The Dentist and the Power of the Spoken Word.

Do I have a phobia of going to the dentist? The answer is yes - absolutely.  And I don't think I am alone.  There are so many things in my past that led me to this problem. Some I didn't figure out until I was a young mother with tots. 

I am guessing here, but my first dental visit would have been around age five or six probably. This would have been 1960 or 1961. Way back then we were still in the children are seen and not heard, and they need to toughen up era.  Dentists weren't as specialized and they definitely weren't trained to treat kids.  I don't remember getting spoken to gently or having anything explained. You just opened wide in fear and froze. They did their thing.

That first visit the dentist found a bunch of fillings that needed to be done. In went the needle and the drilling began.  It was a horrible and terrifying experience for a young child. Your parent wasn't next to you. They were banished to the waiting room. The adults working on you didn't talk to you or say nice words.  You were just another body in the chair.  

Then there was the weird experience in university.  I actually went to a dentist, something I avoided as much as I could, and found my wisdom teeth needed to be taken out.  I was sent to a surgical centre were they again didn't really talk to me. They just tilted me back and put me out. As I was fading, however, they put a big rubber thing in my mouth to hold it open. I am claustrophobic and that set me off. I had nightmares the whole time and woke up crying.

That was it. Unless something actually hurt I didn't go to the dentist.  In 1984 when I moved to Canada, I started have tooth pain.  In I went to a new dentist who was wonderfully compassionate.  I hadn't had my teeth looked at or cleaned in ten years. They were a mess.  She was kind, encouraging, non-judgmental and gentle - all that I had missed in the past.  So began my getting in on a regular basis to get my teeth cleaned. All my experiences since then have been with amazing professionals and my kids had much better journey with their teeth. 

My next dentist took me through my child bearing years before she retired. Again, gentle and kind and she took the time to really listen. I shared that the sound of the drilling set me off, especially if the drilling was on top teeth. It was like finger on a chalkboard. I sometimes cried in my car after. She asked if I was musical - yes - and shared musical people often struggle with the sound of the drill.  Her worst patients played in a local symphony. And the sound transmitted more through the bones in the upper jaw. Whoa - that made so much sense. 

For the next decade I
explored what worked for me and what didn't. I tried listening to music, but the sound of the drill blended in between the notes. I tried happy gas and had a weird reaction - hallucinations.  I tried counting backwards from 100 over and over and pressing my fingers into my palms until they hurt.  Everything worked for a couple minutes, but nothing really helped me through the whole process. 

Then one day I was listening to a podcast or audio book at home and thought, why not try my earbuds and an audio recording next time. Honestly I didn't expect much as I had tried so many different things in the past. I was ready to suffer through like always.  But this time was different. EUREKA - it helped. 

Nothing is perfect.  However, concentrating on listening to someone speaking and trying to understand the words they were saying was way more distracting than music or counting.  And the more interesting and complicated the words, the ideas discussed, the more distraction it provided.  I had finally found a way to ease my aversion to the sounds the dental drill and the sonic cleaner made. 

Will this help you?  I am not sure. Some people seem to do well listening to music or watching the TV on the ceiling.  Those just didn't work for me.  Listening and absorbing what someone was saying was the key for me.  We all know there is power in words, whether spoken or written. Here is just one more example.