Of Vampires and Dentistry

There are only two things I fear in this world: vampires and dentists.

Yesterday, I lost a filling in one of my molars, which is the absolute worst tooth for me to lose a filling because I have severe TMJ and having someone work that far back in my mouth is going to result in days of pain.

This presents a huge problem for me in more than the obvious, “I have a gaping hole in my tooth and my jaw is going to seize up for days” kind of way because it also means  that I have to go to “he who shall not be named” to have this problem fixed. Given my nearly incapacitating fear of “those in the position of inflicting immeasurable pain,” I am obviously concerned.

The last time I went to the dentist was two years ago when a crown I had placed many years ago fell out. I tried to put it back, but alas – I was doomed to look like Gollum for all of my days unless I sucked it up and went into the dentist.

Not surprisingly, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had made it out in my mind to be. Other than the $1,200 I had to come up with, that is.

I vowed never to lose another crown or get another cavity. I brush religiously, I floss. I do everything I can to keep my teeth healthy. Well, except avoid sugar – because, c’mon… it’s sugar.

But, now I’m forced to face the dentist once more. As it turns out, the only way to avoid seeing a dentist is to see a dentist. There are dentists who have indeed built entire careers on this cruel irony.

To get through this appointment, I have to overcome my dental phobia. I’m not sure when my dental phobia began, especially because I was blessed with parents who were more committed to me seeing a dentist on a regular basis than I have ever been.

In truth, I’ve had a long history of great dentists. First there was Dr. Christiansen back in the seventies, when everything was considered a cavity and doctors were drilling holes into teeth for no reason whatsoever. There was that one incident when my mouth wasn’t quite numb enough and he started drilling, but it certainly wasn’t enough to cause this deep seated fear in me.

Later on, in my tragic teen years, I tolerated a sadistic orthodontist and a few years of braces before I finally couldn’t take it anymore and removed the horrific devices myself – nearly a year too early.

In my late twenties, I found another great dentist. I was still terrified, but we developed a good working relationship due his generous use of nitrous and anti-anxiety medication. He understood me. Granted, I was still a pain-in-the-ass patient, but I’m almost positive that my whining had nothing to do with his suicide.

That was quite awhile ago and since we lost him, I haven’t been as inclined to visit the dentist. Particularly since we don’t have insurance… I have a really hard time paying good money for the privilege of being poked and riddled and drilled and to be made completely miserable.

At any rate, I went on a search for ways I can resolve this phobia. I learned some interesting facts:

1. According to research from the Journal of the American Dental Association, redheads have a gene that predisposes them to heightened anxiety when they pop in for a regular teeth cleaning.

2. People with one specific gene, MC1R, were more than twice as likely to report that they avoided dental appointments because of fear and anxiety than people without that gene.

So now I have to wonder if I have some kind of weird gene called MC1R and if I do, is that responsible for my fear? Of course, there are plenty of other things to be afraid of at the dentist. There is the fear of teeth goop getting stuck in my bloodstream and stopping my heart. And the fear of getting some kind of disease from tools that aren’t cleaned properly. And the fear of him using that Explorer tool that they jab into your tooth to see how deep a cavity is…

On the bright side, science can explain anything these days.

What is your deepest fear?