One scary childhood experience at the dentist office left me refusing sugary treats, brushing after every bite of food or drink of anything other than water and flossing twice a day for my entire life. Those healthy dental habits kept my mouth in great shape right up until the day that I turned 40, and a dental filling promptly fell right out while I was enjoying my sugar-free birthday cake.
I didn’t believe it when everyone told me that dentistry had come a long way from the dark ages of my childhood, and I made the horrible mistake of leaving my tooth unprotected for months. Eventually, the tooth fell apart, and I knew that I would need a root canal. I couldn’t have been any more afraid if I’d found a thief in my kitchen in the night.
As it turned out, there was no need for all of that worry, fear and anxiety. I feel more than a little silly that I let a perceived childhood trauma keep me from caring for myself better, but at least I know better now.
My Root Canal Journey
• White-Knuckled Grip: I knew that both my extreme anxiety and fear were very real when the dental assistants had to keep trying to pry my fingers off of the dental chair. The dentist came in and asked me why my eyes were so huge and my face was pale as a ghost, and then I heard him tell his assistants that I was scared to death.
Those ladies sprang into action with some very creative ideas that made me forget to be afraid. They had me hold one leg up while they counted, then the other leg and then each arm. I relaxed. One then picked up the book that I had brought and read it to me throughout the entire procedure.
The dentist asked me repeatedly how I was doing, and I was surprised to find that I was actually doing fine. I couldn’t be more surprised to report that I actually didn’t feel any discomfort during my root canal. The worst part for me was the x-rays, and they quickly moved me to a machine that could take the x-rays without them having to gag me.
• Recovery Tales: Those same people who were telling me not to be afraid to get the root canal were also telling me that the recovery would be long and painful. They said I would miss at least a week of work, and I wouldn’t even be able to take my children to school. Fortunately, they were extremely wrong about that. I was a little uncomfortable my first night, but the dentist had prescribed a pain killer for me that did the job. The next day I was up and back to work, and the day after that I was eating normally.
• The Bill Arrives: I didn’t have dental insurance through my job, so I was a little apprehensive about how much that great care I received from the dentist was going to set me back. You can imagine my immense relief when the bill said only $20 was left owing. It turned out that the little dental policy I had bought on my own had paid everything except that little co-pay.
Take Care of Yourself
What I’ve learned from this experience is that we all need to take better care of ourselves. Don’t let unreasonable fears keep you away from your doctor or dentist, and you should make sure to have some good insurance in place before something can go wrong.