Thank you @PetiteSheWolf
The first stressful thing turned out to be not terribly bad. At my most recent dental checkup I received the news I have feared at every dental checkup for the past four and a half decades: I had a cavity. Two, my dentist thought.
I had previously had three teeth filled when I was a child. My dentist at that time shot me up with so much novocaine my nose was numb, my chin was numb, and my ear was numb. But I still felt his drill! My childhood experiences with fillings were so horrible that to this day the sound of a drill sets my nerves on edge. And I'm not even confident that I needed any of those fillings at the time. The method my then-dentist used for supposedly detecting fillings is not used anymore because it results in a large number of false-positives--especially in teeth shaped like mine! Of course I did not know this back then. I was a little kid. Too little to stand up for myself. And my mother wanted me punished for eating Hallowe'en candy. So I got the fillings.
Jump to nine years later, and a different dentist told then teen-aged me that I needed three more fillings. Of course, due to the trauma of my childhood fillings, I was none too keen to have this happen. Also, I had good reason not to trust that dentist. And I had learned to stand up for myself by then. So I convinced my father to let me go to a different dentist for a second opinion. The second dentist said it was "a judgement call" but he agreed not to drill my teeth. He thought pit and fissure sealant would be enough. So I had the pit and fissure sealant done on all my remaining intact molars and, until last week, none of those teeth were ever drilled. Clearly my instincts had been correct and the dentist I distrusted has been wrong!
Jump forward another 36 years and I was sitting in my current dentist's chair, receiving last month's bad news.
I mostly like my current dentist. She's friendly and compassionate and kind. And I believe she is competent. She wants my money rather more than I want to part with it. I've had to have a couple of conversations with her related to that. And I referred to her as "the dentist" for eight years because she didn't offer me her name in all that time, and I am not a fan of the class system which underpins the use of titles. But she earned her DDS in 2015, graduating top of her class. She's up-to-date on current dentistry practices, and she knows her stuff. I certainly trust her methods more so than I did those of my childhood and teen-aged dentists. But two fillings? I was not ready to hear that!
So we talked. She offered me her first name that day, for the first time. This makes it much easier for me to talk to her now. I asked her about pit and fissure sealant. She doesn't often do it on adults, but agreed that I'm a special case who could still benefit from it. She told me she would not feel comfortable doing it on one of the teeth she had recommended for filling, however. The issue with the second tooth is minor, and she agreed to try just sealing that one. But the one tooth she was fairly confident was cavitated. Sealant would not stop the decay if that was the case, but she would no longer be able to see what was going on with the tooth as the sealant she uses is opaque. She then told me she would not be offended if I got a second opinion.
I cannot afford a second opinion. And I didn't have the reasons to distrust my current dentist that I had for the previous one. So I agreed to the one filling and sealant for everything else. Then I waited in terror for D-day to arrive.
I was seriously stressed over the prospect of having a tooth drilled again. My dentist told me the freezing agents they have now are better than what they used 45 years ago. She also said she was not into torture and that if the freezing didn't work for me we would try sedation. I hoped she was right about the newer freezing agents, because I wasn't too keen on plan B.
When Drilling Day arrived I dug out my CD walkman, thinking I could put headphones on and listen to music during the procedure that makes me feel strong and confident and capable of conquering my greatest challenges. But I didn't want to risk developing the same negative reaction to my favourite music as I have to the sound of drills. So I ended up leaving my music at home and listening to the looped "spa music" they put on in the dentist's office for me.
Anyhow... after all of that: the new freezing agent worked for me! I didn't feel the drill at all. Of course, I could still hear
the drill. That was by far the worst part of the experience.
Afterward, I talked to my dentist about my hated electric toothbrush. All of her hygienists recommend them. Strongly. I resisted for years but finally caved to pressure from my hygienist. But I hate the thing. The sound and the vibration both remind me of a drill. I used to be religious about brushing my teeth twice a day. But since I got the electric I have only been brushing my teeth once a day, because I just could not make myself do it more often than that. And when I go to bed stupidly late at night, the reason is often because I have been procrastinating from brushing my teeth! Also: I do not have a very big mouth. I have many times hit my top teeth with the hard, plastic, vibrating backside of the brush while brushing my lower teeth. And I have to keep my mouth open so wide to use the electric I have to brush my teeth with my head tilted far back to avoid drooling toothpaste all over myself. Which gives me a sore neck. I was actually brushing my teeth with one hand on the back of my head, to support its weight, and with my eyes closed because the angle at which I had to have my head tilted would otherwise have me starting directly into my bathroom lights.
"Is the electric toothbrush really hugely better than a manual one?" I asked her.
"It's not hugely
better," she told me. "Most people do get a better clean with an electric, because they just don't brush their teeth properly with a manual brush. But you're so conscientious about your dental hygiene, you were probably doing just as good of a job with a manual brush. And you're definitely better off to use a manual brush twice a day than an electric only once a day!"
So at the end of the day:
- I survived the filling!
- My dentist finally shared her first name with me.
- I am back to brushing my teeth twice a day with my nice, friendly, manual toothbrush.
- I am sleeping better and on a more regular schedule. (Other than this past weekend--but that was due to the other stressful thing.)