Friday, April 17, 2015

The Dentist

I went to the dentist and it was awful.

I've been putting of the dentist for years. Too many years, it seems, because I have quite a few cavities. Many people I've spoken with recently say that going to the dentist is torture, and I would agree, but I very much want to challenge these people get their cavities filled with a migraine. My dentist had to stop after one filling because my shaking and crying was making it difficult for her to work. For the record, I would have withstood at least one more, but I can't help my body's reaction to extreme pain. I was recommended to sedation dentistry, but I don't know how much that costs, or if denti-cal will cover it. I believe firmly that they should, but what's right and what's covered aren't at all the same things.

The dentist could have done a few things to improve my experience. I told them I was nervous because I had a migraine and that I was somewhat needle-phobic. I asked the doctor to warn me before she stuck me. She didn't. Instead, she told me to close my eyes, then poked me repeatedly while grabbing my cheek hard and speaking to me in a soft, gentle voice. That last part was fine, actually, but without any warning, I couldn't help but feel frightened by the surprise needle in my mouth. Despite my best efforts at remaining calm, I could only take four stabs before I started panicking.

If she had warned me before starting, or counted down the number and the durations of each stick, I honestly think I could have dealt with it easily by breathing and forcing my muscles to relax. This has worked pretty well for me in the past, and as long as I felt I could trust the person doing this awful thing to me (ie blood draws, pap smears, vaccinations) I would get through it with minimal tears and we'd all part friends. But by ignoring my simple requests, she obliterated any natural trust I might have had; and even after my initial, very evident panic, she totally dismissed my repeated pleas for warning of what she was going to do in my mouth. She insisted it would make me MORE fearful, and I would tense up MORE at her warnings. I couldn't get her to listen. She made it clear I couldn't trust her, and I couldn't relax.

She came back a while later, after the novocaine had kicked in, and started work. As I already mentioned, there was shaking and crying. I don't know if I can explain what it feels like to have a drill grinding in my tooth with a migraine. The dentist tried to stop early on, said we should reschedule for when I don't have a migraine. With tears streaming down my face, I sobbed that I ALWAYS have a migraine, it would never go away, and if she could do the work, I could take it. Then I put my head back and opened my mouth, ready for the torture. She finished the one cavity she'd started, then disappeared into another part of the building, probably to drink herself into a stupor.

The poor thing had spent most of my polishing and prep telling me about how far dentistry had come, and how the needles are the worst part. I had tried to tell her that wasn't my real issue, but I don't think she was at all prepared for how intense it would get. While she worked, she tried soothing me with that soft voice again, and it was rather nice, "You're doing great, darling, we're almost done." Near the end, even softer than her other reassurances, she said once, "You are a very strong woman." At the time, if I could have laughed, I would have. I didn't feel strong, not even an iota. I was a complete wreck and wasn't aware of a thing except the impossible pain coming from my head, my boyfriend's hand in mine, and her voice. But looking back, I am a fucking badass. Who willingly lays back and allows an unpredictable stabber to inflict pain at a level beyond explanation? Me. At the time I thought the dentist was patronizing me, but in hindsight, I think she meant it.

But yeah, sedation dentistry. It's another ball of worries, but I think it's the better option for me, and for my poor dentist.


Migrainista said...

Strong-well I would say so. For sure.

It makes me so angry to hear that she refused to respect your wishes about being told what she was going to do. She has no right to make that decision for you - against your repeated and expressed wishes.

I sure hope your next dentist will be more respectful and humane. A good dentist is always important but so much more so when you are dealing with chronic migraines. I'm so sorry you had to go through that.