Dental Phobias & Ethics


I was talking to a friend about an upcoming set of dental procedures I need to have done.  We both have dental phobias.  Then, thinking about it, I realized that most of the people I know who have dental phobias seem to have them due to a traumatic (or a series of traumatic) experiences with dental professionals.

Now, mine started with a female dentist who reminds me of Steve Martin in the above clip from the 1986 version of Little Shop of Horrors.

I suppose it could be considered to be the dentist before that, the one who put in a  permanent 6-tooth bridge in my teen years.  You can see part of the reason I needed one in the photo.

What it does not show is that not only was my right maxillary central incisor broken, but the maxillary lateral incisors weren’t actually incisors.  My adult canines had moved over to fill the spaces when the baby incisors fell out.  My baby canines eventually had to be removed, because they were rotting (not because of hygiene).  They x-rayed me all the way  up to my upper sinuses (above the eyes) looking to see if the adult incisors had drifted somewhere else.

This photo was the last one until I got my bridge where I was willing to smile showing my teeth.

Well, to keep the story short, the original dentist who installed my bridge was quite old.  In fact, he retired shortly after the bridge was finalized.  Unfortunately, not only was it quite painful to experience installing the bridge (because the four center teeth had to be ground down to posts — breathing over four exposed nerves was not painless), he actually left an air bubble under one of the maxillary central incisors (more on that later).

Because of how much pain I experienced when it was installed, I have always been protective of that bridge.  I never wanted to have to go through that again.

Sadly, one of the dentists when I was in my late teens enjoyed tugging on the bridge, threatening to pull it right out of my head.  When I asked her to stop doing so, she laughed at me and told me to “stop being such a baby!”  Needless to say, she also had a habit of doing work with as little novocaine as she could possibly get away with. She was at the root of my issues (excuse the unintentional pun).

After high school, I went in to have my wisdom teeth removed.  That was its own hellish experience because they ended up having a couple of orderlies hold me down while they finished pulling the teeth. These were also the people who found the air bubble I referred to above.

Thankfully, they put me out for the main portions of removing the original bridge and of the root canal.  They did not, however, keep me knocked out for the installation of the new bridge.  So, again, I experienced the same pain attempting to breathe past exposed nerves.

Since then, I — like 80% of Americans — have had a fairly strong dental phobia.

But, back to talking about dental professionals.  I have, in the past, attempted to complain to the American Dental Association (the ADA) in regard to dentists whose treatment has been horrifying.  I’ve never received any response.  Now, researching it, I find that they send the information to a “Peer Review Board.”  You are also encouraged to send the complaint to your state’s dental licensing board, which can differ in its willingness to investigate claims.

It doesn’t surprise me that few people actually get anything done with complaints, unless they sue the dentist (which not everyone has the ability to do).  Looking at the process, the initial complaint report must be “just the facts,” given in as objective terminology as possible.  I don’t know many people who are able to do so without injecting emotional language into the complaint, given the traumatic experiences.

Just to compare and contrast, I complained to the American Medical Association (the AMA) and the Minnesota medical licensing board in regards to an OB/GYN who crossed the line in her examination.  While the licensing board found in her favor, my complaint was kept in her file in case of further claims against her.  And, she lost her job because the company had a zero tolerance policy in regards to reasonable patient complaints.  I was not only interviewed by phone by the local AMA chapter and the licensing board, but I also received an investigatory phone call from the hospital’s administrative offices.

Now I am facing a third major issue with my bridge.  At this point, they have to take out the whole bridge.  And before I can get any replacements, whether as dentures or as implants, the gums must heal for 8 weeks after the surgery.  And, because I am still recovering from the abuse, I am on my state’s basic insurance.  It is highly unlikely that they will  pay for implants (which have been quoted as being $3K per tooth).  Knowing that both bridges cost a total of $3200, it bothers me that now I will end up being toothless for a good portion of 2017.

I’m not exactly sure why they can’t just replace the permanent bridge with another one by implanting posts in the same areas I had teeth to anchor the original ones.

What I do know is that I still have panic attacks when going to get ANY dental work done, even something as simple as a dental cleaning.  And only so much of that panic is dealt with knowing that I have found a dental group who tries their best to be a credit to the industry.

You would think that the governing body for dentists would want to try to fight for the same standards of care that the AMA does.  If an industry KNOWS that most Americans have a phobia of dentistry, you would think they would work harder to change that.


Categories: ethics, General Contemplation | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Dental Phobias & Ethics

  1. I am SO sorry to hear about what you’ve had to endure! I also had a dental phobia due to earlier experiences with callous dentists. This has such a profound effect on those that end up with this, through no fault of their own. For the first time in my adult life, I am finally able to smile and did overcome my phobia. I am finishing up my two year program in clinical hypnotherapy and yes, that’s what I used to overcome it. I created a script for myself, recorded it, and listened to it before and during the procedure. In my life, I’ve never had such an easy time with a dentist and prior to this would not have believed this was possible. My story is on BlissfuljourneywithSherri on wordpress, if you’re interested.
    If I can help at all, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

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