Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Call me a Cotton-mouth

No, not the snake.

I mean literally, a cotton mouth. As in, a mouth full of cotton - or at least I was.

Yesterday I faced my arch-nemisis. The person I dislike visiting the very most. As kind as he may be, as congenial and sweet, you wouldn't think I'd have any problem with him (especially for as short a time as I've known him). But you have to understand my background with people in his position - Dentists, that is.

When I was a young kid, maybe 5 or 6, a dentist placed sealants on my teeth. Apparently sealants are supposed to keep sugars and other foods from decaying your teeth - especially in childhood. Well, they didn't work out so well for me. You see, when the sealants were removed by a new dentist they revealed numerous cavities which had been "trapped" underneath - holes like swiss cheese" I was told. This new dentist (who replaced the previous sealant-placing dentist that transfered to oral surgery) was from Finland. Upon seeing me for the first time (at age 13 I think) she informed me that I would need approximately 13 cavities filled.

I did not like her. She was rough, gruff, and didn't talk much. When she did it was very difficult to understand her. To this day I'm not entirely sure that everything she "filled" was a cavity. Never-the-less, fill them she did. That involved about 6 weeks of dental appointments, two cavities filled per week. Each one included it's one shot of Novocaine and the anxiety which precipitated and followed it.

Fast forward about 4 years and I found myself at another new dentist. We left "Dr. Yanks-a-lot" as we referred to her in our family, and settled with a great family dentist whom we still affectionately refer to as "Dr. Darrel". The unfortunate circumstances which brought me to his office were that "Dr. Yanks" had goofed on a number of my fillings and they were not effectively staying in place. Big problem. So, Darrel corrected them, gently. I would say he had to re-do no fewer than half of them. The Novocaine was just as anxious of a process as always for me, and with horrible TMJ issues throughout high school, none of it was a barrel of monkeys, but at least he talked me through it, he was understanding and empathetic.

So, with so much in my dental history I have maintained me epic fear of mouth-needles. So much so, in fact, that I demanded to be "put under" for the removal of all my wisdom teeth. All ONE of them. I was scared crapless.

When we moved to Nebraska we put off dentistry a whole year. By the time we got in for our first NE cleanings, I was pregnant and therefore ineligible for x-rays. 6 months later I was still pregnant. When Levi was born both of us skipped yet another year of dentistry, until about a month ago when I had some significant tooth pain (which ended up being referred jaw and sinus pain) and went in for x-rays. Turned out I had two obvious (yet small) cavities. Great.

I was hoping that my 3:20 Tuesday appointment would never come. I wondered if by some mighty twist of the galaxy we might actually skip Tuesday afternoon and progress right on into Wednesday. My hopes were shattered. I went into the dentist office and they injected me with not one, not two, but three doses of Novocaine, numbing my entire mouth so as to take care of both cavities (which were on separate sides of my mouth).

I know this may be small beans for some people. This might be just a walk in the park for others. But to me, dental work drudges up a veritable LIFETIME of anxiety. I shake. I tear up. I nearly pass out. And yet, I get it done. Why? well, quite obviously because if I put it off, there will simply be more work to do down the road. It's a downward spiral.

Needless to say, I take impeccable care of my teeth, but with as many fillings as I have (and, mind you, fillings don't last forever, eventually they must be re-filled) I'm pretty much set for a lifetime of annual dental appointments. like "more than just a cleaning" dental appointments.

So when I said on facebook yesterday that "I would prefer labor pains to Novocaine injection and dental work," I meant it. Labor pains are dull, not sharp. They come from your strong, muscular core, not your sensitive gum tissue. Labor pains produce a beautiful baby and come from 40 weeks of anticipation. Dental work produces an ugly filling and a place in your mouth that is no longer bone. Labor is hard, but it makes you stronger. Needles in your mouth make you numb, unable to eat, and temporarily incapable of making any normal facial expressions.

So, call me a big baby, but I would rather birth one than have needles in my mouth. Any day of the week.


Rae said...

I bet it hurt HORRIBLY too with your TMJ. To have your mouth open that wide for such an extended period of time... I'm so sorry....... :(

Melissa K. said...

Um, yeah. understatement of the year - once the numbing wore off. I definitely took a double dose of Flexerol last night (well, double as in half of my prescribed dose, instead of a quarter of it)