The Dentist… not an experience I wish to repeat

As regular readers will know last Friday I had the dentist for a tooth extraction. It wasn’t a very pleasant experience and for that reason I am stating now

if you are fearful of the dentist or have a dental phobia please skip this week’s blog post.

I would hate for anyone to read this and then never go to the dentist again. So I am warning you it wasn’t pretty but there were some humorous bits as well.

I had been pretty wound up about this trip to the dentist from the Tuesday of the week before. Granted I asked for the extraction as I couldn’t stand the thought of having to listen to the drill going and the fear that at any moment the local anaesthetic will have worn off and I will be able to feel everything. The night before the appointment I decided that I would take 5mg of diazepam to ensure I slept. Fear of any kind of medical appointments can leave me struggling to sleep for up to a week prior. Thankfully I had been able to sleep over the previous 9 nights, as we were sorting stuff out due to the car. I slept well but woke up with my usual Diazepam hangover I get when I take the full dose. Of late I have been cutting them in half as they work just as well when I am struggling to sleep.

My appointment was for 9.35am, as we now get up ridiculously early due to Dembe ( although saying that he slept until 6.10am this morning had his breakfast and then slept until 8am – unheard of and what a luxury!) it felt like it was hours away. At 8.45am I took 5mg of Diazepam, now I never take Diazepam during the day, maybe in the evening when my back is in spasm and I would never take the full dose of 5mg. I also took some oramorph so it was in my system and would hopefully help with the pain. By the time we were travelling to the Dentist surgery at 9.20am I was off my face! 

I actually felt like I had drunk several gin and tonics on an empty stomach. My face was numb and all I wanted to do was go to sleep. Jay dropped me off, I prefer doing the dentist alone as then I don’t have to pretend to be brave to an audience. He was going to take Dembe to the beach. I checked myself in and made my way to the waiting room. Eternally grateful it was on the ground floor as by now there was no way I was ever going to manage to do steps by this point. Putting one foot in front of the other without falling over was enough of a challenge. Thankfully the waiting room was empty and I wasn’t going to have to pretend I wasn’t off my face. It was like one of those situations where you are having pretend you are sober and the harder you try the drunker you look.

It was just as well the Diazepam had rendered me incapable of doing much at all because I was late going in for my appointment. around 30 minutes. At any other time where I hadn’t taken Diazepam I would have just run away claiming a prior engagement for not being able to hang around. By the time I got into the consulting room I was floating, I knew I was at the Dentist but I didn’t really give a shit, which is the complete opposite of how I normally am.

As I walked in the Dentist asked me how I was, I laughed and said ” I’m floating” he looked a little confused so I reminded him that he gad previously advised me to take Diazepam for any interventions he was going to carry out. He started laughing, normally I am so uptight I can barely speak. I wasn’t looking forward to the procedure but the overwhelming sense of fear and need to get the hell out of there had gone.

I reminded him – god knows how that I really didn’t need any detail during the procedure, just a high level overview at all times. It is the detail that makes my fear spiral out of control. 

Now my memory of events is a little hazy, I am having to look back at stuff I wrote on social media whilst still under the influence to remember exactly what happened. I know it was horrific and I am still in pain. My gum where the tooth was removed is black and blue and I have only been able to eat solid food from last night 4 days after the extraction. I do remember being rather amusing although it may have been only me that was amused.

Initially my Dentist had a look at my tooth again. I know that he said that it had disintegrated further from just over a week ago. I do have a terrible habit of unconsciously clenching my teeth when stressed and obviously over the last week with having to find a new car and this appointment looming I had probably been clenching more than normal. The tooth to give you a basic idea is on the right upper jaw at the back 7 I believe is its number. It was filled a very long time ago, due to EDS my teeth have narrow fissures which mean they are much more prone to needing filled. Had anyone realised I had EDS as a child they would have sealed all my adult teeth as they came through to prevent caries ( decayed areas). Instead now I am left with teeth that are rapidly losing their enamel and are more filling than tooth. Anyway I digress, the tooth being removed just to complicate things had also fractured. So I one side of the tooth stood the filling and on the other sat the really crappy tooth.

The dentist then gave me two injections one either side of the tooth. The one on the outside of the gum wasn’t too bad but the one on the inside of my gum near the roof of my mouth really stung. Whilst he was waiting for the local anaesthetic to take effect he then did a quick clean of my teeth. I had to stop him once as it was sore, on my bottom jaw at the front but I can see how much better they are looking for it. Of course on the side where he had done the injection he could do whatever he wanted as I could no longer feel anything. As he knew he would have a limited time in which to work as I tend to burn through local really quickly, as soon as I was numb he set to work.

This was really weird, the dentist moved the chair really high up, so I was face to face with him and I was sat bolt up right. I closed my eyes at this point as I find it really uncomfortable staring into someones face whilst they try to rip your tooth from the gum. I have no idea what kind of implement he was using, I am guessing some kind of pliers, as I could feel the end of them against my lower lip. As he was pulling away the pressure was immense. I felt like my cheekbone was going to shatter and my TM ( temporomandibular joint – the hinge joint of your jaw either side of your face in front of your ears) was going to dislocate. I put up with it for so long and then I grabbed his arm and explained that the TM joint was moving beyond a normal range of motion and felt like it was being pushed to the point of dislocation. Let alone the feeling of pressure in my cheek bone. He wasn’t impressed and said “you are going to feel some pressure” I responded that I understood that but I was very aware of the fact that it wasn’t going to take much more for the joint to pop. Reluctantly I agreed that he could continue. He started up again and it was really quite clear that this approach wasn’t going to work. My tooth was claiming squatters rights and a different approach was needed.

As my tooth was quite fragile due to the fracture in it he decided to put a band around it to try and maintain its integrity and to stop it fracturing into tiny pieces. It didn’t work as although all I could feel was pressure there was the sound of a tooth exploding and a wedge of tooth dropped into the back of my throat. I tapped his arm for him to allow me to sit up and then I spat out what had dropped into the back of my throat. It was a chunk of the filling and a piece of tooth. What shocked me though was the sheer amount of blood, the dental nurse had done a good job using the suction device as I hadn’t tasted or felt any blood at all. I had however missed the sink bit when spitting and the dentists pristine white unit and floor now resembled a bare knuckle boxing ring. I apologised profusely for making such a mess. I then grabbed another piece of tooth out of my mouth and loudly declared “the tooth fairy isn’t going to accept this shit is she?” to which both the dentist and the dental nurse laughed. Probably more at the fact the longer I was in the chair the more drunk I was sounding.

As the tooth had disintegrated in my mouth the dentist decided he was divide up the rest of the tooth and remove it piece by piece. This meant the use of the dreaded drill. I started shaking a lot and I had zero control over it. The dentist asked me if I was ok but as he had his hand in my moth at the time I could only make a weird sort of noise that was accepted as a yes. The smell was disgusting, a weird burning smell. I spent the whole time gripping the armrests praying that the local anaesthetic was going to hold. I knew that this deep into the tooth there was a high chance if it was to wear off it would be like a scene from Marathon Man.

More moves with the pliers and more blood. I was starting to swallow it now, which was making me feel sick and slowly the tooth  came out in pieces but it was only the tooth that was visible above the gum line. The roots themselves were refusing to budge. The shakes were getting worse, at about this point I was lying there thinking I wish I had just had the bloody crown done. I had innocently assumed that the tooth would pop out without issue and now 20 minutes in we were looking at playing a game of dig out the roots. My heart rate well that must have been close to the 200’s. I was shaking like I was plugged into the electric mains. My heart sank when he informed me he was going to have to dissect the root in my gum using the drill. Again the fear was that the local anaesthetic would have worn off and I was going to be in pain.

I have to say at this point my dentist was really good. Every time he went to use the drill before touching me he would blow cold air onto the area he was going to work on to check it was still numb before he started. It wasn’t until it was all over and I was sat up talking to him that I clocked that he had a syringe primed with extra local anaesthetic in case it had been needed. I finally felt that after all this time he was listening to me.

I tried really hard to get the shakes under control but there was nothing I could do. The taste of blood the smell of the roots of the tooth being  broken up into pieces. I heard him ask the nurse for the root forceps or something similar. I had to ask to sit up again as whilst the nurse had been getting the tool for him a whole load of blood and bits of root / tooth was sat on the back of my throat choking me. Again I was a little taken back at the amount of blood. I know it was mixed with saliva but the blood was really bright red and thick, so was probably 90% blood and 10% saliva. I really didn’t fancy my prospects of being able to get off the dentists chair without fainting.

By the time it was over I had been in the dentists chair for over 35 minutes. I still couldn’t stop shaking. The dentist showed me the root’s of the tooth he had removed it was over an inch long no wonder the fucking thing hadn’t wanted to come out. It had also been twisted around the other side the root. Still under the influence of Diazepam I said “that’s a fucking monster” I do try to limit my profanity when in polite company but it felt right in the moment. It also noticed there was blood all over the instrument tray and all over his gloves. It is a good job that I don’t faint at the sight of blood.

I have to say this was the most violent and traumatic tooth extraction I have ever gone through. At the end of the procedure the Dentist told me that at one point he thought he was going to have to send me to hospital as he didn’t think he was going to be able to get the roots out. I am not surprised because I think I went into shock during it and that was what was causing me to shake so violently. Plus the sight of all that blood, repeatedly.

At the time of talking to the dentist I was clamping down on the gauze they give you to apply pressure to the wound. After five minutes he checked that it had stopped bleeding which it had but he gave me a spare gauze to take home. Just as well because 10 minutes after being home my mouth was full of blood and I then had to sit for 40 minutes with the gauze clamped against the extraction site to stop the bleeding. When I finally removed it, it was soaked all the way through.

The pain really started to kick in a few hours after I had got back home and my face started to swell. It took every pain medication in the house taken at regular intervals to get the pain under control. My TMJ also flared up with pain so moving my jaw was incredibly painful. For the next few days I was washing my mouth out with salt water every 2 hours. I felt so sick for hours afterwards due to the amount of blood I had swallowed during the course of the surgery. Its not an experience I want to repeat and I think I maybe referred to hospital for the wisdom tooth to be extracted after that debacle.

Its now Wednesday and I am still in pain at the extraction site. The pain hasn’t got any worse and it is localised just at the site rather than what it was like on Friday where the whole right side of my face hurt. I think due to the EDS it is going to take longer to heal. If it hasn’t settled down by next Monday I will give the Dentist’s surgery a ring as it would have been well over a week since the tooth was removed. I have had a quick look inside my mouth and there is quite a bit of bruising so I imagine that is contributing to the pain.

The good news is that on the same day of the tooth extraction Jay picked up our new 2nd hand car. I didn’t get to go out in it until Saturday but it is lovely and very comfortable. Dembe has given it his seal of approval and covered it in long yellow hair!

***

About an hour after I finished writing this post my mouth really began to hurt. It was hurting all along my cheek bone, up into my eye and nothing was touching it. I waited until 11.50am to ring the dentist as I was wondering if it was psychosomatic but as the pain was increasing I knew it wasn’t. Finally the dentist surgery rang me at 14.30 after I had rung them again just before 2pm to find out why I hadn’t heard from them – the pain was increasing and I just wanted there to be an end in sight. They asked me to come straight down.

Even thought this was an emergency appointment I was seen straight away by a different dentist than my own. He confirmed that the blood clot had been lost from the extraction site and that bone and nerves were now exposed. He had to give it a good clean out with cold water and then picked out all the food debris that had got in it. He said it was showing no signs of infection but he took an x-ray and they will contact me if they find anything. 

The extraction site has now been packed with iodine gauze – which tastes grim but has reduced the pain I was in enormously. I have got to try to keep it in situ for the next few days. Then resume the hot salty water rinsing. 

I knew this morning when I woke up feeling exceptionally tired and rough that something wasn’t right but just couldn’t put my finger on it. So glad that I have been, the only time in my life I was happy to visit the dentist!

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Sh*t

My fear of the dentist has become sort of legendary on the pages of this blog. It’s now no longer a fear `but has evolved into a phobia, which would be fine were it not for the fact that I can see in my future lots of dental work being needed. Which fills me with dread.

The phobia really took hold last year, I was sat in the waiting room and I could hear the sound of a dentists drill going in one of the consultation rooms. As I heard the drill sick reached the back of my throat and I started to sweat. I felt incredibly light headed and I had to fight the urge of just getting the hell out of there…if indeed my legs would have worked. 

I have never had a very good relationship with dentistry. I have a high pain threshold everywhere apart from my mouth. I am incredibly sensitive even a dentists tool checking my teeth can trigger sharp nerve pain. I often wonder if I have more nerves in my gob than the average human being? I also wonder if it is because you are so vulnerable lying their unable to move or communicate effectively that my fear or phobia has now taken grip. Pain happens at every dentist visit, even check ups. My reaction gets the same response from whatever dentist I see, they simply don’t believe that their action has caused me pain or discomfort. To be constantly told that your pain isn’t real by the people who you are supposed to put your trust in just erodes it over time. I’d love to say that as I have got older my visits to the dentist have got better…they haven’t and now a week Friday I will be going for my first extraction since 2003.

Last year in May I was told I needed a filling. Instead of stopping there my dentist in his friendly way that he was probably taught at university as a way to talk to patients then gave me every minute detail of what he would do to fill the tooth. You see the tooth was decayed beyond saving. He would remove all the pulp you know the bit where the nerve sits, clean it out and then fill the tooth. Panic coursed through me as he continued to give me every last detail. You see for this patient the more technical detail I know the worse it is. My heart rate his risen just typing this, even though I know that he won’t be doing this to my tooth next week. Remembering the appointment still fills me with horror.

I duly made an appointment and the earliest I could get was July. Which was crap because it meant I had a two month wait in which to build to complete hysterics. I was all set for July 12th and then the week before the appointment the dental surgery rang and cancelled. My head was all over the place as that was the same week my mum had been told she had cancer but what type and how bad wouldn’t be known until she was operated on. They offered me an alternative date but we had visitors coming so I said I would ring them back and make an appointment. I never did.

I won’t lie it was easier just to forget about the dentist than deal with it and just get it done. That is when I knew that my fear had turned to a phobia because rational sensible Rachel should have taken over and just bit the bullet and got the filling done. Instead I have endured a year of toothache on and off and the fear of developing an abscess.

When my husband had a phone call to prompt him to book an appointment I asked him to book mine as well. I didn’t want to go but the pain in my tooth was becoming more severe. I’d rather go and get the tooth pulled than wait to get an abscess ( I’ve had an abscess before it took three months to sort out as I developed a dry socket). A dry socket is agony but that is still preferable to me than hearing the drill go whilst it is inside my mouth.

So yesterday despite the mounting panic rising within me I went to the dentist. The dentist tried to tell me off about not coming back for the filling so I just told him my mum got diagnosed with cancer and that I just forgot. I didn’t forget I just chose not to remember. He shut right up and apologised. I then told him that the tooth that needed a filling now needed to be removed and that I wasn’t taking no for an answer. He tried to tell me that he wouldn’t remove the tooth if it didn’t need to be taken out. So I told him either he did it or someone else would. He was quite shocked as normally I am really polite and don’t say boo to a goose – always being terrified that being rude would cause more pain. I explained the tooth had been giving me toothache at a low level for months and that I just wanted it out. It is right at the back of my mouth and its being missing will make no difference cosmetically. He said he would take a look. So with my heart beating out of my chest he lowered the chair.

He took a look at it and asked me again if I wanted it removed to which I said yes. He informed me that the tooth was now fractured right down the middle. There is very little left of my actual tooth as it is being held together with a filling. He said due to the state of it he would remove it for me but he would need to keep an eye on the tooth in front of it as that had developed some decay and would need a small filling. I immediately jumped in and told him I didn’t want any detail. Small filling fine I can live with that. I just don’t need to know what that entails.

I was quite surprised during the appointment to find out I still have a fully erupted wisdom tooth. I was under the impression that they had all gone when I was a teenager as I had a few removed due to them trapping a small piece of gum between the wisdom tooth and the next tooth as they erupted. That piece of gum would then balloon forming like a pink bubble that would then cause horrendous pain. So all my previous wisdom teeth had been removed at the dentist. He explained that the wisdom tooth was showing signs of decay and due to its position it would be nigh on impossible to put a filling in. This again would need to be watched as it would need to be extracted. I don’t know if he means by him or if he meant I will need to have to have it done at the hospital. News to me anyway that I have an erupted wisdom tooth.

I was in and out on that appointment, I booked next weeks appointment and then went out into the fresh air. My legs had turned to jelly and I felt pretty close to passing out. Which isn’t nice when you are alone and waiting for hubby to get the car. I thought ( I don’t know why) they had a bench outside and was going to park myself on that. They didn’t so I had to balance myself against a wall in such a way that if I did pass out there would be minimal damage to me.

Two hours later and my legs were still jelly and I was still feeling like I was going to vomit. Just from the feeling of panic that a visit to the dentist will produce. Jay kept telling me how brave I had been to attend when I hate it so much and for stating my case for getting the tooth pulled. I didn’t feel brave I felt awful. Its a difficult feeling to describe. You know logically the fear and how it controls you is out of proportion to the event but you can’t help it. There is no logic to it and it isn’t a case of talking yourself down. For me it is a whole body reaction, I feel faint, I feel like I am going to be sick, I find it difficult to speak, my legs turn to jelly and feel like they will crumple under me at any moment. The whole time my brain is screaming “Shit get out of here”. My heart rate well is probably close to the 200’s the way my chest feels and all the while my exterior maybe cool and showing none of the inner turmoil / fear that I am feeling.

Maybe that is the problem? It seems no matter how many times I tell people I am terrified of the dentist, it is dismissed with “well nobody likes the dentist”. But it is just so much more than that. I will be honest last week when my tooth was really sore I contemplated going to the kitchen shit drawer getting a pair of pliers and removing my own tooth. Just so I could avoid going to the dentist. If you think that is normal behaviour for someone who doesn’t like the dentist… then you have a screw loose.

My gp tried to help and told me there was CBT online courses I could try to get over my phobia / fear. I told her I was sure there was but when your own dentist fails to appreciate how much going to see him fucks you up then me doing all that work is pointless. It’s not like I can up and change dentists any time I like it took us years to get an NHS dentist when we moved here. Many of them now have closed lists. So it simply isn’t a case of moving and finding a more sympathetic one. However Jay spoke to his dentist that morning and she said she would accept me onto her list if I wanted to move. I am giving my dentist one last chance. If he blows it this time I will be taking her up on the offer of moving within the practice.