Written by Jenny Morrill

Health

Dental Illness: The Sequel

When it comes to conjuring images to go with a trip to the dentist, Jenny Morrill struggles to get past Marathon Man. But what’s a woman to do when she’s half a tooth down?

An accurate depiction of Jenny’s cakehole.
Illustration by Jenny Morrill.

The other week, I wrote about my crippling dentist phobia.

After years of absolute certainty that I was going to die each time I went for a check-up, my dentist finally referred me for sedation to get a broken tooth fixed. This was after I involuntarily tried to punch him while simultaneously apologising.

There was no way around having this work done; I couldn’t chew on one side of my mouth, and although my broken tooth was near the back, I was still convinced I looked like the picture (right), every time I smiled*.
*NB: The fringe is accurate too – my boyfriend got over enthusiastic with the scissors, and now I look like the bloke from Slade.

The referral took me to a specialist clinic, and the first step was to go for an ‘assessment’. I didn’t realise this at the time – I thought I was getting everything done that day. So I wasted a lot of hormones worrying about it.

The dentist asked me, “What do you know about sedation?” like I was being interviewed for a job. I mumbled something about gas and air, but apparently they only do that for the kids.

Within about 30 seconds I was calm. Not off my face, not groggy, and not arguing with the dentist about breastfeeding. I was fully aware of what was going on, I just didn’t give a shit.”

She explained how they’d hook me up to an IV, while an anaesthetist stood over me checking my blood pressure and making sure I didn’t die.  She also made me sign three pages of forms acknowledging the possibility of various side effects, including ‘it might not even help’.

Then she called some other dentists in and they stood around me muttering in dentist language. If you’ve seen The Singing Detective, it was like the part where they all sing Dry Bones.

They never actually explained what they were going to do while I was under, they just said: “Well, we’ll try not to take it out…”

I left the appointment wondering if I could just eat soup for the rest of my life.

The intervening week was OK; I got through it by trying to block out any thoughts of the mystery treatment which awaited me. For some reason binge watching Hoarders really helped with this.

What I did do, though, was trawl the internet looking for other people’s experiences of sedation. The paperwork they gave me said I’d be drowsy for 24 hours, and must not drive, operate machinery, or post tweets that I think are really funny but no one else does (whoops).

I came across the following comments on a forum:
“I was trying to convince the dentist he had no knowledge about breastfeeding.”
“Just make sure you have a wee first. I had the sedation then wanted a wee. I’m sure everyone in the building saw my arse.”
“I have a huge fear of being put under and then just constantly farting and shitting myself.”
“I got rather giggly and into escaping down long hospital corridors, with my irritated friend in pursuit.”

Great.

I also started checking my horoscope, searching frantically for a clue that I wasn’t heading for a catastrophic end. But they just kept saying things like: “Today is a good day for romance”.

I didn’t sleep the night before. This wasn’t entirely bad, because I stayed up and listened to twelve episodes of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue. Every cloud and all that. But mostly I was worrying about being off my face, running round the surgery naked, and still having a broken tooth, which would eventually have to be knocked out with a hammer.

I don’t think I’ve ever gone so long without scratching my arse.

On the morning of my appointment, I was shaking so much, I couldn’t even make a cup of tea. The only time I’ve ever been that scared before was when I was queuing for Oblivion at Alton Towers. This was worse, because you don’t even get a souvenir photo when you go to the dentist. (Incidentally, I’m actually crying in my on-ride photo from Oblivion.)

With an hour to go, my mind started trying to think of ways to get out of it. I mean, if my flat were to burn down, I’d be too busy to go then.

My boyfriend manhandled me into the car and drove me to the dentist, where I refused to sit down in the waiting room, preferring to pass time pacing up and down, muttering to myself and scaring a small boy sitting a few feet away.

After what felt like a year (plus two wees), they took me into the room. I sat in the chair, unable to relax any part of my body. “Just relax,” they said. “Just shut your face,” I thought.

It was a bit better when I saw the IV they were putting in my arm – it was the skinniest needle I’d ever seen, attached to what I guess was a disposable ‘single serving’ portion of Midazolam. No drip, no needle the size of a telegraph pole – and I didn’t feel a thing as it was put in.

It was even better when the dentist informed me I only needed a filling – no smashing my teeth out with a hammer, after all.

They hooked me up to a heart monitor. At first, my heart rate was something approaching 2 Unlimited’s seminal hit No Limit, but when the drugs kicked in it was more like any song ever by Dido.

And that was it. Within about 30 seconds I was calm. Not off my face, not groggy, and not arguing with the dentist about breastfeeding. I was fully aware of what was going on, I just didn’t give a shit. I lay there like a ragdoll, not having an opinion on anything, and it was brilliant. If anything, it was like a bit of a holiday from being highly strung all the time.

You know the bit in Breaking Dawn (spoiler alert, like anyone cares) where the Cullens have to keep reminding Bella to move occasionally, so she looks human? It was like that. I don’t think I’ve ever gone so long without scratching my arse.

At one point, the dentist asked me to swallow the stuff in my mouth. I couldn’t be bothered to do this, so they helped me with that weird sucky thing. That was pretty much the only even slightly awkward part.

Afterwards, they made me wait in a room for half an hour, and then I had to walk up and down and touch my nose to prove I was OK to go home. I needn’t have spent the time practising saying the alphabet backwards.

At first, my heart rate was something approaching 2 Unlimited’s seminal hit No Limit, but when the drugs kicked in it was more like any song ever by Dido.

An hour later I was doing the washing up (at home – doing the dentist’s washing up would have been inappropriate). We watched TV and had a takeaway, and it was a perfectly normal evening.

The only lingering side effect was that I was more relaxed that I’ve been in a long time.

In fact, I liked the feeling of being relaxed so much that I thought seriously about buying some weed, but my boyfriend pointed out to me the last time we did I ended up convinced I had the answer to the universe, and that it involved Stephen Hawking and a reindeer, but I couldn’t quite explain how.

There didn’t appear to be any side effects the day after either, apart from I woke up with Wind Beneath My Wings stuck in my head, which doesn’t normally happen.

Best of all, I might even be able to go to the dentist normally without soiling myself now.

I realise the side effects of sedation aren’t one-size-fits-all; I might be a bit of an anomaly because I don’t tend to get side effects from stuff anyway. Possibly this is something to do with me being northern and therefore hard. But I’d have happily taken the side effects in exchange for a peaceful visit to the dentist.

If you’re terrified of going to the dentist like I am, I can’t recommend sedation enough – even if you do end up in the waiting room with your knickers over your head singing Auld Lang Syne.

@theworldofcrap

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Written by Jenny Morrill

Jenny writes for Den of Geek and anywhere else that will listen. To date, the most Trios she has eaten in a row is 20. Her blog is the place to be if you like Bungle and expired food. worldofcrap.co.uk