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?