Adrenalin, extractions and missing the point

A blog I intended to write but a hat tip to @Post40Bloggers who have a phobia writing prompt.

I have a long standing dental phobia that began with forced dentistry as a child and worked it’s way up to a full blown phobia (I can’t even sit in a dental chair for a check up and they have to start the sedation process before I sit in a chair for treatment) via a series of bullies who think it’s better not to inform patients about treatment or, even better, misinform them.

When you’ve had 12 teeth removed in one sitting as a 7 year old child it’s traumatic. An accident with an rounders bat wielded by a boy named Alan Heron resulted in severe damage to my two front teeth and they were mistreated until I was in my twenties. The pain all through that time was enormous and the only advice I was given was to take pain killers. Every dentist I saw didn’t think that leaving a nerve exposed was a bad thing. I eventually got a denture to replace that one and a crown for its badly damaged neighbour about ten years later but it was too little too late. What began with a mistrust had developed into fear.

I continued to have check ups and looked after my teeth. I’ve never had a polish and scale because my brushing and general mouth hygiene is so good. When you fear something as badly as I fear the dentist you really do take the biggest steps to keep away from it.

In my thirties a dentist though it was a good idea to give me crowns. They don’t tell you about the drilling and how long it goes on for or the reason that they wear masks and goggles is because you all get covered in bits of teeth. It’s not great to end a visit to the dentist not being able to see because your glasses are covered in finely ground teeth. As I was thrown a card with my next appointment the only advice I was given was not to eat curry.

In my thirties a dentist called Murphy (he was Welsh by the way) decided that I needed to get rid of my denture but didn’t think it was a good idea to tell me exactly how it would happen. I ended up having two hours of drilling with gallons of water going down my throat and when I needed to go to the loo then I was escorted by a nurse. I wondered why until I had a quick look in my mouth and saw what looked like a tiny row of mountains where my teeth had been. On being pressed for an explanation I was told I was having crowns and a bridge and not to eat curry for a few weeks…

So by now I was getting to the point where I couldn’t sit in a chair for a dental examination but my last non dental hospital dentist was an out and out bully. He was ex-RAF and ordered everybody about. His staff were barked at and his way of dealing with anxious patients was to tell them to grow up. What was the beginnings of a phobia became a big deal during my time as his patient and his lack of concern and respect gave my phobia total control.

So now I get referrals to a dental hospital and these don’t work for many reasons. Hospitals have targets and they don’t have flexibility when it comes to patients and any other illnesses you may have. They are great once they get you in the chair but getting there is another matter. They acknowledge that people with phobias need careful handling then put you in situations for first consultations that exacerbate stress.

I was at the dental hospital on Friday having two extractions. The surgeon looked at the x-rays and decided that they were going to be straightforward and so I suggested that, since no drills were going to be involved, sedation wasn’t a necessity. He agreed.

The process wasn’t my happiest experience and I cried like a baby at one point but I got through it. I’m sure the nurse’s hand will recover very quickly from the amount of pressure it was under as I gripped it but she did offer to hold my hand.

The local anesthetic contains adrenalin which is used to help stop the bleeding from gums. It also increases the feeling of fear. I’m sat in a chair pumped up in fight or flight mode and they give me more of the stuff that’s got me in that pumped up position. My heart rate increases (I’ve got a resting heart rate of around 58 – 63) so I was sat in that chair when I really wanted to leap out of the nearest window and run. I don’t understand why they don’t use a different way of administering adrenalin. Really

I had two teeth removed from either side of my face. When you get a local anaesthetic for dental treatment the gums above and around the teeth have to be numbed because the nerves sit around the teeth in different networks. This meant that I couldn’t speak clearly and I was reduced to grunting noises even when there wasn’t a dentist in my mouth so when he began to dictate the letter to my GP advising that I no longer need a referral for extractions I couldn’t tell him how wrong he was.

I couldn’t tell him that walking into the waiting room of a regular dentist brought back memories and increased my fears. I couldn’t tell him that I can hear drills doing their evil but necessary work on people while I’m sat in the waiting room. I couldn’t tell him that when people came out from having treatment I could tell by their pale faces and tearful eyes it wasn’t good for them. I couldn’t tell him that when I had toothache I didn’t know if I was going to have to have an extraction or a filling so I would have to have a referral anyway and I’d have to have extractions in the hospital for all the above reasons and all the ones that chew at my brain but won’t come out on paper.

Dealing with phobias isn’t about getting a good end result, it’s also about getting a good beginning and educating, in this case, the dentist as much as it is about healing the phobic.