I don’t like going to the dentist. I am pretty sure that there are actually very few people who are thrilled by the idea, but there are a number of people in the population, who actually have anxiety around going to the dentist and having dental treatment, and I am one of them. In fact, I have a condition partly exacerbated by being so sick when pregnant and partly triggered by anxiety called a hyperactive gag reflex. For me, even simple things like chewing gum, brushing my teeth and keeping the brush in my mouth too long, holding food in my mouth too long, certain textures of foods, can trigger my gag reflex.
This makes dental visits, ahem, fun. I am very fortunate that we are part of a lovely dental practice and my dentist, whilst being very sensible and no-nonsense, also is very aware of my problem and works very hard to help me with it. I am normally fine with a brief oral examination, and for him to look in my mouth and have a “brief poke about” as he calls it but anything more, like x-rays, fillings, dental work, or cleaning, require me to be calm, and not gagging so hard that I am sick, and the work isn’t able to be done.
I am generally pretty lucky. Despite my Scottish heritage (dental issues) and the issues I had when I was pregnant and so sick for so long, and also a slight sweet tooth, I don’t actually have many dental issues. But I do visit the dentist as I am supposed to for my checkups and when I do need something more than an examination done, I need a little bit of extra help.
I have tried all the tricks and tips to keep calm and deal with having someone fiddling about in my mouth, for longer than a minute or two. I have had hypnotherapy, I have tried calming techniques, herbal remedies, breathing stuff. None of them work.I have even tried booking my appointments late in the afternoon, and having a glass of wine before I go (yes, I know, no judging, but I was a bit desperate) and it didn’t help.
So, what is a girl who gags do?
My dentist thinks I need to pop to my GP and speak to them, and get a prescription for a one-off dose of diazepam. Yup, that’s right, he wants this girl to pop a valium before she plonks herself into the dentist’s chair.
I have actually done this before, and it works. It makes me calm, relaxed, and able to tolerate at least an hours of dental work with minimal anxiety and no gag reflex. Before the children were born, I had a filling repaired, and used a small dose of valium to get me through the appointment. Since then I have either been pregnant, or breastfeeding, or not needing dental work other than an examination, so I have either not been able to take it, or needed it. But now, the time has come, and I guess it’s off to see my GP and explain.
It’s one of prescription, of one tablet (which makes for fun explaining at the pharmacy) and 5mg does the job.
I used to feel ashamed and embarrassed about not being able to cope at the dentist and needing help. Very few people actually understand how awful it actually is to physiologically react to something so violently. Most people say “you need to get over it, just breathe” or similar unsympathetic mutterings.
However, I am a grown adult, who has started to accept that there are parts of my anxiety that I can deal with, with one-off pharmaceutical help, and I have decided that I am not going to be ashamed or embarrassed anymore. I will pop my pill, take my treatment, come home afterward and have a long nap (valium does that to me) and I will have clean teeth, a new, less ugly filling, and hopefully won’t have had a panic attack or thrown up in the dentists’ chair…
My name is Karen and I have a bit of a dental phobia, and I am not ashamed to do what I need to get me through that to look after my teeth. Valium it is then… 😉
If you have similar issues, I would love to hear from you and how you cope. I don’t, however, need a lecture on taking medication to help with anxiety triggers and I don’t want to be told that I need to try alternative remedies or calming techniques again.