Thursday, March 19, 2009

the torturing of the teeth

After a long time of procrastinating and agonizing, I geared up and tried another dentist yesterday. The procrastination and agony were the result of some bad dental experiences in the past, and it would appear I'm not yet through with this dark chapter in the history of my teeth.

Today my mouth hurts, a lot. X-rays and a cleaning should not be traumatic and painful proceedings that leave a person feeling like her mouth was raped and and in discomfort for days. I've decided never to return to that dental practice for another x-ray or cleaning again.

The x-rays took over half an hour. They did a total of 18 x-rays, EIGHTEEN, which each involved cramming a large, painful piece of equipment into a slightly different place in my mouth, while I fought to control my gag reflex. I believe there are bruises on the roof of my mouth.

I asked for gas during the cleaning, which I was refused because it is the policy of that dental office not to pamper patients. I should have gotten it, because the cleaning had some agonizing moments that had me leaping with pain out of the chair. Afterward I just wanted to go home, curl up under one of my homemade quilts, and cry for hours, but instead I had to race down to pick up the children, whom I discovered squabbling on the playground at their school (nine year-old Iris overheard Lola describing her to another kindergartener as "a weird, bossy little thing"), take them home, oversee Iris's homework, and take Iris to her writing class in the Mission, plus pick up the Sober Husband and buy cat food, all done on the brink of tears with a hurting mouth.

End diagnosis: I have two cavities and a cap which needs to be replaced. My dilemma: get the work done at that office, which has the extensively thorough x-rays, and then let my teeth go to hell for a few more years until I feel like braving the dental wilderness again OR just try another dentist to get that work done, which may or may not be better. I could also just wait until my teeth actually start hurting. Another option would be to fly to Arizona and go see my old, beloved dentist who moved away for the cavities, but I can't get a crown replaced that way because that means more than one visit spaced a few weeks apart. (I don't think asking for the x-rays to take to another office is an option, because there are no physical x-rays. It was all computerized, and given my bad luck with dentists, I have no reason to be hopeful that a prospective new dental office would have compatible software).

There's a special dental office down the Peninsula for people who have dental issues, and they sedate you completely before doing a thing, gently waking you after all your work is done. I really want to go there, but the Sober Husband is deeply opposed, thinking this is unhealthy. I don't think it's particularly good for my physical or mental health for me to be awake in a dental chair experiencing pain and stress, on the other hand, but he is freaked out by the sedation dentist enough to deter me from booking an appointment (and I would need someone to drive me home, obviously).

My children now have a lovely pediatric dentist, lovely, and I wish I could just go to him. Sigh. I'm starting to wonder if American dentistry and maybe this whole having-teeth thing altogther are overrated.

15 comments:

Rowan said...

I just switched dentists and the old office did send my records, including x-rays which were computerized rather than film, to the new office. I just had to fax them the release... so it is possible.

Would the husband rather you traveled out-of-state for dental work?

J9 said...

They can send the x-rays, and you should ask the kids' dentist for a referral.

the Drunken Housewife said...

I have asked the children's dentist for a recommendation, and he told me he'd give me a list of dentists, but then he never did. I'll follow up again.

Marketeer said...

I use a dental office that provides sedation dentistry. Even if I don't need sedation for a particular procedure, they're generally more understanding of nervous patients.

Green said...

I am telling you. Ivan Serdar. I have HUGE dental phobia issues. This guy is (gay) really nice and gentle, and doesn't even make fun of you for being scared. B uses him also.

theresa said...

I went to a dentist recently for my VERY late wisdom teeth. They had an amazing x-ray process! They used what I would refer to as the equivalent to a football mouth guard. Pleased it between my teeth for me to bite and hold in place. Then their machine scanned around my entire head. One x-ray done in less than 30 seconds and they could see everything.
I also have an extremely sensitive gag reflex and have fought dentists tooth and nail (no pun intended) for years. But I was extremely satisfied with this visit.
I live in the midwest and we're always about 10 years behind everyone else, so I'm sure someone out there has this same ability for you.
Everyone's right, you're x-rays definately go with you. You've paid for them, they're yours.

Ich bin erkaeltet said...

Looks like you just managed to find yourself the most incompetent dental practice around. There's a way to do everything you described without causing the least bit discomfort to a patient.
Maybe you should just get wasted before the next appointment? With a little luck you'll pass out right when they call you in.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Theresa, back in the nineties my first husband and I went to a dentist who had that kind of x-ray thing you describe, that pans around your head. He was a large guy, very thin but 6'4" with a big head, and it got stuck on his skull going around while it was on. If he ever has a brain tumor, that was probably why....

For me, it worked great, though, although my head is pretty damn big too.

Melissa said...

Yeah. This is the issue with dentists; you pay for bad work with more dental work. And pain, and more issues.

I wish I had a good referral for you. The only thing I can say is, find someone else with severe issues and pain, and use their dentist.

((())) Sorry for the pain; mouth pain is so difficult.

lemonjuicer said...

who knew there were so many lousy dentist offices out there?? my dentist just left the office i go to and they no longer do the nifty kind of novacaine i like - the kind that does not make you feel all puffy and drooly... *sigh*

Caroline said...

Tell your husband to suck it up and drive you to the damn sedation dentist already. When you want his opinion you'll give it to him! On a more serious note, poor dental hygiene is a major impediment to good overall health, especially in later years, so any detriment attributable to sedation dentistry is probably far, far outweighed by the detriment caused by poor nutrition and other health issues caused by having a mouth full of dental issues. MAKE THE APPOINTMENT.

Carroll said...

Housewife! You should NOT have to suffer through dental work!!! It's inconceivable that there's not a caring, competent *gentle* dentist in the City! As for making the trek down the peninsula, heck, if it comes to that let me know and *I'LL* drive you home (I live in Cupertino -- not willing to drive up, get you, bring you down, *and* drive you back, but hey, you could take Cal Train to wherever and I could do the return trip). I'm serious! Not that I've ever commented on your blog before or that you have the faintest idea who I even am. Just swung by from Hugh's place to see if by any chance you had news about him. Teeth are important, Woman! Don't let this fear get the better of you taking care of what needs to be done -- it will only get worse (Oh, now *that*s a great comfort to someone with dental phobia, Carroll!) Isn't there some urban bulletin board thing (like Craig's list, only not) where you can ask for referrals from folks in the community? I can't for the life of me think of the name of it -- some woman's first name (like "Cathy's list" or "Susie's board" or...?) Ask every single person you know -- heck, ask complete strangers in the grocery store if you have to. Or stand on a corner holding up a "Got a good dentist?" sigh. It's SF after all -- not a single soul would think you're crazy!

I'll be checking back here soon & can nag with the best of 'em if need be. Think about it as setting a good example for your daughters -- not passing along your fears to them, etc. In the right hands, you'll be fine, I promise!

Carroll said...

Me again -- OK, I haven't found that community referral list I was thinking of, but check out the reviews of SF dentists on YELP. There are a good few that sound promising in the "we cater to cowards" category. You could even go to a few and interview them -- check out the ambiance -- get a feel for how genuine their concern for you as a patient might be. Medical professionals should *always* be willing to do an information interview, and you wouldn't be charged for that (shouldn't be at least).

Carroll said...

Last time, I promise!

Found it! The referral source I was thinking of is "Angie's List". You can Google it for SF, or try this link:

http://www.angieslist.com/AngiesList/Visitor/Services.aspx

Good luck, Housewife. I can't do much for Hugh, but if I've been able to help his very good friend, that will feel good too :-)

Janababy said...

As a fellow dental phobe, I have a small bit of advice for you. Ask around to your friends and find a good dentist with a great, glowing reputation. Be honest about your fears and concerns. Diligently get your teeth cleaned every six months (this helps lessen my anxiety and I try and think of it as a beauty treatment -- HA! Plus, it's nice to go and have them say, "Looks good!" and not dread them saying, "Well...ummm...", etc.

I recently had a crown done by my awesome, foxy dentist and was very frank about my anxiety -- his answer? XANAX. He wrote me a prescription for three Xanax for the prep appointment and another three for the "installment" appointment. All in all, a miracle. I agonized over it and it was totally OK.

I hope this helps, C.! Trust me, taking care of your teeth is time and money well spent.