Dear Dentist, Please Don’t Let Me Die

New! Tooth holder Plush

Photo By Sappymoosetree @ Flickr

A while ago I went to the dentist. I have a decent fear of the dentist for a few of reasons: a) it smells funny in there b) people always complain about the horrific things that take place c) you’re forced to look at  someone else’s nose hairs (even if it’s a momentary, horrified glance) d) why do dentists have so many nose hairs?! and, e) most importantly, my parents didn’t really take me to the dentist, so I never had the opportunity for it to become normal and natural. Lack of exposure to neutral experiences + active imagination = irrational fear and avoidance of epic proportions. (Note from the Don’t Eff Your Kids Up Foundation: take your kid to the freaking dentist.)

So, now I have to pick between my fear of smells/nose hairs/pain/people fishing around in my mouth, and my fear of developing some kind of mouth abscess, which spreads infection to my jaw, which eventually spreads to my brain, which would then give me meningitis and I would die—of tooth decay. I would MUCH rather die battling a porpoise. (You know you would, too. I mean, seriously. Would you rather have your tombstone read, “The dummy couldn’t figure out flossing,” or “Her mastery of porpoise-battle taught us all the meaning of courage”? I think if we’re honest, we’re all aiming for the latter. )

But, alas, the last time I went to the dentist (*cough* over a year ago), they said I should probably get a few spots filled “as soon as possible.” Which all humans interpret as “about a year from now, after you quit hyperventilating about it.” Right? (Thanks for backing me up on this one, guys.)

So, we saved up some money after our tax return, and I put it in an envelope designated for tooth-fixery. And then my husband lost his job for a while, so I decided I needed to wait until we were a little more stable before blowing a bunch of money on keeping teeth in my head. And then after he got his job again I got afraid of the dentist some more, so I avoided it, only really seriously considering it whenever I got the ol’ fear-o-meningitis.

Then, a few weeks ago, I decided to start making lists of things to do for the day. I would typically put 2-3 things on the list, because then I could do them ALL in one day, and feel like the Hillary Clinton of mundane life responsibilities. This is how I tricked myself into calling the dentist and making an appointment like an adult.

And then came the dicey part, when I actually had to go to the dentist and have razors jammed in my gums. (Or whatever they do at the dentist. See above re: lack of exposure.)

In the days leading up to my visit, I crafted this speech to give to my new dentist:

Dear Dentist [note: this is a weird way to start a speech, seeing as I'm looking right at him, not scribbling this with a quill],

I’m slightly terrified of you and everything in here. But I’m more terrified that I will have a cavity, the cavity will get bigger and bigger, then the large cavity will get bacteria in it, which will lead to an infection, and that infection will lead to meningitis, which will lead to my untimely death.

Also, I’m aware that I have a couple of cavities already, but I need you to act like whatever you find is no big deal. Like, just act like it’s all going to be okay, because maybe then I’ll keep coming to the dentist, and then I won’t die in the street.

So, to recap: my life or death is entirely dependent on your reaction to whatever tooth-related situation I have going on. No pressure. (But lots of pressure.) Please keep smiling as much as possible. But not in a creepy way. Just play it cool, okay? Stop freaking out. Oh, that’s me freaking out? Well, whatever! If you were being cooler right now I would probably be calm!

I’m sorry. Keep trying. I’m pretty sure this is going to be unpleasant for everyone involved. Do you tip dentists? I have a dollar in my purse. Nice to meet you.

Sincerely,

Melanie

It should be seen as a testament to my self-control that I only said some of those things. The kind, unsuspecting dentist informed me that I would not die that day of anything tooth related. He also did the poking/number-shouting thing on my gums. He told me that all the numbers needed to be three or below. None of my numbers were above three, so when he was done I said, “I win at gums, right?” and then there was a long, puzzled silence.

Now I need to add to my to-do list, “Call dentist to schedule more tooth stuff.” I’m sure he’s real excited about our reunion.

How do you do at the dentist? Any fun stories? Like that one time that you went to the dentist and they gave you a puppy named Sir Francis Furrypants? (See above re: lack of exposure.)

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26 Comments

  1. I’ve been super lucky with dentists, every time I move I manage to find a great one. There was one a few years (decades) ago who was adamant that I have my wisdom teeth removed. They’re the only source of wisdom I have most of the time, they’re coming in straight and so far, haven’t caused any trouble, so I said no. Then I started avoiding him. After a few years he saw me in town and chased me to “remind” me that I needed a checkup. I called him later and threatened him. I said “if you stop talking about my wisdom teeth I’ll come back.” He agreed and was true to his word. His hygienist however made no promise of the sort.

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  2. More than two years for me. I’m going to hang my head, walk out in the street and wait for children to call me names and throw dirt clods. Or I could call the damn dentist.

    Love this post–so funny, because it’s so true.

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  3. Now I feel like I need to go see the dentist because the last time I did was er, x number of years ago when I had to have a wisdom tooth removed. I feel guilty! Tooth-decay-possibliity-induced panic!

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  4. I saw a guy I’ve known for years the other day. He had no teeth and talked differently than the last time I saw him when he was only missing one tooth. He didn’t go to the dentist I’m thinking. Now he looks 15 years older than he did just last year. So, I’m saying to you, overcome death! Go to the dentist!

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  5. You’re going to hate me. I LOVE the dentist. If I don’t go twice a year I start to spazz. I’ve only ever had one bad experience (went to a dentist in Greece *shudder* never. again.). Even when I got my wisdom teeth removed, I didn’t swell, and they were using some new, natural kind of anesthesia, so I woke up alert and fine. (Thought about selling the un-used bottle of Vicodin, but decided against that, lol)

    I just think that the feeling of knowing that your teeth are fine for the next 6 months is so comforting. :)

    But I haven’t been to an eye-doctor in 10 years… they scare me >.<

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  6. graciewilde

     /  September 27, 2012

    Oh sh*t – perfect post – I HATE the dentist – I never went as a kid – not in the family budget -until I saw an orthodontist at age 14 – did the braces thing and made a conscious decision to take care of the teeth since I had to do all that. Which doesn’t take away from HATING the dentist – it has gotten worse as I have gotten older and the guy has hit a nerve a time (and, it doesn’t help that the guy pipes in country music – I didn’t like country music before and now? now it is attached to the dentist). I recently put my foot down and tried nitrous oxide – THE TICKET to a better dental experience – for anytime when he is shooting stuff into your mouth. But sometimes? sometimes I would rather get meningitis and leave the planet…..

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  7. Ironically, Josie just pointed out to me that she has a dentist appointment next week, and sung “I love going to the dentist.” Thank you Jesus that her nose hair sporting dentist is her grandfather.

    Having your father-in-law be your dentist is weird… he’s all up in my grill (literally), but I get over it because of the free-firty-free dentistry.

    My gum shout outs go something like this…”3. 3. 2. 3. 3. 2. 4. 5. 5. 3. 6.” (kind of reminds me off that episode of Friends when Monica was… well, you know).

    I’m glad you are not dieing. I would be so sad. I would however like to see you go to battle with a porpoise.

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  8. Too long ago when i was a kid our family dentist was, I kid you not, Dr. Stamm(!). He was a short little guy who wore horrible square, hoof-like orthopedic shoes. He didn’t believe in novacain – which was just fine because if he actually gave you novecain he would blast it into your gums like an upside down old faithful – which hurt worse than drilling. The drilling by the way, sounded like a chain saw. You could smell burning enamel. The highlight of my young dentist life was when Dr. Stamm decided to pull a stubborn baby molar. I began to whimper as he hit me with the novecain. I began to tear up as he brought out the forceps. When he grabbed the tooth and pulled and it shattered into pieces in my mouth I howled so loud I sent half the people in the waiting room home for the rest of the day. Years later pieces of that shatered tooth would still erupt from my gums. I think I avoided the derntist for the next 30 years. The time finally cme when I just knew I had to get a check up. (I had an aching tooth). The dentist was my age. He instilled confidence. We talked some golf. When he hit me with the novecains, he applied a numbing agent first – and then took a good five minutes injecting the novecain a drip at a time. Ther drill was shrill but quiet. I didn’t feel a thing. A year later, having grit my teeth so hard in a play rehearsal I shattered a molar, I went to have a crown put in. Again, painless. Long story short. I now actually can fall asleep in the dentists chair when he crowns my shatered molars and I like having my teeth cleaned because the hygenist is very attractive and inadvertently presses her breasts against me when she leans in to floss.

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  9. I have the opposite problem. I was dragged to the dentist as a child and had twelve teeth pulled. Granted, 8 were baby teeth and 4 were permanent because my mouth wasn’t big enough for all of them (I know, I find it hard to believe too).

    Anyhoo, while it wasn’t horribly traumatic, it was not fun. So I kind of haven’t been to the dentist in the last, oh, twenty or so years.

    I figure that before it progresses to meningitis and untimely death I’ll have some sort of mouth pain…so I’m just kinda waiting on that before I go.

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  10. I’ve spent so much time in the dentist chair between braces, being born without the permanent tooth beside my front tooth, and being blessed with 5 wisdom teeth. Going to the dentist for me is like going to get a hair trim. Piece-o-cake.

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  11. Just some friendly FYI:

    I’ve never had one cavity.

    Hope that helps.

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    • No lessons, no cavities…what DO you have?

      I, too, used to gloat about my cavity-free mouth (even with 7 year stretches between dentist visits!). And then, one day, without warning, I found myself amongst the decrepit-toothed masses. Don’t tempt fate, sir. Don’t do it.

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  12. When I was growing up, going to the dentist was an excursion. We lived in central New Hampshire and my mom had a second cousin who’s dentist practice was an hour and a half away in Maine. Dentist appointments meant getting to skip school either for a full day or a half day, so I never minded them that much… and they were generally followed up by going and visiting my Great-Aunt Flo (Yes, that was really her name… whenever anyone on the Internet uses Aunt Flo to describe their period, I imagine a tiny 90 year old woman who has a cackling laugh and calls you “love”) and taking her out to lunch or dinner. AKA it was never that bad… Except for the fact that even well into adulthood, my mother managed making my dentist appointments so when I moved away I have kinda forgotten to go to the dentist for three years because I was so accustomed to it being something I didn’t have to think about because Ma just took care of it because we liked to rideshare whenever possible.

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  13. “about a year from now, after you quit hyperventilating about it.” Yes! haha

    Fortunately, for me, my cousin is a dental hygienist, so I go to her for my less scary and free cleanings (still only once a year to her dismay). Last year, she told me I had a cavity that I should get filled soon, but I have yet to go do that. However, now that you’ve informed me that I could die of tooth decay, I’m thoroughly scared and will promptly start saving money for this unwanted procedure. So thanks. (But really, thanks. I needed a kick in my butt to get this done.)

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  14. Posts like this are the reason you are my girl crush. Hate the dentist. Need to take kids!

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  15. Monica

     /  September 26, 2012

    Melanie, you never fail to make me laugh out loud when I read your blogs. I, too, am terrified of the dentist. The worst part is when they make you keep your mouth open for so long and then you start to panic because you have all this saliva piling up in your throat and it’s so hard to swallow with an open mouth and you start to imagine choking to death on your own spit. Or better yet, that stupid thingy they put in your mouth to suck out the saliva which never actually works well enough…or, it works too well and then you have DRY mouth and you feel like you can’t breathe. It’s awesome.

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    • I got x-rays, too, which involves jabbing the sensitive part under your tongue repeatedly and zapping your head while the technician hides in the hallway. It’s all pretty super fun.

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  16. I wrote about my dentist a couple years ago when I needed a root canal… it’s appropriately called The Boogeyman, but I think you’ll find it had a happy ending. But not in a gross way.
    http://thehouseofcole.blogspot.de/2010/06/boogeyman.html

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  17. C.C.

     /  September 26, 2012

    I am terrified of the dentist…last summer I had to have my wisdom teeth out, several fillings and a root canal (it should be noted that I do actually go to the dentist for cleaning at least twice a year). Let’s just say giving birth this summer was actually way less stressful than all of that! And now seeing as I could not brush my teeth without barfing throughout my whole pregnancy…I am not looking forward to the potential damage that was done during those 9 months…pray for me!!

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  18. This is how I feel about routine check-ups at the doctor. I’m afraid I’ll go in there with a headache and come out with an amputated forearm.

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