I’m not exactly sure why or how, and I don’t have the time or money to go to therapy to find out but somewhere in my youth, I developed a debilitating dental phobia. When I started confronting my 10-year-old fear of going to the dentist, that was the hardest moment of my life. Well, that and asking a girl out every now and then, #struggles. The word to look for here is “started”, as in, I did it.
I haven’t been to the dentist in 10 years before my appointment in the summer of last year. My teeth turned so bad that even thinking about chewing anything tougher than yoghurt, such as a piece of bread, would bring me physical pain. 7 of my teeth required urgent extraction, as the gums around them were infected and could seriously put my health in jeopardy. It was BAD!
So how do you get to experience such bad dental phobia and then how do you get to face it, after so much time and self-destruction? The answer begins many years ago when my phobia of the dentist started and ends with a visit to my mom’s dentist in my hometown when, after so much time, I got my first tooth extraction after more than a decade. Here’s the entire story.
My tolerance to tooth pain
My fear of the dentist started 10 to 15 years ago. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment the phobia began but I know something must’ve started it. Or maybe there was more than one dental visit that stopped me from ever visiting an office for so many years. During this time, besides me letting my teeth go bad in my mouth, I also developed an unhealthy tolerance for pain.
You see, when you don’t visit the dentist for so long, your teeth are going to be in a lot of pain after a while. You cannot skip visiting the dentist especially when prone to mouth issues. My entire family has them. This led to countless nights of pain in my teeth, which led to me developing a bit of seasonal insomnia, but also a great tolerance to tooth pain.
Out of fear, I learned to cope with the pain.
I was never to be clinched when it came to going to the dentist. No matter how bad my teeth ached, I was to never go in for a consultation as I knew my teeth were terrible. So my tolerance grew stronger and stronger as the years went by and my teeth started breaking in my mouth. I experienced so much pain that I had years on end without feeling at ease. Yes, ‘twas THAT bad.
My 29th birthday lunch
You don’t get birthday parties after a certain age but a mere lunch. For my 29th birthday, I got some takeout from my favourite Turkish place. Fresh pide, delicious lentil soup, kofte, eggplant stew, kebabs, you name it. I got home and we all started eating and, surely, before I knew it, my teeth started hurting. I had no idea but this toothache was going to change my life.
From that moment on, my teeth started to hurt for real. And not just from time to time and then mildly hurting. It was all day, every day. Pain, pain, and more pain. Pain at breakfast, pain at lunch, pain at dinner or during snacks. Pain in the morning, the afternoon, and at night. Pain during work, pain when taking a shower, pain while reading a book, pain when getting busy.
Pain. Neverending, brutal, full-mouth pain with no sunshine in sight. The quality of my life quickly declined. I started missing out on work opportunities, stopped going out with friends, lost my girlfriend at the time, and developed an always-angry approach to everything else. My family noticed it and started to worry but, as you know by now, I refused to go to the dentist. Still!
My first appointment
I was leaving for Stockholm in a few days and told mum that I won’t be able to enjoy the Swedish food with this much pain in my mouth. She stated the obvious, that I needed to go to the dentist but I knew none. She was kind enough to set up an appointment with her dentist in a few days. It was just to take a look and not much else. I went in knowing that it was just a check-up.
Ten minutes later, after simply being too ashamed to say otherwise, I was over my fear of the needle, fear of extraction, fear of the dentist doing her thing in my mouth, and basically, any adjacent fear one has when it comes to dentists. My first tooth was out and I felt absolutely nothing. The dentist promised no pain with the injection and the pulling of the tooth.
And she delivered.
Second appointment (and third, and so on)
Next followed a series of appointments in which I had 7 teeth removed, including 3 wisdom teeth, 2 molars, and a few other God-forsaken ones that were barely teeth anymore. More of what they call “bridges” as there was no crown left on them but a squished-out tooth and the gum. Those were a mother7u#er to get out, especially since they were really bad already.
One of the extractions, a hurtful molar that was nothing more than the base and no crown, resulted in a little haemorrhage that stopped after a few hours at home. Another time, the dentist touched a little blood vessel in my cheek during anaesthesia. This resulted in an instant blood clot the size of a tennis ball on my face. It turned red and then blue and went away after 3-4 days.
It happens, apparently.
So yeah, for a guy who’s been dealing with a crippling dental phobia for decades, I got to experience the worst possible scenarios when you’re at the dentist from the first few tries. And while teeth can bleed and you sometimes get the unwanted blood clot from anaesthesia, those experiences helped me heal my fear even further. I faced the worst and lived to write this article.
Budapest dental office visit
In my pursuit of getting rid of both my phobia and the repercussions caused by it, I even travelled to foreign lands for the matter. To Hungary. In Budapest, there are many specialized clinics that will do literally anything you want in terms of dental treatment. Implants, surgeries, a new set of canines for a better bite, veneers the price of gold, you name it, they got it.
One of these clinics took me in and analyzed my mouth and head entirely. I was curious to see where I was and if there was some really bad stuff happening in my mouth after so much time without taking care of it. Like cancer. Luckily, they found nothing more than some mild infection to the gum that has now succumbed. All of the extraction holes are nice and healed as well.
The only problem with the Budapest clinic was the price. My jaw dropped, no pun intended, when after two detailed dental treatment plans, one with the extractions included and one after the extractions were sorted in Romania, at 10% of the price, the second one turned out more expensive than the first! The entire thing would’ve cost over $12.000, which is A LOT!
My teeth today
Right now, my mouth is completely healed and the remaining teeth are in good condition, albeit a little out of shape after so many years of working extra. Nothing that can’t be repaired, luckily. All I need to do now is find a local clinic and resume my work. I still have one more round of extractions for my fourth wisdom tooth and then a few cavities. Then, the implants are up.
Considering my status just one year ago at this time, I’m a life away from that. My mouth stopped hurting and is now functional. I can eat without crying. I can sleep without pain. I can brush my teeth without blood gushing out of my gums every single time. I can breathe without killing the person standing in front of me. I can even smile a bit better. I can kiss a girl, and I like it.
I promise I’m straight.
Plans for 2023 and beyond
As I’m writing this piece, I’m getting ready for a little vacation over the pond for my first trip to the United States. I’ll be in New York shortly after this piece goes live, and after the trip, I’ll be back and into the dental office. Wherever that might be. I will continue to fight for my mouth, to get it back to its former glory from before my phobia. No matter what it takes, I’ll get those implants.
2022 was the year of overcoming the greatest fear of my life. 2023 is a year of consolidating that newfound courage by forever solving the issue of my teeth. I don’t know what it will take and I’m getting ready for many sleepless nights but I’m not backing down. If you’re reading this and are afraid of the dentist… do it anyways! It’s not easy but it is so worth it, you have no idea.