isn't too rich, he'll reduce his fee. :-))) One time he even didn't charge one of my neighbours as he knew the woman was so poor. :-)))

I always pinched my arm, though, whenever any dentist started to drill my tooth, to brace myself of the pain or uncomfortable feeling that might come. My problem with the dentist is not gagging, but I think I produce saliva so quickly, so that's a bit uncomfy he he he...

Speaking of wisdom tooth, my first one has just started growing. I SURE hope it won't give me trouble as dental work here can be SO expensive (back in Indo even though I didn't have insurance, it was still affordable). The other three wisdom teeth haven't shown up yet. Hopefully they'll just stay dormant he he...

Why do they appear late? Why do they grow at all, I wonder? Hmmm...

Victorya said...

Dental work is so expensive here I have a co-worker who plans his dental visits for when he goes home to the Phillipines.

As for wisdom teeth - my theory was that before modern medicine we would have lost some teeth by our twenties, and thus the wisdom teeth would come in to kind of replace them. I don't know if there was as many problems with them then like now, because the mouth wouldn't be so crowded, what with the other missing teeth.

Max said...

Hey Victoria!
I can't say that I hate going to the dentist, cause mine is so good, that it never hurts (amazing)! The only thing is: the man is a ladyman (can you believe it?), he flirts a lot lol *nodding*!
My sweet Lord....you really have a prob with dentists *shocked face*! Third dentist? Mine has been the same since I was a kid...
Yeah, I had my wisdom teeth removed too: all of them!

Thank you for your comment on my blog! Yeah, it was a great day indeed (7/7/07)...do you believe in mysticism? I do...! 30 is beginning to be a great age ;)!

Cheers!

Azzitizz said...

My last visit to the dentist was more painful for him! He shouldn't have asked me a question while his fingers were in my mouth! He, He, Bet his scream could be heard outside the building!
:D

Amel's Realm said...

Ahhh...that did cross my mind, too, that they grew to replace others so they would be useful during our old age, but it never crossed my mind that before modern medicine, we would have lost some teeth at that age. INTERESTING!!! ;-)))

Yeah, indeed it is a HUGE problem that our mouth is so crowded.

Yep, my friends who're living abroad also plans their dental visits when they go back home to Indo.

I heard from Finland Forum here that to get rid of one wisdom tooth here, you need to pay 150 Euros. YIKES!!! Teeth, oh, teeth...why is taking care of you oh, so expensive?

askios007 said...

You have no idea how wonderful it was to read about horrible your trips to the dentist were. No, I'm not a sadist, I just go through the same thing: that overwhelmed feeling and tears pouring out. I'm a survivor of Child Sexual Abuse and I actually run a program for survivors, here in India, but it was only about a year or two ago that I realised why I reacted that way. It wasn't the pain, or the sharp instruments - the trigger for the panic and grief was always when the hand went in my mouth.

Since then, I've tried to do some self-work like deep breathing, talking to myself to remind me that he's not going to harm me, that I'm doing this to take care of my health - and I also told my dentist about my background - so he will talk me through, explain what he's doing and keep me focused on the procedure. When he senses me spacing out and heading back to childhood, he'll remind me that he's on my side.

Of course, inspite of all this .. I still avoid going to the dentist unless absolutely essential!

Nazu (ps visit my website if it interests you, just google for "askios")

Victorya said...

Nazu- I will definately visit soon! thanks for stopping by and wow, I'm not the only one with the dentist anxiety and panic stuff. Your dentist sounds great! Mine is nice now too, we'll joke around. I've told him a bit about the past, so he knows it causes anxiety.

cherished79 said...

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and haven't been to a dentist since I can remember. I will not let anyone work in my mouth, it would be too many flashbacks, too many memories and just too much crap to deal with. This is the first time I have seen anything on this subject anywhere. Kudos to you for bringing this up. I thought I was the only one who thought this way. People always wondered why I never visit the dentist - but I don't really think it's any of their business and why open sore wounds.

Take care, I like your blog. Ok to link. Thanks for visiting mine @ Living in Stigma.

http://cherished79.wordpress.com

eminders said...

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