Friday, December 16, 2011

Dental Drama

As a general rule, I'm pretty quick to confess my many mess-ups, mishaps, quirks and idiosyncrasies. Laugh with me, laugh at me--I don't care. It just feels good to laugh. That said, I've felt reluctant to share my most recent embarrassing moment, even though Jason's been begging me to blog about it. Not only is it really embarrassing, as in honey-I'm-sorry-but-we-have-to-move-because-I-can-longer-show-my-face-in-public humiliation, but it means I have to reveal one of my darkest secrets:

I have a pathological fear of dentists.

Seriously. I'm neurotic. I think my terror may be connected to having the anaesthesia wear off early when my wisdom teeth were taken out at a dental school. Or perhaps my psyche was damaged when my first cavities were filled immediately following my first gynecological appointment. (Two unenviable pre-marital tasks before being booted off my parents' insurance.) Jason, however, is convinced that my angst stems from singing about a sadistic dentist during a high school production of "Little Shop of Horrors."

No matter what the cause, I absolutely dread going to the dentist. After an appointment a few months ago, I told the receptionist that I'd rather go through labor than sit in a dental chair. She thought I was joking, but I was dead serious. The papery bibs, the dehumanizing masks, the harsh noise, the sharp instruments, the acrid smell of fluoride--it's enough to make my heart race just thinking about it. All of which probably explains why my girls never had a proper dental appointment-- until Tuesday.

Even though I knew that a check-up was long overdue, I kept procrastinating because I simply couldn't stomach the thought of visiting the dentist any more than absolutely necessary for human survival. Finally, I lighted upon a solution: my husband! If I scheduled the appointments far enough in advance, Jason could take the girls for me. All went well with my scheme until Monday when Jason learned of an unexpected, last minute business trip to Salt Lake City. I was trapped.

Now, at this point in the story you have to understand that Jason and I go to separate dentists. Jason goes to a super nice dentist who lives up the street and has an office around the corner. A family man, this dentist is regularly seen strolling with his wife and their dog. He and Jason shared a tent during a scout campout last year. On Sundays, I sing with this dentist in our church choir and teach his daughter in Young Womens.

Even though our neighborhood dentist is both skilled and friendly, I, on the other hand, choose to drive across town to a dentist where I can slip by incognito. His brusque, somewhat cold demeanor is more congruous with my imaginations of how a proper dentist should act. Moreover, I can suffer through the appointment privately and leave it all behind me, at least for another six months. To me, baring your dirty teeth is like baring your dirty underwear. The last thing I want is for someone I respect to get stuck examining my nasty plaque. When I go to church on Sunday, I have plenty to feel guilty about without seeing my dentist at the church organ. Every note seems to ring, "Repent and floss much more."

So, you can imagine my horror when I realized that I not only had to take my kids to the dentist, but to the dentist who plays the piano for them in Sunday School. I was mortified. I had nightmares. (Seriously, I really did.) I nearly canceled the appointments all together, but finally decided that was ridiculous. My personal neuroses had interfered with the oral health of my children long enough. I was a big girl, and I could handle this. We went to the appointment.

From the moment we got in the door, I felt anxious. The girls, on the other hand, were amazing--chipper and excited. When the hygienist came out and asked who wanted to go first, Talia raised her hand and squealed "Me, me, me!" Mercifully, I was not asked to accompany her back to the chair. Even in the waiting room, I was uptight and distracted. I tried to read a few magazine articles, but soon found myself pacing. Nothing on TV could hold my interest. Eli's chatter went unnoticed. Time crawled. After what seemed like an eternity, Talia and Brooklyn traded places. Eager to escape the office for a few minutes, I drove Talia up the road and dropped her off at preschool. When I got back, I overheard a few snippits of conversation. "Cavities." "Both girls." "Need filled."

My heart raced. My stomach sank. A lump formed in my throat. Despite my best efforts to keep my composure, I knew I was losing the battle. You see, it's one thing to let your morbid fear of dentists rot your own teeth. It's quite another to allow your psychosis to affect your children. And, let's face it--when you're the Mom, it's always your fault.

I was a horrible mother. My kids' teeth were rotting because of me. The whole world knew. And worst of all, we would have to go back to the dentist.

When the hygienist finally came out to say that the dentist was ready to speak with me, I knew I couldn't handle it. Like a crazy woman, I begged them to please just give me the paperwork and let me go. My husband would call, they could give him the full report, schedule any return appointments, whatever. (Even in my disheveled state, I knew one thing quite clearly--I wouldn't be back.) As for the dentist, I asked them to please send my kindest regards and apologies. I'd talk to him in church on Sunday.

And with that, I gathered up my son, my purse, a few tattered shreds of dignity, and fled right out the front door. But as I was loading Eli into his car seat, the receptionist came flying after me. Couldn't I come in for just a second? The dentist at least wanted to say hello. Trailing behind this woman was something I had forgotten.

My daughter.

I completely forgot my daughter. In my neurotic attempt to flee the office as fast as humanly possible, I left her sitting in the dentist's chair. While I presume that I would have noticed her absence soon (if not, I suppose she could have walked home), my neglect is concrete evidence: when it comes to dentists, I absolutely cannot be trusted.

And so, face burning with shame, I slunk back into the office for several minutes of the world's most awkward small talk. Muttering incoherently about dental offices and dirty underwear (why would I say that!), I foggily tried to answer questions about choir and plans for Christmas. Meanwhile, my brain is misfiring, trying to grasp how this nice, friendly man in front of me can be the mean, awful dentist with the terrible dental report for my children. Finally, in a moment of mercy, Kevin (no longer a dentist) remarked, "You can't even concentrate in here, can you?"

And with that, I was dismissed. Let go. Freed from the dental prison. This time, I carefully gathered up all my children, sank into the car, and realized there is only one option. We have to move.

Anybody have a spare basement?


Kes LT said...

That is exactly why there are no: candies, gummy bears, chocolade, soft drinks in our home. Kids don't even know the taste of it. The sweetest thing girls eat is fruits and ice cream. Cartoon of Hello Kitty and cavities helped as well.

Erin said...

Oof. It sounds so awful that it's almost laughable, except that I think you are being serious. Don't blame yourself for your kids' cavities. When Scott was tiny, he had 5, and he got exactly the same oral hygiene care and ate the same things as Ethan (Mr. No Cavities). Some enamel is good and some is less good.

Julie L said...

I want to laugh, too, except, really, Kara, that is absolutely no fun for you! I suspect we all have our ONE (if not more) insanity fear. For our daughter Heather it's anything that makes loud sudden noises (like fireworks and balloons). For me it's seeing people balancing on tops of rocks 100 ft. above sure death. Totally irrational, but totally real!

Do not blame yourself for the cavities, though. They do not come from going to a dentist. I was married before my first trip to a dentist. Fortunately for me, I only had one small cavity - a blessing from growing up in a home with limited sugary treats. Erin is so right - the enamel thing. Some are blessed with it better than others.

However, that said, the totally irrational fear can be dealt with and I'd be willing to bet that Kevin could give you some advice in a non-dental office environment. Good luck with that one. Unfortunately dental work is one of the necessary evils of our lives.

(Thanks for sharing your chink. You are a very brave person.)

Julie L said...

That was supposed to say cavities do not come from NOT going to a dentist. Oops.

Tiffany said...

Thanks for sharing your story. Even though I don't have a fear of dentists, I have yet to take my kids as well. It's on my "to do list", but keeps getting pushed to the bottom. Your story has helped give me a little push and made me realize that I really do need to get them in soon. Good luck with all future dental experiences!

michelle said...

Kara--I've had my own dreaded dental experiences. As a kid, we saw the dentist from our ward who played the organ and I was so nervous around him all the time even though he was a family friend. I would scream and cry and run out of dental chairs. When my family moved I had a dentist that tormented me with jokes about liking his son whom I always thought was conceited and never someone I wanted to talk to. Finally my parents got a dentist I liked, but alas I moved away and got married. My Illinois dentist was okay, but the one I've seen in SD completely lacked tact and after seeing him three times and this last visit being told I had six cavities and needed a crown, I decided to get a second opinion. I like this new man's personality and he seems to be more cautious of my concerns. I still did have to have three teeth filled and get a major filling that later in my life will be a crown--but at least didn't need an immediate root canal. I've asked lots of questions and learned more about dental health. Even though I am excellent at brushing and flossing, I apparently have other issues conspiring against me. Did you know that eating any carbs continually can lead to decay? I always thought it was just candy, but even eating bread can lead to a change in ph that can affect decay. I've learned that I really need to stop snacking if I'm going to conquer the beast. Life seems totally unfair when it comes to dental health. Mike is an example of someone who flosses like one week a year and doesn't always brush and has only had one cavity in his life. My mom said the same thing about that she'd rather go into labor than the dentist. She was serious too. So anyway, I am just rambling her to let you know that you are not alone in your dental anxieties.

Adam said...

Completely hilarious. I had a hard time reading the post out loud to Adam through my bursts of laughter. Furthermore, I had no idea that my own fear of dentistry was clearly genetic. See, it's not our fault - we can blame Mom and Dad!

Brittney Richards said...

Wow. I don't know what advice to give except grin and bear it. However, the grin part might be hard in the presence of a dentist. Honestly, I think good, honest dentists are hard to come by. I wasn't real impressed with the last dentist Bruce and I went to - it had been 5 years since I've gone to a dentist before that. Look on the bright side - at least you and all of your kids still have teeth!!

Susie said...

I have tears running down my face!! Wonderful description of the experience. I was laughing so hard towards the end I had to blink the tears away. (Not quite as intense as late night family prayer time, but close!) Thanks for sharing your experience. It was GREAT! I, too, didn't go to a dentist until long after I was married and I had three cavities (I had more than you, Julie!) Your "family" dentist sounds like a great guy. I'm sure he'll be willing to work with Jason to get their cavities filled :)

Jason said...

I've known you were a little nuts since the day you agreed to marry ME, but now it is certifiable! I do believe that is the most hilarious post you've written to date!

Sincere apologies for running off to Salt Lake...

Brian and Tonya said...

First of all, can I just say that you are such a good writer.
Second of all, I'm sorry for that trip. Boo for dentists. And cavities do not make you a bad mom.
Third of all, thank you for reminding me that I am in dire need of a dentist appointment. I have put it off for far too long.

Justin said...

Oh. My. Goodness. Justin here. We just pulled up this post after Lance told us how hilarious it was. We were all laughing out loud. Kara, you are an amazing writer! Very vivid. We're all curious if there is a follow-up post in store examining the evolution of your dentophobia over the last 2 years?