When it comes to visiting the dentist, there’s no denying I’m a white-knuckle patient. I think the root of my discomfort in the dental chair is due to my early experiences. I distinctly remember sitting in the dentist’s chair as a child and watching my dentist hold a cigarette in his mouth (yes, as he worked on my teeth) and the ashes at the end of the cigarette grew alarmingly lengthier with each moment. Since he was perched with his face directly above mine, I felt quite sure those ashes would fall from the cigarette and land straight in my gaping, open mouth!
Whenever I have my dental checkups or other dental work needing to be done, this visual image isn’t far from my mind. Thankfully today, dentists rarely smoke and would never do so while caring for patients. I suppose this shows just how far we’ve come from the days when I was a little girl … again, thankfully!
In general, I have a mostly trouble-free history with my teeth, so it was a surprise last week when a section of one of my molars broke off. It turned out to be a tooth my dentist had been observing because an exam had shown some weakness in that particular tooth. His subsequent exam indicated a crown would be necessary, so I went in today to get the process started.
As I get older, I think I’m not just a white-knuckled dental patient … I’m beginning to experience panic-attack symptoms! I can sit in the chair for a couple minutes with my mouth agape, but then I suddenly feel my throat beginning to close up! If I try to move my tongue around or clear my throat, there’s no breath to do so! Whatever pep talk I give myself, it quickly becomes a fight between gasping for breath and convincing myself I need to calm down! This experience is so out-of-character for me and terribly perplexing.
In an attempt to distract my visceral reactions away from the panic, today I tried to focus my mind on composing a poem (about my experience, of course). I don’t know if the poem mirrors anyone else’s experience, but it sure describes what happened to me as I sat helplessly in that chair!