In some of my postings about goals, I’ve mentioned that I needed a new dentist, etc. I did that last year, and the main reason for searching is a bit convoluted. Lots of causes that had previous causes, almost “root” causes, without intending a dental pun. If you want to get to the funny part, just skip down to the BIG DAY heading below, the rest is more about how I got there.
First and foremost, I hated the hygienists at the old dentist. The dentist has a good business model that works for her where she hires new hygienists, gives them experience but doesn’t pay very well, and after a year or two, they move on to somewhere where they can get paid better. Great for the dentist, bad for me as a patient. I have extra deposits, and plaque builds up quickly. So I get extra scaling, usually needing to go every 3 months. Yet with these newbie hygienists, it was torture. I had a few bad ones and I really started dreading going. It wasn’t always this way, there used to be a woman there named Vicky who was friendly, cute, and talkative, and she was amazing with teeth. 45 minutes later, she was done, and you were like, “Oh, really? Great!”. She left long ago for greener pastures closer to where she lived in Barrhaven. The new ones are terrible for distracting, not much for talking, and more importantly, they jab your gums several times a minute. It’s like torture. After three bad visits in a row, I had to stop. I was getting seriously phobic. My back was rigid, I was gripping the chair arms, it was horrible.
Now if I go back a few years, it might not be their fault so much as the dentist that was an idiot. I needed a couple of small cavities filled, and I told him quite bluntly, “I have a strong gag reflex”. Like most dentists, they nod, smile and say “Of course you do”, and then proceed as if all patients say that. Which may be true, but I am not like other patients. Blowing air on the back of my throat will cause me to gag. Water pooling near the back of my throat will cause me to gag. Saliva on the rubber dam at the side of my mouth causes me to gag. Gag, gag, gag. Which is a problem when you can only have someone working in there for a few minutes at a time and then you need a quick break for 30 seconds to reset everything, but they need to do fillings which take more time than that. Enter the various dams and instruments designed to prop your mouth open so it can’t close. Big dams, little dams, dams that fish swim over, doesn’t matter, I gag. So he came up with a brilliant plan to use this other device, kind of like a metal toothpick that can unscrew in the middle and grow longer. Place one end on bottom tooth, one end on top tooth, open the middle and it pushes up top and pushes down bottom, you can’t close your mouth, and there are no dams causing you to salivate. Sounded great.
What he forgot to mention was that to protect your tongue from cutting itself on the metal, they put a small loop and some latex around it. Nothing big. Until it gets wet. And slides to the back of your throat. And it feels like you are swallowing a balloon, and you’re going to die. I didn’t just gag, I went into full convulsions, 100% panic attack. Demanding it come out only to find out it doesn’t come out easily, he has to gently remove it over five minutes, once of course I am totally calm and not gagging. I just about ripped it out myself manually. I mentally gritted the teeth I couldn’t grit physically, calmed myself, got him to get it out, and then threw up.
But he wasn’t done with the fillings. I had holes where the fillings needed to set. So I did the next 20 minutes holding my mouth open myself, just keeping it open while he did his work and let my rage consumed me. Didn’t exactly endear me towards future dental interventions, so maybe the hygienists weren’t entirely at fault…I wasn’t positively disposed.
Or maybe I start back further in my childhood where we didn’t have money for dentists, I only went once when I was about 9 or 10, I had 1 cavity and it was loose, so no intervention required. We never went back. Fast forward to maybe age 26 or 27 before I saw another one, no major issues, and nothing again until I was probably 33 or so when I finally started going regularly.
Regular cleaning, then bad dental experience, regular cleaning, some more fillings that were okay, not great, and then regular cleaning with increasingly negative experiences with the hygienists. Until I couldn’t face them anymore. The thought of sitting with them poking me was near on triggering panic attacks. I just couldn’t do it. So I promised myself I would find a new dentist and a new hygienist. By the time I did, probably 3 or 4 years had passed. I definitely needed extensive scaling, which I had them do over two one-hour sessions. Not awesome, but survivable. And the dentist found lots of work to be done to clean up things that could get worse.
I told her my past experiences, warned her of the gag reflex, she said, “Of course, no problem” and then tried me with the smallest dam I’ve ever seen. I still gagged. She said, “Have you considered sedation dentistry? You would be a good candidate.”
In truth, I had considered it but figured it was overkill for my problem. I had, after all, sat through fillings with a good dentist, and could get through cleanings. Once my confidence was up again, I figured I could make it through. But when she told me I needed to get up to 15 to 25 minutes of duration with her working in my mouth at one go, my confidence plummeted. Plus there was the added bonus that if I did sedation, they could do my mouth all at once instead of four separate appointments.
Well, sign me up and call me wimpy! When I met with them, I said, “Before you put anything in my mouth for the checkup, I will tell you, I am not here because of simple phobia. I have a REALLY strong gag reflex. Even air will trigger it.” They were undeterred, so we proceeded. Relatively quick appointment, agreed with the original dentist’s assessment, booked me in.
And then when I was scheduled to go, I was sick. Not really bad, but definitely something cold plus. Rescheduled. I called back the week before the second date and said, “Okay, I have a really bad cough, might take 4-5 weeks with the steroid to clear, is that an issue?”. They said it would be better to wait because the sedation dentistry drys out your throat. So we postponed again. I can’t lie to myself and say each one wasn’t a bit of a relief, but I was also disappointed that it was not going to be done and finished last year. It was part of my big goals. I had at least found the new dentist, got the cleanings done, back on track etc., but the “fix” wasn’t done yet.
The Big Day
This morning was the big day. It’s been a tough week for me, combination of lots going, big event coming up, and I was stressed about today’s dental work. I kept calling it dental surgery, although I guess it wasn’t quite that — it is just sedation dentistry on my entire mouth at once.
We dropped Jacob off at school early (8:00 a.m.) and then came back home to call a taxi. I took a small relaxant they gave me to take 1 hour before the surgery, and man, that’s some really good stuff. Triazolam, .25 mg. It says it may cause drowsiness, and they are NOT KIDDING. I took it about 8:20. Andrea would be my body chauffeur for the day, and we took a cab to the dentist, a short 10 minute drive. I think I fell asleep part way there. I don’t remember the whole trip. I do remember coming awake just before the turn. I don’t remember very well Andrea paying him, but then we were out of the car heading inside.
Took my boots off, have no memory what happened to my coat. It must have come off, but I don’t remember being helped with it or giving it to Andrea or hanging it up. I walked over to the reception to check in, told them my name, and tried to get my health card out to show them. They didn’t need it, I was all checked in. They told me that twice, and it wasn’t that I didn’t believe them the first time, it was that I was still trying to process what they told me at snail speed in my brain when they told me the second time. I remember trying to get my health card out of my wallet and struggling, and thinking, “This is just me being clumsy, it’s not the drug.” It totally was the drug.
I went and sat down with Andrea. I know because I remember the chairs and some confusion as to where to sit. Then I fell asleep with Andrea holding my head up. They came and got me 12 hours later, although Andrea says it was only about 10 minutes. I remember them calling my name, and some time later I stood up and followed her out.
We went towards a room that was down the hall to the right. Definitely remember that. The room had a chair and supposedly I sat in it, but I don’t remember sitting down or anything else. There were questions, but I was a wee bit sleepy at that point. Then they put the IV in. She had trouble, as they all do, and I told her normally I need a really good phlebotomist to do it. She said maybe today wasn’t the day for her to come to work. I think she was joking, not sure now. She was trying to get me to turn my arm over to put it in the underside of my wrist. I was not very cooperative.
Then there was pain. Not my pain. I mean, I could feel it, but I’m pretty sure it was happening to my arm that was somehow in another room at that point. I wasn’t with the arm, I don’t think. And I could recognize that it hurt, and I remember thinking, please don’t wiggle the needle around, I had that once when I was getting freezing in a toe and it hurt like hell.
Then there is a small memory gap. Perhaps two hours worth.
Careful interrogation of Andrea says I was with them for about an hour having the work done. They confirmed to Andrea that “He really does have a strong gag reflex” since I still gagged even with all the sedation. (Yes! I knew it! In your face (!), all you dentists who thought it was simply all in my head!). Afterwards, they brought me back to the waiting room and Andrea claims she sat and held my hand and arm. Then they asked me if I wanted more oxygen as I was feeling dizzy still. Apparently I said yes. And they took me back to the room again, this time with Andrea.
After about 30 minutes, Andrea called a taxi, they helped me with my boots and coat, and someone forgot about Police Protocol 101 to help someone into a car where you protect their head as apparently I just about whacked it a good one. When we got home, I got out of the cab on my own, kind of falling, and then walking like a zombie towards the snow bank where I started making a snowball as I wanted one. Andrea fears it was going to be thrown at her, and she’s probably right. The thought makes me giggle. She helped me up the steps and into the house. I managed to take my boots off myself. Not sure about coat.
I then went and laid down on the couch, which sounds vaguely familiar and she brought me some orange jello. I remember jello. I don’t know how I went from sitting in the waiting room with Andrea holding my head up before the dentist to sitting on the couch eating jello, but I did apparently.
And then I proceeded to sleep on and off the rest of the day, finally forcing myself upright around 5:00 p.m. Ate regular supper, did some stuff on my computer, still feel like there is a fog somewhere around in my brain wanting to reclaim me and make me sleep. Which is where I’m going soon. Part of the reason I’m writing this down is I’m not entirely sure I’ll remember it all tomorrow.
Back when I was scheduling the work, I remember they told me I needed an escort to take me home. I thought, “Wow, that seems like overkill”. Particularly when they told me I wouldn’t be completely out, I’d be awake during the dentistry (not a fan of that idea, honestly). But overkill it definitely was NOT. Those drugs were GOOOOOOD. As was my wonderful panda.
Of course, if embarrassing photos start showing up on internet sites or FaceBook, I might know who to blame. I won’t be able to claim they’re not me, cuz I have no idea what else happened in those two hours. I think the snowball part is likely true though.