The Effect Of Dental Anxiety On Dental HygieneYou would think that my fear of dentists and drills would have motivated me to take good care of my pearly whites. Just the opposite was true. My dental hygiene was minimal. A quick brushing in the morning was usually all I could manage, and never mind the flossing and mouthwash. I somehow developed the belief that the less I focused on what was going on inside my mouth, the less likely I would be to get cavities. This seemed to work. I had very few cavities growing up, and I ate plenty of candy.
Gingivitis: An Early Dental Warning System
As a teenager, I started to get bleeding gums whenever I brushed. The dentist said I had gingivitis. That’s inflammation of the gums, and it’s caused by a bacterial infection. The dentist said if I didn’t floss and brush three times every day, the gingivitis would turn into periodontal disease which is the major cause of tooth loss. I was also told to get a cleaning and exam every six months. Rather than motivating me to take better care of my mouth, I simply continued to brush once a day, usually in the morning. Unlike periodontal disease, gingivitis is not really a big problem. Even with inflamed gums, I could still convince myself that everything was fine and that brushing in the morning was enough.
Periodontal Disease: Stuff Gets Serious
By the time I was a young adult, my gums began to protest. I was told by my dentist that I had periodontal disease. If I didn’t get gum surgery, I would lose almost every tooth within a few years! I started getting abscesses that involved some serious pain. But the dental anxiety that had so far kept me away from the dentist continued to convince me that I was better off on my own. Besides, I had no dental insurance, and the cost of gum surgery was considerable. Instead, I got antibiotics to treat the abscesses, and for the time being, it worked out quite well.
Falling Out And Moving Around
Although I had started out with an awesome smile, the periodontal disease started doing strange things in my mouth. My teeth became loose and were shifting their positions. My gums receded, the roots were exposed, and the roots were extremely sensitive to almost everything. I was getting abscesses more frequently, and the antibiotics were no longer able to kill off the infections. One day after dinner, I noticed that one of my smaller molars had vanished. Apparently, I had swallowed it. Almost every tooth was now crooked, and the gums were pulling even farther away from each tooth. I had abscesses constantly, there was significant bone loss in my jaw, and additional teeth began to fall out. I finally realized that even though I didn’t have dental insurance, I would have to fix the problem whether I had insurance or not.
The Scary Final Fix
I was told that because the periodontal disease was so advanced, every loose and crooked tooth would have to be extracted. Upper and lower partial dentures would be needed to fill in the gaps and create an even smile. The treatment involved almost ten extractions and being fitted for two partial dentures. The cost would be thousands of dollars, and the procedures were not covered by my insurance. Although I was still afraid of the dentist, I now had only two options. I could continue to ignore the problem, or I could get the job done. I made an appointment and lived in a state of terror for the week before the procedure. After looking for numerous last minute insurance plans, none would cover the treatment within the needed time frame, so I would have to pay for it myself, and it wasn’t going to be cheap.
A Happy Ending
Although I dreaded the procedure and wasn’t sure whether partial dentures would look natural, I was surprised by how well things turned out. My dentist put me under anesthesia, and the next thing I knew, I had teeth that were white, even and beautiful. I have learned from this experience. I no longer see the dentist a as predator armed with drills and pliers. I get regular cleanings, I brush and floss twice a day, I rinse with mouthwash and I visit my dentist for regular exams and cleanings. I now have a great dental plan to cover these visits, without having to pay for each visit myself. My mouth is now healthy. My only regret is that it took me so long to see that cooperating with the dentist would give me a better outcome than avoiding the dentist.