This is Part 3 in a guest post series by Lauri Carter, who is writing about her experience with anxiety as a dental phobic.
Read Part 1, where Lauri explores her fears and why she has them, here.
Read Part 2, where Lauri makes the decision to go to the dentist, here.
May 29th began as any day would. I awoke with a startle when my alarm went off at 6am. It felt like I just fell asleep. Right there, that should have been a good sign. I was so nervous when I went to bed knowing that I had my first dental cleaning in over a year the next morning, I thought I'd have trouble sleeping.
As soon as I stepped into the shower, my anxiety started welling up. The sweaty palms again. Butterflies in my stomach. Honestly, I didn’t know what I was more worried about; the actual cleaning or the reprimand and shame I'd feel once Dr. Emery had a good look inside my mouth. I'd done it to myself and I knew I deserved what might be coming. I brush my teeth at least 2 times a day, but I don’t floss. Ever. I’m not too proud to admit it.
Despite the fact that I was going to the dentist, I still had my coffee and I even had some garlic hummus. What was I thinking? Fire roasted garlic? I was just looking for something quick and easy before I ran out the door, but now I needed to go brush again!
I tried to feign coolness to my kids as I drove them to school. I was so incredibly nervous for my appointment that I snapped at my kids – which I really try to avoid, as I want them to start their days on the right foot. I bit my husband's head off when he asked about the plan for the day.
Deep breaths, Lauri. Take it easy. You know these people. You work day-in and day-out with them; you’re going to be just fine.
And so I was. Tricia greeted me when I arrived with her usual kind and sweet smile. She sweetly took my umbrella and offered me a beverage (All of which I knew she would do, but I was still nervous. Right now, I don’t work here, I’m a patient.)
She then handed me a laptop, this was how I was going to submit my information. So high-tech. I had no idea that I’d be doing that. I was surprised and impressed.
Once I was finished, Sarah came to get me. She was very warm and sweet with me, but oh no… the moment of truth was before me.
Sarah sat me in the chair, put a cloth protector (dental bib) on me. I started smelling something that I wasn't expecting. It was a fresh, clean, and honestly calming smell. Turns out, that was on purpose. It was aromatherapy (lavender to be specific) and she had placed a small gauze swab of it on my protector. I loved it. So nice. Sarah offered me a warm neck pillow, which I accepted.
Sarah went off to retrieve my warm neck pillow, and I noticed that I was the only patient there. I know that's normal for Dr. Emery's scheduling. Most doctors fill their chairs constantly, but Dr. Emery only allows one patient at a time to be here so that she can give individualized attention. I just can't believe she’s doing that for me. I’m getting the royal treatment. I know it's just standard practice here, but still, it's me and I'm thrilled!
Sarah and Tricia proceeded to take a few pictures of my teeth. Then Ashley came in with a smile on her face; she was very informative and didn't seem annoyed that I kept asking question after question. She's extremely gentle and thorough at the same time. Very nice. These pictures were a bit more involved, and I had to have retractors placed in my mouth to take more pictures of my mouth.
Then came the x-rays. Bitewings weren’t my favorite, but I do know they are necessary. Sarah took those, and she was speedy, so that was nice. She was also patient when I started gagging on them. She didn’t make me feel badly and she was quite calming and said it's very common for folks to experience that. Sarah had the x-rays appear on the TV screen in front of me, so I could see them immediately as they came up. Wow, so cool. This is honestly the first time I’ve ever experienced that.
In came Dr. Emery. Soon she’ll know me pretty intimately. Let’s be honest…. the mouth is such a private, intimate space. You taste delicious food there. You kiss with your mouth. Your words resonate from your mouth. You generally choose what goes into your mouth, and I'd really rather not have her in there. Soon she’ll know all of my "dirty" secrets and possibly see my "junk mouth".
Ugh. Let it go.
I relaxed, warm neck, aromatherapy, great music played in the loft. Sarah showed me how to use Netflix and helps me choose something great to watch during my cleaning. Bose headphones on, the chair went back.
Here we go.