My Dentistry Journey
Here's the deal: I hate my teeth. Like, really really hate my teeth. So much, in fact, that I used to Photoshop them before putting photos on Facebook (now I just don't post photos showing my teeth at all, unless they're in shadow or I'm a fair distance from the camera). Finally, I decided enough was enough. I somehow summoned up enough courage to get myself down the dentist and do something about it!
When I mentioned this post on Twitter, a lot of people said it would be helpful to them so I've included as much detail as possible. I want to reassure anybody who is in the same position as I was, make recommendations and also tell you exactly what to expect, so make yourselves comfy because this is going to be a long post!
Since I was in primary school, my teeth have been discoloured. Perfectly healthy- I've never had a filling- but just an odd colour. However, I didn't exactly help things when I stopped going to the dentist. I'd never been especially afraid of the dentist (although I did have a horrendously traumatic time with the orthodontist which has probably had a bigger psychological impact than I first thought) but I just never got round to making the next appointment. As time went by, I became more self-conscious of my teeth and, of course, the longer I left it, the harder it was to take that first step. I wasn't scared of being in pain or of what might happen- I was purely scared of showing a professional my teeth and having them judge me.
This may be the most millenial thing ever but what eventually convinced me to get back in the chair was a Snapchat filter. You know the pirate one with really white teeth? (Surely a pirate should have horrible teeth... Or maybe the filter is supposed to give you bad teeth but mine are so horrific that it actually makes them look better ell-oh-ell) I was completely transfixed with this filter. I kept smiling, pulling silly faces, growling at the camera and staring at my teeth the whole time. I wanted those teeth so badly that I began to cry and imagining how it would feel if they were real was the push I needed to make that appointment.
BOOKING THE APPOINTMENT
Because of my fear, I decided to go private and began looking into clinics that specialised in helping nervous patients. Initially, I thought I might have to go to London but then I found a chain called Oasis Dental Care who had a practice in Fleet, a nearby town. Looking on the practice page, they specifically mentioned nervous patients so seemed perfect. When booking the appointment, I mentioned that it had been a long time, I needed a lot of work done and I was very nervous. To my surprise, the receptionist was very understanding and friendly, and booked me a new patient exam with Petya, who was one of their especially patient dentists.
When my appointment came round, I was absolutely terrified. I was practically in tears as I filled out the medical form and sat in the waiting room. However, I did notice immediately that there was no odour in the air at all. You know that dentist smell? Not the slightest hint of it. It also helped that the practice has been converted from a Victorian house and little has been changed from the original structure- there are still fireplaces, heavy wooden doors and stained glass sash windows. This made it feel a lot less clinical than your standard dentist and, since the walls are so thick and all treatment rooms are upstairs, I couldn't hear any of those scary whizzy noises.
The dentist came to collect me from the waiting room and I was immediately reassured when I saw her. She had a huge smile on her face and just looked like a really friendly, approachable person. When we got to the treatment room, she asked me to sit in the chair and we just had a chat, along with the dental nurse. At first, it was about silly things- ice cream and PopTarts- which I really appreciated because it meant I could acclimatise to the environment and calm down a bit, rather than just getting straight on with it. Once I was feeling more comfortable, Petya asked me why it had been so long, why I've decided to come now and what my hopes and fears were, as well as practical questions such as if I had any pain or trouble eating. The receptionist had already told her that I was nervous and that it had been a long time, so I didn't have that awkward discussion. Both Petya and the nurse were very patient and compassionate, listening to my nervous waffling without rushing me and comforting me when I started crying. Since my biggest fear was having people looking at my teeth, and I'd explained this to everyone only to be met with reassurance, I was feeling much calmer and was ready to be examined.
Petya had a very brief look in my mouth with that poking tool and started by discussing my front teeth. These were the ones I was most worried about as I could see they had problems. She explained that I should make an appointment with the hygienist to remove the staining and build up, and described exactly what the hygienist would do, as well as ensuring I understood the issues I may have afterwards, such as temporary sensitivity and gum recession. She then said "It's your back teeth I'm worried about".
Typical! Just as I'm starting to feel like everything's going to be ok, it turns out there's something to be concerned about. She set up an X ray, which included me putting a piece of plastic about the size and shape of a credit card in my mouth and gripping the handle with my teeth. It felt awkward and uncomfortable as it was digging into my cheek and the roof of my mouth, but it wasn't painful and was only in there for about 10 seconds.
While she waited for the images to load, she had another look in my mouth and poked my back teeth with the poking tool (official name). She then asked if I eat a lot of chocolate and when I said I didn't, asked if I had eaten much as a child. Needless to say, this was not making me feel at ease. I sat there wondering how bad could a root canal be really when she returned and said "Surprisingly, you don't need any fillings".
Sweet, sweet relief! Not a single filling! Apparently, I do have a couple of fissures but with good oral hygiene, these should recover. To end the appointment, Petya reminded me to make an appointment with the hygienist and then to return to her 2-3 weeks afterwards to discuss cosmetic procedures. She recommended I start using Sensodyne Pronamel Sensitive Mouthwash and showed me what it looks like on Google Images so I could be sure of getting the right one. She also explained how it works and why it will help in my situation (it makes it difficult for bacteria to cling to the teeth).
I left feeling like an enormous weight had been lifted. It was such a relief to get it done and I was overwhelmed by how supportive everybody had been. For once, I wasn't embarrassed by my teeth- I was proud that I was getting them fixed and even somewhat looking forward to my next appointment!
As positive as I felt leaving my first appointment, I was still nervous when I saw the hygienist a week later. Since I hadn't met her, my fears about showing people my teeth crept in as I was afraid of her reaction. I needn't have worried!
Evidently Petya had already spoken to the hygienist, Lisa, as straight away she said "I hear the dentist isn't your favourite place". Like everybody else, she was hugely reassuring and friendly throughout the appointment. We discussed the issues I had and then she had a look at my teeth. Since there was a lot of work, she said we could clean the whole teeth in one appointment or, if I preferred, we could do two more thorough sessions. I appreciated this as the appointments are fairly pricey but chose to have the two sessions. She then gave me the choice of working on the top or bottom teeth first. Since the bottom teeth needed the most work and were affecting me the most, I asked her to start there.
Before we began, she explained that I was the one in control and if I needed to stop, I just had to raise my hand since she wanted to take it at my own pace. She doesn't work with an assistant so I had to hold the suction thing in place myself, which was a little weird but not as difficult as it sounds. Lisa manipulated the nozzle so it was where she needed it and I just had to make sure it didn't run away. I'm not sure if this is a practice-specific thing or an indication of how long it's been since I went to the dentist, but I was surprised that it was made of plastic rather than metal. This was a lot more comfortable and made everything feel less scary and clinical. While I held the hoover up, Lisa went to work with the whizzy thing and the water jet, cleaning away the build up.
Of course it felt uncomfortable, scary and definitely not pleasant at all but I was pleased to find it didn't hurt a bit. Throughout the process, Lisa was hugely reassuring and kept praising me for doing well. At every stage, she told me what she was doing and what was coming next, so there were no surprises. Halfway through, she gave me a little break and reminded me that I could stop at any time. I didn't take her up on this though as I was keen to get it all done and out the way. During the second half of the procedure, I focused on the water from the jet that had missed my mouth and started dripping down my neck to take my mind off things.
The whole process took about 15 minutes in total. Afterwards, Lisa showed me how to floss the correct way and how to use interdental brushes, before giving me some to try at home along with a toothpaste sample. She recommended I get an electric toothbrush and made suggestions on specific models to buy, although she did make it clear that these were just options and I should get one within my budget.
Just like before, I left hugely relieved and feeling positive about my next appointment, which was booked for two weeks' time. In the meantime, I was prepared for the sensitivity that I'd been warned about but, to my relief, it never came. I applied all the lessons I'd learned during the appointment and kept my teeth in tip-top condition. In fact, I even started showing off my bottom teeth, which is something I never thought I would do!
By now, I wasn't at all nervous, although I was concerned to see a little bit of build up had crept back into a little nook of two bottom teeth (Shout out to Sam and her dentist brother for their help when I was panicking about this!) When Lisa asked how I'd been getting on, I mentioned this to her and she didn't even bat an eyelid. She explained that it's quite common for this to happen along the bottom teeth and she'd give them another little going over during the appointment.
I had an inkling that my top teeth would be more painful and I was right. Although there wasn't as much work to do, they were a lot more sensitive. The pain wasn't constant- it was just quick, sharp flashes whenever the tool went particularly high up- and it was over quickly. Another issue was that my top teeth bled a lot more than my bottom (in fact, when I was given the mirror to look at my teeth, I had smudges of blood all over my cheeks and chin!) but the pain was over as soon as it was finished. Once my top teeth were done, Lisa returned to the bottom teeth and gave them another quick clean, removing the build up that had crept in.
Afterwards, I was asked to make another appointment with her in a month's time to see how they're coming along and hopefully after that, I won't need to see her for another four months.
WHAT I LEARNED
It's amazing how much I built up the experience in my head and how absolutely wrong I was about everything! Simply Health have been collecting dental myths that patients have believe and, oh boy, did I have a few!
Electric toothbrushes are best
I've always thought manual brushing was better but I was completely wrong! Turns out, electric toothbrushes are much more effective at getting all between the teeth and the big bonus is that they have a timer so you know exactly when you've brushed enough. I want this rose gold electric toothbrush because a) blogger cliché and b) it has a fancy app with all sorts of special features. I'm a sucker for a gadget! In the meantime, I've changed my brushing technique- I was once told that the best way to brush your teeth was away from the gum but now it seems circular motions are better.
Floss in a c-shape
Please tell me I'm not the only one who was flossing in a sawing motion? I'm not sure where I got that from because it's not like anybody ever taught me how to floss. I just kind of assumed that was correct. Nope, wrong again! Wrap the floss around your tooth and pluck it out again. It felt weird at first but it's so much more satisfying, not to mention healthier! While I'm at it, floss before brushing your teeth, not after. Does everybody else already know this?
Interdental brushes are for everyone
When I had braces, I'd see interdental brushes for sale at the orthodontist so assumed they were something to do with braces. Not so. Everybody can- and arguably should- use them. Admittedly, it feels horrible at first slotting what is essentially a teeny-tiny toilet brush into seemingly non-existent gaps between your teeth but there's no better way to clean right along the gumline.
I've booked another hygienist appointment for the beginning of November and, if everything is healing ok, I'll be able to make another appointment to see Petya around the end of the month so we can talk about cosmetic procedures. At the moment, I think I'll just go with some whitening as I'm fairly happy with the position of my teeth, although I do have two crooked teeth at the bottom from where I didn't wear my retainer. Of course, I'll be writing an update post at some point in the future. I can't wait for my new, improved teeth!
As I said riiight at the beginning (are you still with me? I promised this would be long!), I chose to go private and this means the cost of the appointments soon add up. My new patient exam was £66 and each hygienist appointment is £58 meaning that by Christmas, when I've had my next hygienist and dentist appointments, I will have racked up a cost of £298. Eek! However, this has been distributed across three months and I could have spread my appointments out even further to lessen the impact. Despite the hefty price tag, it's been worth every single penny. I've had longer appointments, meaning I could take them at my own pace and spend time getting comfortable first, and the service has been absolutely incredible.
If you're nervous about seeing the dentist and are worried about how much work you need, I urge you to make the appointment. I know how scary it is but honestly, it wasn't anything like I imagined. I've had such an amazingly positive experience and fully recommend Oasis Dental Care Fleet if you're local. I am so incredibly proud of myself for making this change and excited to see how things change over the next few months. Hopefully soon I'll be beaming like a bizarrely-white-toothed Snapchat pirate!
Post written in collaboration with Simply Health. All opinions about Oasis Dental Care are my own and this post has not been written in partnership with them. Affiliate links have been included in this post.
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