Thursday, October 30, 2014

The dentist and OCD

Do you dread dentist appointments? Do you hate the thought of sitting in that chair with the fear of needles, drills, and other scary looking tools?
Yes, me, too.
Though I don’t dread it like I used to do. And I consider that lessening of anxiety a triumph over a bit of OCD in my life.

I went to the dentist this week for my six-month check-up. I’ve been seeing the same dentist for 29 years, and I wouldn’t trade him for another. He understands my teeth: their thin enamel, their hyper-sensitivity. He’s good at what he does.
And he’s very kind. The other day, the dental hygienist did the cleaning, as usual, then the dentist came in to look things over. As is usually the case now, he pronounced everything fine and told me he’d see me in six months.
“But if you need anything before then, you know we’re here for you,” he said.

I have spent a lifetime being vigilant about brushing my teeth and, as an adult, flossing. But I’ve had cavities and have had to have several root canals. We’re not sure why I have such problems. Perhaps the lack of fluoride as a child. Perhaps the thin enamel. Perhaps just bad genes.

When I started having OCD symptoms, the trips to the dentist became part of my obsessions.
As a dentist appointment drew closer, I felt very anxious. More importantly, I felt like I couldn’t relax, couldn’t NOT worry, until the visit was over.
If I had to return to the dentist for a cavity filling or a root canal, I tried to get an appointment as soon as possible. The sooner it was, the sooner I could get it over with and be OK.
If the appointment wasn’t soon enough (in my opinion), then I would call the dentist office multiple times, asking about cancellations.

When I grew in understanding that fear of uncertainty is a big part of OCD, I began to see that I would have to live with the idea that painful, uncomfortable, scary things were in my future, were in everyone’s future. That’s life.
But in the meantime, I was wasting the present by not allowing myself to enjoy life until the “big event” was over. I’ve learned that the present, right now, is so important.
Life is to be enjoyed and appreciated now.
Also, as my OCD improved overall, the improvement included a lessening of that belief that I couldn’t be OK until all worries were taken care of.
So I go see the dentist every six months. I still feel a little trepidation at the thought of something being wrong with my teeth. But I get through it. And if I need to go back for some work, I no longer obsess over getting the work done immediately.
It’s nice to be able to enjoy the present as best as I can.

So, what’s your relationship with the dental office?


  1. I am not particularly fond of the Dentist but having to go or going doesn't interfere with my well-being, again since visiting with you, I consider myself fortunate.

  2. I am definitely not a fan of going to the dentist. I actually am supposed to have an impacted wisdom tooth surgically removed in a couple of weeks. No fun!!!

  3. "Life is to be enjoyed and appreciated now" that says it all Tina and I am no fan of the dentist either but it is something we have to do. Genetics does play havoc with teeth. Hug B

  4. What a great sign of the progress you have made! This is a true sign of how far you have come.

    We have such a great dentist. I had Reid in yesterday for his first cavity. He is my anxious child. My dentist is sly as a fox though. He has a trick with the novacaine and you cannot feel it. So he told Reid he was going to have the hygienist cover his eyes because he had to get the light really bright to look at his tooth. He told him no peaking. Then while his eyes were closed, he got two doses of novacaine, but he never had any idea he was getting injections. I was so impressed watching him work!

  5. Tina, I think a lot of us feel trepidation, but with the OCD it must be far more challenging. I so admire how you approach this -- it's so healthy and I'm sure it makes your present much better.

  6. i have an AWESOME dentist and the girls that work in his office are the BEST!!!!!! i have had pain in my mouth for almost 5 years, every dentist, surgeon and every other dental specialist has tried to fix my problem, to no avail. when it gets unbearable, he has me come in and he shoots me up with novicane, no charge, he won't let me pay. they are the most wonderful, compassionate people i know.

    i was happy to read about your experience tina, you have come a long way baby!! be proud!!!!

  7. Apparently as a child, my mom had to take me to many different dentists, because I'd bite them all! I don't remember the biting but I remember traveling to different dentists. Thankfully I'm over that now :)!

  8. once you find a good dentist and hygienist, it's worth sticking with them. i drive over an hour to see the one we've used for years. worth it.

  9. I really like the dentist I have now. He is incredibly slow and deliberate, but the net result is that he has corrected some previous bad dentistry, so I'm pleased with him even though his pace drives me nuts.

    This is a great post in the way it describes one of the countless ways OCD can impact one's life. No one likes getting dental work done, but it must be incredibly difficult with OCD. It seems like you are recovering by leaps and bounds!

  10. I don't worry about dentist appointments. As we age we've been there before enough times so that it doesn't bother us. The only thing I despise is the bill.

  11. i really dislike going but i have an appt coming up for a cleaning. it's a dentist that i know through the boys' sports and although he is very nice, i dislike the women in his office and find them very rude. i'm contemplating changing dentists.

  12. I hate the dentist, but for different reasons. When I was 12, an old (to me) orthodontist french kissed me in the chair. YUK! I'm glad you've overcome some of your fears.

  13. I completely can relate. I had a really (bad) experience with a dentist around the age of 18 and refused to see one until I was in my 30's. Since then I've had a few other things go wrong at the dentist office so each trip makes me feel very aprehensive. I'm always so thankful when the visit is over. Recently my dentist moved and I had to get a new one. Thankfully so far I like the new guy.

  14. Ugh I LOATHE the dentist. It's been a phobia of mine since I was a teenager. I've always had trouble with my teeth and gums so I spent a lot of time in the "chair" as a small child.


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