Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Overcoming Fear

Well, I faced something today that I've been pretty scared about for a long time.

I got a root canal.

My poor tooth on the upper back left side had been hurting for about 2 years.  Yes, I put it off for 2 years.  It was so slight and infrequent at first...then I learned how to only chew on the right side of my mouth...before long that was just the norm and I barely noticed the twinge of pain in my tooth.

I should have faced it a long time ago.  I tried to face it once about a year ago.  I went to a dentist and even went to the endodontist he recommended, but I could never make the appointment for the actual root canal.

Finally, I had a good friend who is currently in dental school recommend the best dentist ever.  This trusted dentist could do the root canal without even referring me to a specialist.  I went in to get my teeth checked, and for the first time I felt like I received a clear picture of the problem and how to remedy it.  I felt like I was in very capable hands.  It wasn't completely certain if I would need a filling or a root canal, but the signs were pointing to the worst case scenario.

I made the appointment for early May but fell sick the day before and had to cancel.  Part of me was a bit relieved because I was dreading this possible root canal.  I rescheduled for today, and since I didn't get sick last night...I had to go in and face it.

I arrived feeling nervous.  I told the dental assistant about that and said "yes" to her offer of nitrous oxide. I also made it clear to the assistant and dentist that I wanted them to err on the side of "too numb" instead of "not numb enough."  I really did not want to feel this.

Now, it's been a while since I had any dental work done, but I think they had that gas turned as high as it goes because within 2 minutes I totally busted out laughing.  And this was no giggle, but I was hysterically laughing with tears streaming down my face.  I was kind of out of it but I could tell the dentist and assistant were cracking up about it, too.  It took me several minutes to calm down I was laughing so hard.  Turns out that really helped me break the nervousness I had been feeling.  I was ready to get this thing over with.

The shots were fine.  I wasn't worried about them at all.  My main concern was that halfway through the drilling I would suddenly feel some kind of sharp terrible pain.  So every once and a while I'd ask "If I haven't felt anything yet, is it likely I am going to feel anything soon?"  The dentist was sweet to reassure me that if I had not felt anything yet then he was positive it wasn't going to happen.  That helped me calm down and endure the long procedure.  I would be interested to know what all he was doing to my tooth, if only it wasn't my mouth.  I think I would find it fascinating, but in this case ignorance is truly bliss.  If I had known or even if I found out now what was going on I don't think I could mentally handle it.

Finally, the work came to an end, the temporary filling was in place, the gas was removed, and I was free to go.  I survived one of my biggest fears!  It turns out I had nothing to be worried about.  It didn't hurt at all, and there is only some slight pain (from the shots I think, not the tooth work) after the fact.

I'm feeling a bit proud of myself tonight.  I really didn't want to do that.  I mean, it was hard!  I was terrified about having a root canal.  It took every ounce of my energy, self-control, and faith to face it this morning.  But I did it, and now it's over.

I guess it's true what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  I do feel stronger tonight after facing a fear.  Maybe whatever the next fear is, it will be a little easier because of my success today.  Who knows.

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