Okay, I admit it - despite being an ER nurse who regularly performs painful procedures upon other people, I am terrified of the dentist. Like many other "older" patients, my PTSD fears stem from childhood memories of dentists who used the only pain control known to them - stuff your mouth to stifle your screams, and push you back down in the chair should you try to escape. So, as often happens to those of us who contently live in denial by avoiding the dentist, my tooth broke off. I now had 2 choices:
1.Continue in denial as the rest of my teeth broke off tearing my tongue to shreds.
2. Face my worst fear - the dentist.
Being slightly vain and highly valuing my remaining teeth, I decided I wasn't quite ready for dentures or a pureed diet, so I made the appointment. Wow! Welcome to the 21st century! Not only did I not experience the pain so vivid from childhood (thanks to a wonderful nerve block that made the left side of my face nearly fall off and gave me what felt like Angelina Jolie lips!), but they also give you a rx for a highly sought-after street drug for afterwards. I even asked if I could stay in the chair a little bit longer... I really wanted to finish watching The Notebook on those special movie glasses they put on you.
As I thought about it this week, doesn't our approach to dental hygiene rather parallel our personal lives? Isn't it easy to put off or avoid dealing with those areas that are uncomfortable for us to face, until a crisis occurs and we are forced to deal? Do we avoid those who can help us identify the problem areas because we fear the pain of possibly hearing the truth? Yet, if we don't take care of these areas, the decay will only become worse and more painful to deal with, often resulting in loss.
My decay had nearly reached the nerve root - I needed a root canal to totally eradicate the decay and save the tooth. Although the tooth is still sore, I am grateful that my dentist totally removed the decay. Even though the extent of the decay was totally my fault, my dentist was kind and compassionate and did not berate me for my neglect, but was more concerned with my comfort and well-being. I plan to keep regular dental appointments from now on and will try to show the same grace and compassion to others that was shown to me.