I'd never thought I would be one of those people who has to take a valium to go to the dentist. I've heard stories for years, people terrified of being in the dentist office, the procedures, the drills, the injections, the great discomfort of tools, water hoses, vacuum devices, all to manage and sustain the health of their teeth.
Last month I had an event at the dentist that has forever changed my tolerance and ability to manage my anxious imagination while at the dentist. I did not appreciate the full impact of this anxiety until today.
In early December I was having the procedure for a root canal and 3 to 5 minutes into the procedure I had this overwhelming feeling, (imagine the largest wave and I mean the largest wave you can imagine coming right at you in the ocean) that I was unable to breathe.
I could not feel my throat, and even though I was breathing and swallowing, I thought I was unable to breathe. I scared myself and I know I scared the dentist and the dental assistant. I was in almost a horizontal position in the dentist chair as they were working on tooth #18, the last molar in my mouth, on the left, bottom side.
I remember moving my arms like a crazy person out of control, gasping, and sitting up and breathing like I was going to die. It was an awful 3 to 5 seconds, all because I could not feel my throat. I could not feel the sensation of swallowing, it was like the highway to my lungs was closed.
The dentist was wonderful, calming, reassuring. He talked me off the ledge of 150 MPH anxiety beating heart and reassured me for 20 - 25 minutes to get me to a place where he could at least temporarily seal the hole he had drilled in my tooth. I managed the 2 or 3 additional minutes of this process so I could finally be done and be sitting up in the chair. It was not easy.
I was sent home with a Rx for valium, so I could take one at home for practice, so I can trial the feeling, sensation, management of calm in my head when thinking of this root canal procedure. The practice valium Rx has been standing at attention like a dutiful soldier since I brought it home from the pharmacy.
Fast foward to this morning, I was at my regular dentist for a semi annual teeth cleaning and I was thrilled that there is no numbing, no injections, no dam or tent in my mouth for the cleaning procedure.
And yes about 7 to 10 minutes into the cleaning procedure, I panicked again. This time it was not as bad, the dental person had to stop, I had to sit up in the chair and 15 or 20 minutes passed before I was wiling to complete the cleaning.
The dentist and I had a long discussion about what happens if I don't have the root canal, and how long the tooth can manage without the root canal, and the alternatives to a root canal. She assured me that the best possible way to save the tooth for rest of my life, is to have a root canal.
So one day soon I will take a 5mg practice valium at home and see what happens. The dentist even suggested I take a 2nd practice valium and actually come back to her office and go through the motions of a procedure to see how it goes. And yes I know someone has to drive me there.
For years I've had anxiety as I relates to a dog attack I experienced in 1970 before we moved from Panama to Barstow. The anxiety and fear I've experienced because of that event long ago, created a normalized behavior of me having a dog radar in my head. Anyone who's been around me for any amount of time, knows about my "dog radar."
The anxiety related to being at the dentist today while not as physically intense, it was definitely real. And it's an experience you cannot properly describe, nobody can go into my head and experience the fear I was having today and in early December.
I don't know much about the effects of valium or diazepam as the drug is also known, as with most new things, I'm curious. I'm not sure when I'm taking the practice valium at home. I hope it works. Worse case scenario, long term, the tooth at some point has to be extracted and that can be done under complete sedation. Will see how this all plays out.