(Attempting to) overcome dental fears.


"Do one thing that scares you everyday."

Everyone has their own fears and crippling anxieties, especially when it comes to their health. I should know first hand; I go to the doctor every month (or every 2 months). When I used to flare up, I would actually go a few times a month! How crazy is that?!

Yes, I still get scared and anxious of the doctor, especially with the phrases "Your labs are good, except for the protein in your kidney...we can't take you off of prednisone yet." but what I have never mentioned before is my absolute crippling fear of the dentist.

When I was a kid, my parents tried to get me to go to one (My dad's best friend from childhood was and still is a dentist in the Bay Area). I hated it, I would scream and cry, and nothing got done. Until I realized in middle school how crooked my teeth were (and I saw a lot of girls wearing them) and I begged my parents to get me braces. So I got my braces at the end of 7th grade, and slowly those fears went away. I loved my orthodontist: he was so funny and we chatted a lot. I even loved looking at his high school yearbooks in the waiting room. I loved the flavored waxes and choosing the color every month (my favorite were the pinks and the glow in the dark ones). I had those braces for 2 years.

My family and I went to a new dentist when I was 16. He was this really funny Filipino guy and his daughter went to my high school (though I didn't know her I saw her a lot). I would have a cavity here and there, and he would fill it up. 2008, I didn't have any cavities! But my mom eventually didn't like him because she felt like he was incompetent and didn't do his best. So we found another one.

This dentist (and the last one I went to) was also funny, but he was pretty condescending. Even though he always did a great job cleaning and filling, he made me feel super guilty. The first time I went (when I was 20), I had an x ray and check up. Yes, it was pretty bad. And I am absolutely the first to admit that I didn't take care of my teeth. So when my mom got her teeth filled the next day, he told her how bad mine were and how in 10 years I'm going to start losing it, I brush like a 5 year old, etc. Of course my parents were pretty upset. 

I would still have some issues here and there throughout, but 2013 was a good year for my teeth. I am sure there is a correlation with prednisone. Up until October 2013, my teeth were fine. I just needed a filling or two and I got a wisdom tooth extracted. But when I started going on 80 mg on prednisone, I one time chipped my front tooth from eating a persimmon. So I had to get it filled. I had a cleaning and filling last year, but it was pretty difficult to go because I wasn't driving due to my seizure in the Philippines in January 2014. And yes, he guilted me again. So I haven't gone in a while. And plus, my mom and I switched insurances in December. She found a new dentist.

I knew I've been needing to go, but I was and am absolutely terrified. I know how much my teeth need work. And my mom and Cecilio have been bugging me to go. So I eventually mustered up the courage to call one near my area, because I received a coupon in the mail from them for $48 for an X-ray and check up. And based on all of the reviews, the patients loved how this particular dentist specialized in patients with dental fears like mine.

I went into their office last Thursday for my X-ray and checkup. I filled out a slew of paperwork regarding my information, my health history, and my previous dental history and fears. So when I sat on the seat for my X-ray, the assistant kept asking questions about my medications and my lupus, and how long I've had it, etc. and this made me feel at ease that they asked so that they would know why my teeth were the way they were. I felt at peace with them. They had Pandora and Netflix in the rooms to keep their patients comfortable. They also had coffee in the waiting room. So I met with the dentist who is this sweet, funny, young Indian lady (it's funny how my neurologist, nephrologist, and new optometrists are all Indian ladies. I love it even more because I'm 1/4 Indian) and she asked me about my health and stuff. I told her about my seizures. I told her about how my dad passed away from lung cancer, and she said her friend's mom died from lung cancer too and had only 2 months left after her diagnosis (my dad had 2 years). She felt so bad. She and the assistant totally made me feel comfortable.

Then the bad news came. Turned out my gums are extremely swollen, and I need to get a root canal along with other fillings. What she told me, that no one else did (neither my doctors nor my former dentist) was that it was caused by keppra, the seizure medication I am taking. I take 2 grams a day (I had to increase my dose from the seizure in the Philippines and the one I had in Mimi's Cafe on June 2014). I knew that prednisone causes gum swelling, but keppra? She also said that I grind my teeth (which I have been noticing recently), which is caused by the seizures I've had. 95% of seizure sufferers experience teeth grinding. So I need a deep cleaning, but before that she had to send a medical release form to my neurologist to approve it. And I also need to call the insurance company to see if they cover this particular dentist, but I really adore them a lot.

I was supposed to have a cleaning on Friday, but I resecheduled it because we have new couches coming in since we changed our living room floor from carpet to laminate wood. It gave me so much agony to just call them half an hour ago, I almost felt sick to my stomach. That's how horrible it was.

I have time before my wedding because it's not until 2017. But I feel horrible about it. Part of it is my fault too for having bad habits in the past, plus drinking coffee and eating candy (which I'm trying to cut down on, not the coffee). It's bad enough that the prednisone affected my weight, but also the teeth. But yes, they are pretty bad. I asked her, "would you still be able to reverse the damage?" and she responded,"I can't reverse it, but I can prevent it from getting worse. It is really good you came right now before it got worse"

I just have so many emotions, like guilt, fear and remorse. I texted my best friend Jamie after, because she has epilepsy and I was wondering if she experienced grinding teeth and swelling gums from her seizures and medications. She experienced the same thing and had to get a root canal, and she gets a cleaning every 3 months.

I want to be able to smile and have pearly whites especially as I walk down the aisle to meet my love. He understands my fears, and felt sorry when I didn't like how he kept bugging me to call them. Even though I hate when he does that, I am thankful because I know it's what I need to do. I also want to be able to maintain them for life because it's a small part of overall health. When my mom was my age, her teeth were a lot worse than mine. She actually lost some teeth. I only had an extraction from the wisdom tooth in 2013, and extractions from my braces. 

I am a lot better now about brushing and flossing. I brush 2-3 times a day, and I floss whenever I can. How did I not floss before and not feel uncomfortable? I am crazy about flossing. But yes, I know I need to go. And a lot of it is caused by things out of my control, such as the medications and the past seizures.

I've been agonizing over this all morning and yesterday yet I'm supposed to be preparing for a job interview tomorrow morning (pray for me and wish me luck!)

Whew! This was a really long drawn out comment. It's been on the back of my mind a lot, looming over me. Cecilio tells me I have courage and strength to just call them, even though I am absolutely terrified. I know it's not a big deal to others, but to me it is.

Has anyone had fears of the dentist? It could be anything from mild anxieties to full blown ones like mine. How did you overcome it, and overcome the struggle of fixing bad teeth? If anyone has advice for me on how to cope, please let me know in the comments. I would really love advice, input and encouragement. Thanks for reading!

<3 Hannah

2 comments :

  1. I jumped around with dentists when my oldest child was younger. That caused a traumatic experience with one dentist that ended up in the news years after we moved. Now we have a dentist and orthodontist that see why my kiddo was so frightened and have made it a more comfortable experience. I was skeptical myself after that bad experience because I also went there and was told I had 8 cavities when I was pregnant with my second child which wasn't true at all. I have Sjogren's also and have to use Biotene products to keep my mouth moistened, sip water, chew gum throughout the day. So far it has helped keep me cavity free. I also have to wear a mouth guard for grinding. At first I thought it was silly, but I see now how grinding can cause cracks or more work. Maybe look into a cheap one from walmart to help prevent further damage? They're usually under $20. *prayers*

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