Dental Drama

From being a little girl I used to hate visiting the dentist; I was afraid of the drills and the pain of fillings and extractions. But like good parents that they were, my Mum ensured that we went for regular check ups and that we brushed our teeth twice daily. Then I left home and was responsible for my own dental care: I still brushed my teeth daily but my visits to the dentist slipped and became less frequent. I registered with a dentist when we moved here initially, and reluctantly I went for check ups. When I was pregnant with Joshua, I was entitled to free dental care so back in 2000 I attended. I moved dentists a couple of times to get NHS treatment, but then everywhere seemed to become private dental care only and I found myself without a dentist and it was not a high priority in my life.

Once I had Joshua to take care of, taking care of my own teeth took a back seat. Even though I had dental insurance cover through a Health Insurance Scheme from my employer, I did not keep up to date with check ups or treatment. I was happy to take Joshua to see a SEN dentist for his dental care, while I neglected my own teeth. I was horrified by the physical nature of his tooth extraction that I witnessed several years ago for Joshua, he was sedated so felt nothing, but I was pretty traumatised by what I witnessed in that surgery that day and it made me less likely to attend a dentist for myself. Having not kept up with regular check ups, I convinced myself that I would need major dental treatment if I did see a dentist, so I continued to stay away. I hid behind the excuse of being a carer, so I did not have time to take care of my own teeth. So I focused on brushing regularly and hoped for the best.

But during lockdown, chickens came home to roost and a couple of my teeth cracked and some pieces of tooth from the back, fell out! I was shocked and concerned but no dentists were seeing anyone at that time – dentistry did not meet the social distancing criteria – and so I thanked my lucky stars that I got no tooth pain and I continued on ignoring the problem, even when dentists opened up again.

Fast forward to a week of so ago, and I got severe toothache where the damage was; my toothache was agony and spread up into my ear and at its worst, my cheek was hot and swollen. I knew the cause and tried to cope with Bonjela on my gums , regular doses of mouthwash and eating on the other side of my mouth. By Monday this week, by which time I had a mouth ulcer too, I could take the pain no longer and I rang around some local dentists hoping for instant care. Of course, not being registered anywhere made it difficult to get a speedy appointment and one of the more helpful dentists suggested that I call 111 for an emergency appointment. I did not even know that this service existed, but plenty of others did as when I got through I was number 54 in the queue, just for Yorkshire and the Humber region! The queue went down very slowly, I was holding for over 90 minutes before I reached the top of the queue.

A very helpful lady asked questions to assess the urgency of my call and thankfully, she found me a dentist appointment for Wednesday afternoon in our nearest city. Of course I had only intermittent pain on Tuesday and none at all on Wednesday, but I knew that I still needed to seek treatment. So my husband collected Joshua from daycare and I set off for my appointment. I was terrified of the pain , of the likely treatment and of being reprimanded for not going to the dentist for so long. I was early so I wandered around the city trying to take my mind off it and thinking how brave Joshua is with all of the painful procedures that he has undergone in his life. I sat outside the surgery in the sunshine, taking deep breaths and trying to keep myself calm. As soon as I stepped inside, the familiar smells and noises of the dentist, filled me with fear again, and I wanted to run away, after all I was walking towards pain, when I had none.

But I did not run and I was shown into the surgery and invited to sit down in the big dentists chair. While the nurse took my medical history I stood up, afraid to get into the chair but eventually it was time. I was left there for ten minutes and I could hear the receptionist and nurse chatting and sharing chocolates and I could hear other patients in other rooms having their treatment. A Polish dentist entered the room in her full PPE – mask and shield – and she began to look inside my mouth. Why do dentists ask you questions when you have your mouth wide open, with their fingers in your mouth , so you cannot reply? She had me bite down on film and she took an Xray of the offending tooth. She declared that there was not enough healthy tooth to save and it would have to come out, I agreed as she was certain it was the only way to take the pain away. Anesthetic has improved since I last had a dental procedure, I used to have to sit in the waiting room waiting 20 minutes for it to take effect but this was virtually instant. Once I was numb and she began to tug at the tooth, I felt no pain only pressure and the noises were disconcerting. She warned me that she might damage surrounding teeth and my sinuses by removing this tooth but assured me that it was essential, but that did not help my anxiety. But within three minutes of pulling at my tooth, it was out and padding was inserted to absorb the blood. I was told to bite down on the padding for 30 minutes and not to blow my nose for three weeks, then I found myself out in the street again!

I was numb as I walked back to the car, both my mouth and my mind, it had all happened so quickly in the end. I drove the half hour home and spat out the blood-soaked padding when I got home, determined not to feel or look at the gap that my extraction had left. My husband had saved me sausage and mash for tea but once I explained that I would not be eating anything so chewy, Joshua finished my portion off too. Later that evening when the numbness wore off, I had some tinned rice pudding for supper but my mouth was throbbing. I went to bed at 10.30, hoping that the pain would have gone in the morning. Luckily I fell asleep instantly, as Joshua had me up between 2am and 5am, giving him cereal and toast and I tried some soft bread too. We both fell asleep again at 5, and I woke three hours later, feeling a lot better. Joshua was up not long after me and he was clearly brewing seizures, so it was time to take care of him, rather than feeling sorry for my own mouth.

Today I will register with a dentist and get an appointment for next month, hopefully, so that I can have a thorough check up and some planned maintenance, rather than emergency treatment which could only focus on one tooth. I felt the fear, but went anyway, as the raw pain of toothache was worse than anything a dentist could inflict upon me.

One thought on “Dental Drama

  1. It is a joy and a delight…I dislike going to the dentist but have finally found a guy who does amazing work … so sticking with him


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