Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My First Dental Filling along with Health Anxiety

tooth volume ii

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.


  1. Congrats -- it sounds like you did great. I recently had to get two fillings and they recommended silver for the one that wouldn't show (further back) and tooth-colored for the one that might show when I smile. So it sounds like my dentist agrees that either is fine. They told me that the silver tends to last longer too.

  2. never.had.a.cavity? does not compute! :)
    I have zillions, and it sure hasn't helped my dental-related OCD.

    But congrats on dealing with this so well!

  3. Way to go! That sounds like such an accomplishment! Are you knitting anything fun? Taking my knitting to a doc or dentist's office would give me the heebies, so good on you. :) I know what you mean about wanting to know right now. I had my yearly woman's cancer screening last week, and had about talked myself into having cancer. The 10 day waiting period is hellish! But I've finally gotten to where my anxiety is low. Thanks for posting your experiences. It is so encouraging to read of your successes. And lucky you never having a cavity before. :)

  4. Yeah, how I managed to go 40+ years without a cavity is what grabs people's attention! Thanks for all the affirmation about my dealing with my first filling. My sensitivity to cold is lessening, which is cool, since my urges to compulsively search about the sensitivity were very strong, but I didn't do it.

  5. Oh, it really takes time for a tooth to heal. I hope your is now healed so you can eat the food that you used to eat before. Don't worry, your dentist will not put you in a 'life or death' circumstance. But I think you made the right decision in choosing silver fillings, because these last longer. Anyways, congrats to you.

  6. Katia, thanks for inquiring about my tooth. It has healed, and I know that refraining from checking it, or doing research really helped me move forward.

  7. Silver fillings are a good choice. I hope you are not having any problems with your dental filling this early. Continue taking good care of your teeth.

  8. I have to commend you for your efforts to control your OCD and for refraining from checking your tooth after the filling. Good job! BTW, I liked the knitted tooth up there. It's so cute. I've read you're into knitting. Is that one of your projects?

    1. Lashon--isn't the tooth adorable! It's not one of my projects, but it seemed just right to illustrate this post.

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