So, quick, without thinking too much, what was that first emotion you felt when you read the title of this blog? We’d wager your first feeling wasn’t joy. It probably wasn’t nostalgia either. It probably wasn’t a sense of accomplishment, was it?
Regardless of how long it has actually been since you have been, we’d put good money on guessing that, for many of you, some sort of feeling of guilt or anxiety is what you felt. Did we guess right?
It’s a funny thing, we go see the GP with a sore throat, pain in the knee, or even for an annual physical and how many of us feel guilty walking in the door? Perhaps a few but not most. But you know what? Most people feel some sort of guilt about the state of their teeth. You have that sinking feeling that you’ve just not done a good job caring for our teeth. In the days leading up to the appointment, you put in some extra time with the brush and floss because you know you’re going to open wide for the hygienist and the truth will be laid bare. You expect a disapproving ” tsk, tsk, you haven’t been flossing, have you?”
Now how do we know this? How did we guess correctly? Well, we hear it from everybody! And in that lies the first part of the remedy we have to offer today. You are not alone! We all can struggle to take care of our teeth at times. Of course, it is true that the daily habits of tooth care do have an impact on your oral health. But we are all human, we have busy lives, and we have urgent needs in front of us that scream for our attention. Getting the kids fed, washed, teeth brushed, and into bed takes so much energy. Everybody wants to just fall asleep without taking that last step of the day for their own teeth now and again. Getting out the door every day to work and missing that tooth brushing is an easy gain of a few minutes. You are not alone! It even happens to us dentists sometimes. We see dentists at our practice occasionally who have gotten behind on their tooth care.
So what do you expect your friends at BSDA are going to do when you show up with your unflossed teeth and guilt in hand? Most likely we’ll crack a joke with you to the effect of “Yeah, you and everybody else here!” and then get on with seeing what we need to do together to get you back on track.
But what if the problems actually are big?
Sometimes things do get out of hand and there is a real reason for anxiety. You know when that tooth that went from tingling, to sensitive, is now screaming pain at each bite, and you feel a few other places that are on the same path. You put it off as long as you can. “This is going to be costly, you think”. This is going to be uncomfortable . . . needles and drills and all that. This is going to take many appointments, how will I fit it in? Anxiety is a 100% appropriate feeling to have. We get it! It takes courage to face problems like this. It is so much easier to just put it off. Wouldn’t you just rather not even know what the dentist will say. Maybe it’ll get better, maybe the problem will just go away.
If this sounds like you, we have two things to say. Firstly, while we do enjoy the craft of dentistry and getting people on the path to health, we know our chairs are not the most comfortable places to sit, and our office may not be your favorite place to be. We get it, nobody wants to go to the dentist! But we try and have fun, try to be people that are enjoyable to be with even if the reason for the visit isn’t. We also have walked this path with many people and have a lot of hope and optimism about your ability to get back on track if things have gone south with your mouth.
But secondly, since good friends are honest with each other, we have to tell you that very few dental problems go away if you leave them alone. This may be true with most sore throats and many hurt knees but rarely with teeth. Dental problems just don’t get better on their own, they only get worse. But don’t worry, while the best time to go to the dentist may have been twice last year, the second best time is today!
Working through the anxiety.
Honest dentists do have to admit, many people have good reasons for the anxiety they feel; bad dentist stories are all too common. We’ve heard some doozies; especially from patients whose experience of dentists stretches back many decades. Dentistry used to be pretty rough 50-60 years ago. But believe us, if you haven’t been in for a while, our industry has come a long way in making things more comfortable and efficient.
But that doesn’t make the anxiety go away, especially if you have that sinking feeling that you’ve got a lot of problems in your mouth, and deep down you know they aren’t going to fix themselves. And while it may be a hard road, we’ve got some good news for you. You can overcome this. We’ve helped many people do it.
When a patient comes in after an extended period of time or with a bunch of problems It can feel overwhelming. But we don’t just look in your mouth and hand you a huge laundry list with a large dollar sign at the bottom and tell you we’ve got to do it all this month. We almost never have to take care of everything at once. We prioritize. We do the most important things first then move to the next things. We get our patient back to health in bitesize chunks. It might take 2 years or 3 years to get back to dental health but that’s ok. We can spread the costs and the visits over that time. We can look at your insurance benefits and strategize on how to spread the work out most cost effectively.
And do you know what we often find? As we start making progress over the months, patients get better at their own care. Coming to see us regularly and seeing the progress we make together makes something wonderful happen; the anxiety switch flips off. They gain a sense of control over their health. The doctors and hygienists are no longer people they hope to never have to see. They are people with whom they’ve got a relationship. They are people that you’ve come to know while working through problems together. That’s how friends are made!
Back on the path.
At that point, the guard can come down, and the anxiety and guilt can fall away. Once you’re back on track, coming for a visit doesn’t mean anything more than cleanings, check-ups, verifying, and celebrating that the work we’ve done is holding up perfectly and everything is going well. There is no big dental cloud hanging over the head, no dental guilt needed, no dental anxiety; just a team of dental friends who know you and with whom you’ve walked through a difficult but really valuable road to dental health.
So even if it’s been a while, pick up the phone, book online, and take that step. We’ll be happy to see you again and happy to see you more often.