I had my dental check up last month, with a new dentist because my old dentist wasn't on the insurance list, and when the dentist called out the number 15 when probing, I knew that couldn't be a good sign. I am in my 40's and never had a cavity. I went home and looked up adult cavities, and stopped after about 10 minutes. In the past I would've searched repeatedly, in hopes of finding the exact answer as to why I had a cavity, and how best to have it filled, so I can tell I've come a long way.
I had it filled yesterday, and there was a whole wave of things to stir up my health anxiety. First, the dentist asks if I want a silver filling or a white filling. I had a moment of "Oh, shit. I have to make a decision. I'm not prepared for this," and I ask what the difference is. He says it's "six of one, half a dozen of the other"--no absolute winner. It's like going to class and discovering a pop quiz and you haven't read the chapter. I picked the silver filling because it was a)cheaper and b)would probably last longer(when I asked which lasted longer the dentist said, "I'm not a fortune teller, but I'd say the silver.") Uncertainty all over the place.
All sorts of tidbits of things I'd heard in the past bubbled up while waiting for the numbing to take effect(what if I'm allergic to novacaine? What if?? What if I chose the wrong thing? What about all those people who are afraid of silver fillings?) I had my knitting which helped, as did thinking of Leonard, and all I've learned from him in Exposure Therapy, and the fact that we really aren't fortune tellers. We take our best guess, and sometimes the outcome sucks.
The sound of the drill wasn't as bad as I thought it would it would be, though it smelled like burning hair. I was pretty calm until I heard the dentist opening and shutting drawers, because he couldn't find something he needed--he's filling in for the regular dentist who is ill, and never used the item he wanted. So I'm listening to him improvising with the dental assistant with whatever they have on hand. The dentist ended by telling me that if I have some sensitivity to heat or cold, it will go away with time. I wanted to say, "I have OCD. My symptoms don't f-ing go away. . ." but I didn't because I know that there is a chance it will actually go away on its own if I let the fear be there, and go on with my life, rather than researching and checking the tooth constantly with my tongue.
I'm proud of myself that I haven't looked up the potential dire consequences of silver fillings, or a lack of cavity varnish. I woke up today wanting to look it all up because I was getting the insistent, "What if you screwed up? What if the sensitivity in your tooth won't go away?" Because, yes, cold water hurts my tooth. Finally I recognized that it's only the day after the dental work. It's too soon to tell. The OCD wants an answer NOW. But if I try to accelerate the answer to tamp down my fear, I will make it worse. If I repeatedly test the tooth with cold water, it is going to bring it to my attention and not give it a chance to get better. It might not. But I am practicing tolerating that uncertainty. That doesn't mean I like it, but I have things I want to do with my life, and probing my tooth will certainly lead to being stuck in compulsions, rather than making art.