My Experience Only. YMMV.

Forced to Face My Fear

A little while ago, I posted about my severe dental phobia (http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-cG). So of course fate pushed me to the wall and left me no choice but to confront it.

tooth fairy illustrationHere’s the backstory. My teeth are awful, and my dental phobia has a lot to do with it. Realizing this, we borrowed some money and put it aside for my dental work. The reason that we had to borrow that much money was not just because we’re broke (we are) or that our dental insurance is so crappy as to be nonexistent (it is), but the fact that the last time I got any dental work done (years ago), I was so terrified that I had to have a traveling anesthesiologist brought in to put me completely under. And that approximately doubles the cost of already-pricey, though necessary, procedures.

Then another disaster ate the money we had put aside. There was no choice in the matter. The dental money had to be sacrificed.

Then fate stepped in. Last Saturday I got a toothache. Of epic proportions. Not realizing that the dentist had a 24/7 emergency number, I toughed it out till Monday, when my face was hideously swollen and the combined powers of Anbesol and Tylenol were insufficient to let me sleep. I got in to see the dentist on Tuesday.

That one tooth was definitely going to have to come out and the abscess drained (did I mention there was an abscess?). And there were a few other highly recommended procedures that needed doing as well. None of which the crappy insurance would pay for.

But that wasn’t the real problem, or at least not the only problem. The traveling anesthesiologist was out. The dental slush fund no longer existed. Normally (that is, for normal patients) the dentist offers “oral sedation,” which turns out to be triazolam (Halcion). But since I already take lorazepam (Ativan), that wasn’t considered safe.Apparently the two don’t work and play nicely together.

“You’re going to do this without anesthesia AND without oral sedation?” the dentist said.

“I have no choice,” I replied. He had given me Vicodin for the pain (as well as an antibiotic for the abscess), but I couldn’t really take that long-term. And so I was cornered. I had to have the procedure, no matter what. (My husband offered to get a rubber mallet and knock me out, or knock the tooth out, or something. I politely declined.)

The plan we worked out was this: On Thursday, when they were to do the procedure, I would take two Vicodin and increase my lorazepam from .5 mg to 1.0 mg. (with my pcp’s permission). Then I would have nitrous oxide, which had never worked for me before, but hey, worth another try, right?

And I would have my husband there in the procedure room, as my comfort animal. He had to stay out of the way, but was able to reach over and pat me on the ankle. Which was comforting, actually.

Double Vicodin (I was permitted two but had been taking only one) and double Ativan (plus one prophylactic Immodium) left me suitably stoned. I was totally confused when the hygienist asked me, “Bubble gum or orange creamsicle?” I was stoned, but that made no sense. Turns out nowadays they have scented nose cones for the nitrous. (I chose mint.) I could barely feel the numbing shots, and the extraction went smoothly. I didn’t hear/feel the terrifying, sickening crunch that went from my jaw directly through my brain when I had my wisdom teeth out. My husband said I didn’t even flinch. He patted my ankle anyway.

Then we paid about the same as we recently had for two vet visits for our ancient cat, but nowhere near what we had borrowed, put aside, then spent.

I didn’t even disgrace myself, though I had spare underwear in my purse, just in case.

All in all, it went way better than I expected. Have I conquered my fear? I don’t honestly know, and probably won’t until the next time. (And there will be a next time.)

But at least I’ve proved that I can do it. I can have a dental procedure done without anesthesia and without oral sedation, if it’s really, really necessary. Pain is surely a great motivator. I am no longer a huge wuss, I guess – just a regular wuss. I do hope, however, that when the clot heals and the infection clears up, and the swelling has gone away, that I do not have to go through this again for a very, very long time.

(At least this time I did better than when I faced my apiphobia (http://wp.me/p4e9wS-7H).)

 

Comments on: "Forced to Face My Fear" (2)

  1. One foot in front of the other…we do what we have to do and often surprise ourselves by getting where we’re going despite ourselves.

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