If you read my blog regularly, then you already know about my fear of the dentist and the horrible shape my teeth are in from battling years of depression where I simply could not even get the energy to brush them. You’ll also know that I avoided the dentist until two months ago for over a period of five years. Now you can imagine the state my teeth are in! I have a bazillion cavities and have, I guess now past tense “had,” a crack running across my front tooth. Because I was able to face my anxiety this past month and actually show up to my appointment instead of running (which I considered and people can testify), I now have flawless front teeth!
The dentist filled a cavity that has been limiting my smile for years today. Literally, if you scroll through my instagram account and look at selfies I have taken, you’ll notice I do not smile very big. No more! And above is my first selfie (on snapchat to my best friends) with a genuine and big smile. I no longer have to be self conscious about that moment when someone says “Say Cheese!” and snaps a photograph. Now I am going to own it and maybe even work it. But let me tell you it was not a easy process to get me there to here, as in, in the dentist chair. I had to work through some real anxieties and even had to get sober first to realize my health comes first – oral included.
When I was getting high every day I was pushing down and bottling my emotions about everything, including the nagging sensation that I should go to the dentist. When I was high I didn’t care what state my teeth were in and even was able to cope better with the inevitable toothaches. This was not a viable solution to my problem because over the years my teeth became worse and my toothaches more frequent. When I made the decision to become sober and ultimately I did (almost 6 months sober today), I could no longer cease the constant thought processes that my teeth were fucked and something felt seriously wrong about them.
I faced my anxiety one appointment at a time and that’s all I can really say for those of you who have a lot of dental work looming. Take it one day at a time. I talked myself into going to the initial exam by saying “You’ll be alright. It’s just an exam. They aren’t going to do any actual work that requires pain.” But after my exam and the results came in, I could not put blinders on anymore. He laid it out to be plainly that I had one too many cavities and my wisdom teeth need to be pulled. He confirmed my reality that my teeth were ACTUALLY as fucked as they felt.
The second appointment which was to be my first cleaning in five years, the dentist told me he would have to freeze half my mouth. The panic set in. Needles! I kept thinking over and over about needles for a month until my appointment. Each day I would ruminate about how many and how painful it was going to be. I almost rescheduled but called in the big guns, A.K.A., my dad. I told him about the appointment and how “I know, I know I’m almost 27 but please come hold my hand!” He obliged and it held me accountable because I did not want to look like some giant pussy literally running away from the dentist and my appointment.
Lucky for me this dentist actually uses numbing jelly before applying any needles in the mouth. My previous dentist unfortunately did not spare me any pain and would proceed sans jelly. I barely felt any of the needles except the one on the roof of my mouth. But I talked myself through it, “Brittany, this will be like 30 seconds of your life that is painful. Bear with it. Your teeth are so very important and you are worth it.” This actually helped and soon I found the freezing was over. And within an hour and a half my appointment was over.
Today was the first appointment with fillings (I had two cleanings with freezing) and I had anxiety all month about how I wouldn’t be able to cope and that the needles would somehow hurt more and I would feel the fillings acutely. Boy was I wrong! In a good way! The dentist walked in on me basically almost in tears and informed me that it would be less freezing this time and therefore less painful. I also had the pleasure of holding my boyfriend’s hand during this dental appointment. I had no clue though that in an hour and a half my front teeth would look so vastly different! The crack on my front tooth – I thought he could not fix and wasn’t going to be – was gone! That thing has been haunting my smile for years and I thought was going to be a forever thing.
I am so thankful to this new dentist who makes me feel super comfortable and is very understanding of my anxiety. The two things, however, that help me with my anxiety prior to a visit in the dentist’s chair are talking things through with myself and practicing being in the present moment. When I get anxious about an appointment that’s like three weeks later than the present time, I practice a few deep breaths to ground me in the moment and try to reflect on my five senses and enjoy them. I also tell myself “You’re not going to die but you will feel some discomfort. It is worth it for healthy teeth. YOU ARE WORTH IT! This may hurt in the meantime but in the long run it is necessary for your oral health.” And this generally calms me down to the point I can move on with my day until the next bought of anxiety which I then just repeat the process mentioned above.
I am so very happy I made it to my dentist appointment today for I now know the joy of lovely front teeth. I also am proving to myself that I am capable of more than I think. The above selfie is a testament to my new smile but also my new attitude to stop avoiding things and start tackling shit. I got this! I can finally say I truly got this.
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