Dealing With Dental Phobia
Did I ever tell you about the time I threw up at the dentist’s?
What am I saying: of COURSE I didn’t tell you. I mean, I did mention it briefly on Instagram Stories, safe in the knowledge that my horrifying confession would disappear in 24 hours, but, once it did, I basically just buried my head in the sand and tried to pretend it didn’t happen.
But it happened, guys. Oh, it happened: and it was all because of my extreme – and totally inexplicable – phobia of one aspect of my ongoing dental treatment.
It’s probably not what you think it is.
My phobia, you see, isn’t about drills, or needles, or any of the other things that typically give people the chills when visiting the dentist. I’m fine with all of that. No, really. I mean, I realise that fear of the dentist is totally the kind of thing you’d expect from me, but actually? Nah, I’m good, thanks. Other than this one thing, obviously: the dreaded dental impressions.
Now, I’m sure I must have had impressions taken of my teeth lots of times in the past, but the first time I really remember having it done was during my Invisalign treatment a few years ago. Back then, I had to have impressions taken for each new set of braces – so, every few weeks, basically.
I absolutely HATED it. To the point where, the night before each appointment, I’d lie awake worrying about how I was going to cope. I’d feel sick with nerves on the way to the dental surgery, then lie trembling in the chair, waiting for the moment when a giant, goop-filled tray would be inserted into my mouth, and left there to set, before being wrenched back off again.
I mean, it’s not exactly a fun day out, is it?
While most people probably don’t exactly relish the thought of having dental impressions taken, though, I’m forced to acknowledge here that there’s no real reason why I find it so horrifying. It’s just a few minutes out of your life, after all: it’s not painful, it’s not scary – but, every single time I have to have it done, I become absolutely convinced I’m about to throw up. Every time without fail.
I didn’t, though – or not until this year, anyway. And, OK, during the Invislaign treatment, there were a few times when I started gagging, and found myself struggling to sit up in the chair, eyes bulging and brow sweating, totally convinced I was going to:
a) Throw up
b) Choke to death on my own vomit, on account of the fact that there was a giant, goop-filled tray in my mouth at the time.
It. Was. Awful. And also ridiculous, really. Every time it happened I felt so embarrassed by it, and, all the way home, I’d be sitting there imagining how stupid I must have looked with my bulging eyes and panicked squeaks. MORTIFYING. Just… MORTIFYING. By the end of the treatment, what had started off as a minor fear had developed into a full-blown phobia, and, by the time I was done, I vowed never to allow anyone to take dental impressions from me ever again. If it came to it, I’d just let all my teeth fall out instead, I figured: because anything would be better than the goop-filled trays and the bulging eyes, no?
Then, of course, I decided to have a smile makeover. Because, as it turns out, I didn’t REALLY want to just let all my teeth fall out after all. Funny, that.
The first part of my treatment involved tooth whitening, and, for that, I had to have custom whitening trays made up – ones that were specially molded to fit my teeth exactly, and hold the whitening gel in place. And how do they make those trays, I hear you ask?
BY TAKING DENTAL IMPRESSIONS, OBVIOUSLY.
I had my first set of impressions taken during a visit to the hygienist. Now, my dentist specialises in treating nervous patients, so they were a perfect choice for someone with a bit of a dental phobia. By this stage, though, it had been a few years since I’d last had impressions taken: the memory of it had faded a bit, and, I don’t know, I guess I thought that maybe this time I’d be able to deal with it better.
SPOILER ALERT: NO, I COULDN’T.
Sophie, the hygienist took the impressions for the bottom teeth first, and, once I’d explained a bit about my phobia, she did everything she could to help me through it: first of all by getting me to sit up in the chair rather than lying down, and then by gently talking me through the procedure, and using a few little distraction techniques to try to take my mind off the giant tray of goo in my mouth. I was panicking the whole time, but I somehow got through it. The upper tray, however, was a different matter altogether: almost as soon as it went in, I started panicking; within 30 seconds or so, the panic had turned into gagging, and then, the next thing I knew, I was literally living my worst dental nightmare – throwing up all over myself, while sitting there goggle-eyed and in a cold sweat, still with the tray in my mouth, and the goo inside it now welded onto my teeth.
I have honestly never been more embarrassed in my life – not even that time I went out wearing two different shoes, and didn’t realise until I was hobbling across a car park, wondering why one of my legs suddenly seemed to be shorter than the other.
Sophie and her assistant were both absolutely lovely about it, of course, but… well, there I was, covered in my own vomit, and also? Covered in my own shame. Two good things did come out of the incident, though, namely:
01. Despite my dramatics, Sophie still somehow managed to get a good enough impression to be able to make up the whitening trays.
02. I was at least able to disprove my theory that, if someone were to throw up with a large dental tray in their mouth, they would obviously choke to death on their own vomit. So that’s something, I guess?
I might have survived step one of the smile makeover, though, but my issues were not yet over, because, as I soon discovered, I’d need to have more sets of impressions taken as the treatment progressed – quite a few more, in fact. Gulp. Now, in all honesty, this would’ve been a deal-breaker for me. After the vomiting incident, I really didn’t think I could go through that particular ordeal again, and if there had been no other option, I’d probably have walked away at that point – that’s how much I hate having impressions taken.
Fortunately for me, though, there WAS another option. This guy:
It’s a laser scanner, and that’s the photo of my teeth it created. Using this machine, my dentist, Jamie, was able to take impressions of my teeth without the need for any goo-filled trays or gagging: he simply used the wand you can see attached to the right of the screen to scan the teeth, and create the image. It was a complete game-changer for me – and, as I said, the only reason I was able to continue with my treatment, in spite of my ongoing phobia. I have had to have some impressions taken the old-fashioned way – mostly to create the temporary veneers I talked about in my last post – but fortunately Jamie has been able to get these using smaller trays, which don’t trigger my over-sensitive gag reflex quite as easily. I still panic a bit every time it has to happen, but I’m pleased to report that I’ve yet to actually start gagging from it, and there’s been no repeat of The Incident, so I’m grateful for small mercies – and, of course, for a dentist who’s particularly well equipped to deal with anxious patients!
On the subject of my smile makeover, meanwhile, I said in my last post that I’d be having my final appointment this week, after which would come the big reveal. There’s been a slight change to that plan, though, as, having lived with the last set of temporary veneers for a couple of weeks, I realised there were still a couple of little tweaks I wanted to make to them – so, instead, I’m now onto my third set of temporary veneers, while the porcelain versions are modified. I’m still hoping to have my new smile complete very soon – for now, though, I’m just glad the process has been so thorough: and, of course, that I’ve managed to get through most of it without throwing up… again.