Photo by Betsssssy
I have a confession to make: I’m terrified of the dentist. I know that’s not a terribly original phobia, but it’s very real. It hasn’t always been this way-as a kid, I had no problem going in for regular checkups and the occasional dental procedure. In fact, I almost looked forward to the visit, knowing that I’d be coming home with some cool dental swag like a chintzy plastic toy, a new toothbrush, or those cool tablets that turn your teeth red, illuminating the spots where your brushing missed the mark. Even as a young adult, my dentist visits were frequent and stress-free-that is, until about seven years ago after my regular dentist sent me to an oral surgeon to have a tooth removed.
I, unfortunately, had a somewhat confusing and traumatic experience with this surgeon which has colored my impression of dentists ever since. The procedure required me to be under an anesthetic, and upon waking, I couldn’t shake the feeling that he had been much more aggressive and careless than was called for. I was obviously groggy from the anesthetic, but truly felt as though I had been brutalized or violated somehow.
After leaving his office, I broke down and cried uncontrollably in the elevator, which is fairly out-of-character for me. I tried to convince myself that it was simply an effect of the drugs and had imagined it, but the experience lingered over the next few days. I didn’t have any sort of concrete proof with which to confront the surgeon, but I did call my regular dentist to tell him of the experience. He confessed that two other patients had complained about this oral surgeon in recent weeks and they would no longer be referring patients to his practice. I followed up about a year later and learned that the surgeon was no longer practicing.
I realize that this was not a typical experience for most people and that the majority of dental practitioners operate with skill and integrity, but since then, I’ve shamelessly shirked my dental duties. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve only been to the dentist twice since moving to NYC, both for emergencies. I’m seriously overdue for a checkup and a teeth cleaning, but I’m having a hard time taking the next step.
Answers users: I need your help. How do you find a dentist that you trust? I know referral services like 1-800-DENTIST claim to help, but that seems about as reliable as throwing a dart at the phone book. And once I find a dentist, how do I get over the debilitating fear and anxiety of actually making an appointment?
What advice can you share with me and my ailing smile?
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