Monday, February 07, 2011

Why I’m scared of the dentist

I have suffered dental phobia/anxiety for just about forever. I’m fine once I’m in the chair being worked on, but scheduling the appointment and driving to the dentist’s office push me over the edge.

Which means I was just so thrilled when, three weeks ago, while I was eating some fairly soft food, the back of one of my teeth fell off. My knees went wobbly, and I sagged to the floor almost immediately. Once I’d recovered, I went to show B the fragment, and he just sighed.

The next day, the filling that had been in the tooth came out.

It was time for me to face the reality that I was going to have to make an appointment with the dentist and drive myself there.

The dentist, who is new to me, delivered some very bad news. The tooth had broken off below the gum line, meaning there’s not enough material remaining to anchor a crown. I need a dental implant – something I’d always hoped to avoid.

Last week I visited the periodontist the dentist recommended, and she confirmed the news. She then went through what the procedure will entail, and her office manager went through the price list.


I knew it was going to be expensive, but I didn’t know it was going to be THAT expensive. B wanted me to get information on how much other people had paid, so I put out a call on facebook for any friends who had had an implant done to see how much they had paid.

A friend from high school e-mailed that her dad was a perio and said she’d ask him about pricing. The verdict is that the quote I got from my perio is “in the ballpark” of normal. It’s reassuring to know that I’m being charged an arm and a leg, not an arm and a leg and another leg.

And this gets to the root of why I’m afraid of the dentist. It seems that every time I go, even if it’s just for a routine cleaning, I end up needing thousands of dollars of dental work done. Five years ago, I spent two mornings a week for the whole summer in the dentist’s chair. It turns out that my previous dentist was a quack, and everything he’d done needed to be repaired along with some new stuff. By the end of the summer, I’d spend $15,000 (yes you read that right) on dental work that included three root canals and crowns and multiple fillings.

Next week, I go in on Tuesday for the first step of the process. They’ll extract my tooth and then insert bone graft material in the pocket in my jaw. Then they’ll cover that with tissue harvested from the roof of my mouth. It makes me gag just thinking about it. Four months from now, they’ll check to see if the bone graft has settled well enough to implant a titanium screw in my jaw. If my jaw isn’t ready, I’ll have to wait another two months. Once the screw is implanted, I’ll wait another few months for the site to heal. And then my dentist will put in the crown.

It’s going to take close to a year for the whole process. Which is good, because I’ll need that long to save my pennies to pay for it.

Anyone need to hire a good freelance writer?


Anonymous said...

Wow. That's just, wow. I am so sorry, both for what you will have to go through AND how much you'll have to pay for the privilege. That's horrific. I wish I could offer something more than sympathy - if I hear of anyone looking for a freelancer, I'll let you know.

Becky said...

Sweet heavens above. I know we are Cyber Twins but please God don't let this happen to me because, of course, like you I have a HUGE HUGE dentist phobia. I would die.
I almost passed out from a filling. Yes, huge wuss here.

Clearly you are braver than I.

Unknown said...

ah that sucks. i was really hoping the quote was high

Cookie said...

Ouch! Both my mouth and my wallet are aching after reading your post!
I guess it's too late to receommend my dentist. He makes it a little easier to sit in that dreaded chair. My friends and I have a nickname for him, it's "doctor hottie." or sometimes we call him "the hottie dentist." But really it's more fun to take your kids there and then sit back and watch him. I mean them, of course.
But seriously the cost of dental work in the US is outrageous. My husband is Japanese and I know lots of Japanese people who live in the US and travel back to Japan to have dental work done. In Japan there are more dentists than there are 7/11's and trust me, it seems like there are more 7/11's in Japan than in the US! So the dentists are cheaper there. But they also tend to do better work. My husband has filings that are 35+ years old and have never had to be replaced! Not that Im jealous or anything... So really when one of my Japanese friends needs a root canal or other major dental work, they will often go back to Japan. Even with the cost of airfare, they save money.

Alexandra said...

Your description of what happened just made my knees wobbly.

I, em gee, I know this could happen to me.