I am 35 years old and deathly afraid of the dentist. Up until a couple years ago, I could count on one hand how many times I had been in the last decade, and the only reason I went then, was because the tooth I had broken two years prior was no longer responding to reiki and had kept me up all night. Finally, the pain was severe enough, I was willing to do whatever it took to make it stop. At 6 a.m. my google search found me a dentist in Detroit that could see me an hour later on a Saturday. I had a full-blown root canal that morning.
Since getting married in 2016 I have at-least gone for yearly cleanings with my wife and oldest kid. We go as a family, otherwise, I wouldn’t go at all. Last year I broke a tooth, I thought I could be an adult and take myself to the dentist, so, I got a baby-sitter and psyched myself up mentally. I took all the Bach Flower Essences I could, did some breathing exercises, and thought I was ready – I was wrong. After reaching for the doctors’ hand more than once, and telling him repeatedly I wasn’t ready, he politely asked me to reschedule and sent me home with a Xanax prescription. So, I did, and I came back a few weeks later with Xanax in my system and a designated driver. It was tolerable but still a stressful experience. Not to mention I was somewhat embarrassed it took all that to get my ass to the dentist to repair a chipped tooth. Who the hell needs benzos to get a tooth repaired!
Three weeks ago, the cap covering that full-blown root canal I acquired 10 years ago fell off while chewing gum and merging into traffic. I wanted to puke. I knew what this meant. I pushed the appointment out as far as I could although they insisted I get in “as soon as possible.” I picked a day my wife was available to drive me, and I could take the prescribed Xanax I still had in my cupboard. Thursday came, and of course I almost cancelled a handful of times, but I knew that nub of a tooth I had on the side of my mouth, uncovered by the cap, could only hide behind that covid mask for so long. I hate taking meds, especially benzos. It feels so incongruent with everything I believe. I thought maybe if I wasn’t going to get a shot, I could skip the Xanax. So, I called the office and asked what my procedure would be like and if I was going to get a shot. The gal on the other end, who knows me well, said, “Yes, Dottie. You are going to get a shot. It’s just sleepy juice, that’s what we tell our kiddos. It’s just a quick poke, no big deal. Bring some headphones and listen to some music that might help.” I nervously laughed. It was a big deal, a big effing deal. However, the idea of listening to music was fantastic. How had I never thought of that?! I decided on half a pill, and the smaller half at that.
Ten minutes out from our arrival, I wasn’t feeling any anxiety relief from the half pill I had taken an hour ago. I wanted to panic, and we weren’t even there yet! But we did get there, and on time at that, only because Sabrina was driving. I got out of the car as my seven year old offered her bits of reassurance and my wife laughed.
They waited for me in the parking lot about forty-five minutes. It went faster and better than I had anticipated. I wore one earbud in my left year so I could listen to my phone and the staff as necessary. I chose a guided meditation on Katherine O’leary’s YouTube channel, Field of Vision. She’s an old favorite. I didn’t necessarily fall into my typical deep meditative trance, nor did I expect that. However, I think there was something about it simply playing in the background that allowed my mind and body to relax and move towards those familiar states of being, allowing me to dissociate from the pain and fear I always experience in that chair. The doctor complimented me on how “well I did despite being so nervous.” It really wasn’t terrible. Who knows, maybe it was the meditation, or maybe the Xanax had finally kicked in. I couldn’t say for sure. But I feel confident enough that next time, I’m going to skip the medicine all together and try the meditation. It was the best experience I’ve ever had at the dentist.
There are tons of studies showcasing the positive effects of hypnosis and guided imagery before, during, and after medical procedures. This experience has left me intrigued and curious. I encourage everyone who would rather avoid or cannot tolerate strong medications for pain and anxiety to explore the world of hypnosis and guided meditation. With Kathy’s permission, I will share a link to her YouTube channel at a later time; she seems to be hard to find without it. However, I don’t think there is a shortage of similar videos on the web. I trust we always find exactly what we need when our intention is that we will. The Universe sure works in mysterious ways, and I’m so glad I called beforehand to ask if I was getting a shot!
With grace and gratitude…