I didn’t know what dental floss was when I was a child. Candy floss was more prominent in my vocabulary. The importance of taking special care of our teeth wasn’t drummed into me or my brothers when we were children. We thought it was normal to have teeth pulled when they decayed. “Sure we’ll get brand new ones like our parents did. Lovely new white straight teeth”. Did we really say that? Yes, I’m afraid we did.
Of course we were warned many times about the dangers of eating too many sweets but it didn’t stop us munching our way through sticky toffees and sugary jellies. And who could forget the Blackjacks and Fruit Salads? About ten in a bag for 2p. And they lasted for hours. I remember being so excited if I found a halfpenny on the street. I went straight to Mrs. Fultons sweet shop for a Golfball chewing gum. It used to last me three days! A day at school went so slow when you had a couple of pennies in your pocket to spend in Mrs. Fultons on the way home. She was every child’s most favourite woman on the planet!
I don’t remember being to the dentist very often when I was a child. Twice, maybe three times is all I remember. A tall man in a white coat and a stern look on his thin spectacled face. I’m sure he was a lovely man but to a young child, he was a bit scary.
At about the age of fifteen, I was plagued for weeks with a toothache and I paid a visit to a nearby dentist. Now I didn’t realise at the time that this particular dentist had a fine reputation for extracting teeth that could have easily been saved. So I lost a few back teeth in my early teenage years.
A new dentist comes to town! He was young, newly trained and enthusiastic and he swiftly gained himself a favourable reputation. He was so busy that I had to wait several weeks for an appointment. At this point in my life I was beginning to regret my love for chewy sugary sweets. I left the surgery that day with a filling and an appointment for a later date.
Now, this is where it all went wrong for me. I didn’t turn up for my next appointment! I didn’t cancel, I didn’t ring to apologise nor did I attempt to make a new appointment. I just chickened out! I was afraid of phones when I was a teenager. I was afraid of people – and pretty much everything else in life. Oh, it was my intention to make a follow-up appointment – as soon as I plucked up the courage – but my friend told me that he was a very wicked man and he would crucify me for not turning up the last time. That was the end of that!
About fifteen years passed before I plucked up the courage to visit a dentist again. I had given up sticky and chewy sweets long ago but I had no desire to be saved from my addiction to chocolate. I brushed my teeth three times a day – the completely wrong way apparently – and I flossed now and then. So apart from another toothache, I wasn’t worried about my dental health. I travelled out of town to visit a dentist who was recommended to me. I got a filling and another follow-up appointment. The follow-up didn’t go very well. I think the dentist may have been a little slack on the anaesthetic because the drilling process was not painless! I was not a happy bunny that day! I did return for a check-up a year or two later but I was a nervous wreck. I was so tensed that I could hardly breath. So my relationship with dentists had once again become tarnished.
Quite a few years had now passed since I’d had a dental check-up. I had a tooth that was bothering me and I knew I had to go and get it checked out. I was feeling very brave! So brave actually, that I made an appointment to see the dentist that my friend named ‘wicked’ thirty-somethingyears ago. Surely he won’t remember me after all this time.
If you have read any of my previous posts, you will know that I have a tendency to be a little anxious and claustrophobic in life-threatening situations. Of course the situations I find myself in, are hardly ever life-threatening – except in my mind. Because when a situation makes you feel like you can’t breath, it becomes life-threatening! That’s my logic anyway. If you have ever experienced anxiety you may be able to relate to the irrational thoughts that creep into your mind as soon as the palpitations start. ‘Oh my God I can’t breath’, is fairly common. This is usually followed by thoughts such as, ‘Feck, if I pass out or DIE, I’ll be taken to hospital and I’m not wearing matching underwear. I didn’t shave my legs since Friday. Will they know who I am? I’m not carrying any identification. Jesus what if I bang my head when I faint and lose my memory, my family will never find me and I’ll be homeless. Where’s the door? Will I make it?” Silent screams of terror and a thumping heart continue for about sixty seconds but feels like sixty minutes. This is actually a very mild account of an anxiety attack. It can be much worse than.
I haven’t had a full-blown anxiety attack in a very long time because I’ve learned what it is now, why it happens and most importantly, how to handle it or prevent it. I have also discovered that I need to be consistent in my anxiety-busting practices. My recent introduction to yoga has helped me immensely. I do breathing exercises every day and practice meditation with positive affirmations. So rather than waiting until I feel anxious about something, I use my tools daily to maintain a feeling of calm and positivity. So most of the time I don’t even notice when I’m in a situation that once caused me to feel anxious.
When I rang the surgery for an appointment, I was lucky to get a cancellation for that same day. Great, because I was in top form after listening to Louise Hay on Youtube. “I am strong. I am in control of my own thoughts. I let go of fear and doubt. Stress is fear. I have no fear.” I bounced down to the surgery feeling very proud that I had finally made the decision to put my dental health high on my list of priorities.
I can’t believe I let a friend’s idle comment stop me from coming here for so long. Sure he’s lovely and he sorted out my battered old tooth in no time and asked me back for a scale and polish. I was so calm during the procedure. I focused on my breathing and kept positive the whole way through. I had my first ever dental X-Ray and I was finally shown how to floss properly. Easy. No pain whatsoever! Yes, I trusted this man. Very professional indeed.
I returned a couple of weeks later for the scale and polish. Before he began the procedure he discussed the results of my X-Ray. This is where he innocently made a big mistake. He said the words ‘root canal’ and ‘nerve’. Root! That to me is deep down in my jaw. And nerve means pain! I no longer wanted to be here. Where was Louise Hay now when I needed her? I didn’t hear much else he said after that. I nodded and said ‘yes’ a few times and then I lay back with my mouth open like a zombie. He injected plenty of anaesthetic because I couldn’t feel a thing and I was doing fine until those words ‘root canal’ kept coming into my mind. I had visions of throbbing nerves spiraling out of my bleeding gums and I kept imagining that I was tied to the chair.
Breath Gloria….breath. Calm down! I became aware of my heart beating and I opened my eyes in a bid to distract myself. But my heart was beating faster and louder. I couldn’t breath now and I badly needed to swallow. I raised my hand and Mr. Dentist immediately stopped what he was doing. I sat up-right in the chair and took a few deep breaths. I eyed up the door and considered making a run for it. I could if I wanted to – it’s only a scale and polish. It’s not like he’s in the middle of brain surgery. But no, I told myself not to be stupid. I half turned around to the dentist & his nurse and with dribble running down my frozen jaw, I assured them that I was fine. I really hope this kind of thing happens quite often for these people because I don’t want to be the only crazy patient in their book. I got myself relaxed again and lay back. Phew….I was okay. How embarrassing! He finished the procedure and advised me to return as soon as possible to sort out this dodgy tooth. When he removes the old filling and gets in there with his gadgets, only then will he know if it needs a new filling or a root canal.
I made an appointment and went home to meditate! I did laugh afterwards and my kids laughed, as they always do when they hear of my little ‘episodes’. So I have until the 3rd of May to prepare myself for a possible root canal. And I will NOT google it!
I am now totally dedicated to taking proper care of my teeth because I can’t be doing this dentist thing. And I’m sure he can’t be doing with the likes of me either!