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A Cleaning.

“Your appointment is at … at 2 pm.”


“It’s 1.30 pm.  You’re a little bit early.”  The receptionist looked up at me.  “No one is ever early.”

“I was afraid that if I didn’t come early, I would have found a reason to skip the appointment entirely.  I’m a little nervous about dental stuff,” I admitted, trying to stand taller and look more like a grown-up instead of like a kid whose mother had to drop her off at the door.  (For the record, my mother didn’t drop my off at the door.)

The receptionist outright laughed.  “Oh, a nervous one!  Well that’s okay.  We have a lot of magazines.  And you can watch the stories on TV while you wait for the hygienist.”

Anyone who refers to daytime soap operas as “the stories” puts me right at ease.  I sat in the waiting room and played Candy Crush (oh you stupid irony) while waiting for the dentist.

Back in January, after an unfortunate and wimpy two year dental hiatus, I found my way back into the dentist’s chair as a result of social media peer pressure.  I’ve written about my aversion to dental work in the past, my reluctance rooted (ha?) in the fact that my overly-sensitive teeth make for a very uncomfortable experience.  But, despite a long gap between appointments, my experience in January was encouraging enough to make me schedule, and keep, a follow up appointment.

An empowered patient doesn’t always rabble-rouse and shout from rooftops about patient rights and experiences.  Sometimes being an empowered patient is simply speaking up on your own behalf.  Part of what has made going to the dentist a better experience for me is that I’m not afraid to tell the dentist what I’m hoping to get out of the appointment. (Even though my fear comes out via stream of consciousness, when I’m halfway sitting in the chair and blurting out, “I don’t meant to sound neurotic but I sort of am when it comes to dental work because I have really, really sensitive teeth and I had a few dentists in the past do some work on my teeth that didn’t go very well, so now every dental appointment makes me nervous and if that pointy sharp mental thing comes too close to my gum line I will probably launch right up through the really nice skylights you guys have – and those are really expensive to fix, right?   Skylights?”)

And the other part of what makes these appointments a better experience is that my dentist, and their team, really listens and takes patient comfort into account.  “It doesn’t cost us anything extra to take the time to listen and make your appointment something you’re willing to do again,” the hygienist said.  “If anything, it’s an investment in our future, because if you continue to come back, you become part of our reliable client base, and that’s a good thing for us, as a business.”

Being on top of my health means making sure I follow through on things like dentist appointments.  Proactive care for my health makes a difference in long term outcomes, but I need to do my part by showing up.  Having a dentist that I can be honest with (“I’m scared of you … no offense meant?”) makes us work together to find ways to make the appointment more comfortable – numbing cream on my gums during the cleaning, safely administering extra Novocaine as needed during procedures – which, in turn, makes me show up at the next appointment.  Having a dentist is useless if I’m not going to see them.

“Everything looks good.  Do you want to schedule your follow-up appointment today, or call in a few weeks?”

“I’ll do it today …”

“To make sure that you actually schedule it,” the dentist finished for me.

“Right.  Otherwise, I’ll never come back.”

“And we can’t have that,” the dentist said, ruefully.  “Because then I’d never know how much it costs to fix a skylight.”

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’m on my own “hiatus” from the dentist. I need to go back because I’m quite sure I have a cavity… which is *why* I haven’t gone back. I’m scared to death of the pain. I wish my dentist’s office staff was as cool as yours were.

    09/10/13; 10:55 am
    • I’ve had two excellent dentists, and four that were rough (over the last 15 yrs or so). Sometimes it’s luck, and other times I think we need to shop around for the right fit, you know?

      09/10/13; 11:03 am
  2. Mike Hoskins #

    I’ve been ignoring calls from my dentist’s office and deleting the voicemails, and have just tossed the reminder postcards in the trash… all for a waaaay overdue, need-to-be-scheduled cleaning. But that pressure of social media is getting to me too. Might have to swallow my reluctance and just bite the… oh nevermind. Thanks for the motivation, Kerri.

    09/10/13; 3:38 pm
  3. June S. #

    I have a very gentle dentist, and the only reason I dread my appointments is because I have to take off my transmitter and pump if they’re doing x-rays. Wish they’d allow us to wear both items, since there’s a lead shield being placed over our body, anyway! Medtronic says “No!” How is Animas/Dex with that?

    09/10/13; 4:51 pm
    • I wear my Animas under the apron and have never had any problems. I actually kept it on when I had a panoramic done as well, and I think I’ve had dental xrays with my Medtronic too… I didn’t know they said no to that. I actually had one done recently where they didn’t give me an apron because it was so focused, so I kind of just sat on my pump to shield it, it’s fine…

      I avoid wearing my Dex on dentist days or when there’s a possibility of being x-rayed.

      09/10/13; 6:45 pm
  4. Dan #

    Hi Kerri,
    Great job… You successfully achieved the results. It is the little things that can add up to bring our diabetes down upon us. Nice job in moving in the direction to prevent such an occurrence. As always have a great day.

    09/10/13; 5:10 pm
  5. ria #

    I have had the same dentist for 30 yrs., and, I still remind him to increase my dose of novacaine , and then I add a little rant about how the noise of the drilling scares me, and how sensitive my teeth are, as I clutch my car keys

    09/10/13; 7:33 pm
  6. e-i #

    Been making it to the dentist every six months for almost 50 years. Dentists don’t scare me, MD’s do. Dentists never order up tests that you are certain will result in a horrifying diagnosis. I have a pretty high pain threshold but a pretty low fear threshold for what an MD might tell me. My dentist told me that he had a patient that was so dentist phobic that he hadn’t had his teeth cleaned in 12 years and when he finally came in, he brought his psychiatrist with him.

    09/11/13; 1:11 am
  7. AJ #

    I am the same way about the dentist, though mine is also excellent. One thing that helps is to have the hygienist do the cleaning with this nifty little high-pressure water jet rather than the metal pick. It’s just as effective, doesn’t cost extra, and is mentally much, much, more pleasant. None of those horrific scraping sounds. I don’t know if all dentist’s offices have them, but it might be worth looking into.

    09/11/13; 3:09 am
  8. I’m getting nervous just reading this because i’m having my wisdoms taken out next week. Normally it would be done at a young age but they only starting to cause problems now. Not looking forward to the pain 🙁

    09/12/13; 6:14 am
  9. Stephanie #

    I’ve only ever gone to one dentist in my entire life and always go early to get there. I have to drive over an hour to get there but he knows my entire family and our histories, so he knows what to expect from my teeth. Of course, he’s also my uncle, so there’s that too. 😉

    09/13/13; 8:14 am

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  1. We're Gonna Need More Novocaine. - Six Until Me - diabetes blog
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