Even worse than the sadistic pediatric dentist who pulled absessed molars with no novocaine or other painkillers when I was 12 or so.
Although this time, it wasn't the dentist who was the problem for me. It was the hygienist.
I guess it started when she asked how I was doing and I said I wasn't having a very good day. I probably need to learn to just say I'm fine, but it seems so dishonest when I'm not fine and haven't been since sometime before last June. Or maybe March. I don't go into detail, but I do tell people I'm having a lousy day when I am.
She led me to the room and told me to have a seat on the chair, and then proceeded to sit in a chair to my right and about three feet behind me. I wasn't comfortable talking to someone without looking at them, and it was painful to try to turn around and make eye contact. So I asked her if it was possible that she could move where it was easier for me to see her. So she moves so she is exactly next to me, and I had to point out that that was still painful for me to turn my neck that far and could she please move to where I pointed. So she moved to somewhere between directly next to me and where it would have been comfortable for me to look at her.
Then she starts asking me if I brought my records from my previous dentist and I said that I thought her office requested them. She wanted to know if I'd signed a consent form, and I'm sure I sounded exasperated when I said that my records had been there in my file when I was there in August. Sure enough, she opens my file and there are my records.
The hygienist then asked if I'd had any medical changes since then. You know, I really didn't feel like going into a long explanation of my current medical status. So I mentioned a cancer scare and that it looked like I have an undifferentiated connective tissue autoimmune disease. She had no idea what that was, so I said it was similar to lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. I don't think she had much understanding of what that was either.
So before she takes my x-rays, I tell her I have a very strong gag reflex. Instead of doing what other hygienists have done for me, and getting the equipment set up before putting the bite wing in my mouth, she insisted on putting the bite wing in first and slowly getting things set up. So it took five tries to get the two pictures she wanted. Meanwhile, the coughing from the gagging was making my chest hurt worse.
As she starts cleaning my teeth, I tell her that it's painful to hold my jaw open and I need frequent breaks. In my mind, I thought she would give me a break after doing each quarter of my mouth. But she wanted to do all the way from side to side before giving me a break to close my mouth. And when I did get to close it, instead of giving me a minute or two, I got maybe 20 seconds. And that's estimating generously.
As I got more tired and my pain grew, I told her that I wanted to skip doing the part where they measure how much my gums have receded. "That's Dr. Chin's call," she said. Actually, I said, it isn't. It's my call. She started going on about state requirements, and I said fine, I'd sign a waiver that I had refused treatment.
"You don't understand how little time it takes to do it," she said, estimating it at 10 minutes. "No, you don't understand the level of pain and fatigue I have," I responded.
What I wanted to say, but didn't, was that it was illegal to force unwanted medical (or dental) treatment on a patient who refuses it. And if I wasn't allowed to leave when I wanted to, the criminal charge for that is kidnapping.
Yeah, I was getting a little worked up. But I didn't feel well; I was tired, she was making my pain grow exponentially, and of course I was very overdue on my pain meds because I refuse to drive after I've taken narcotics.
Finally, I told her stop before she finished scraping at my plaque, that I couldn't do anymore today, that I didn't feel well and needed to go home. By the time the dentist came in to talk to me briefly and look at my teeth, I was on the verge of tears. Of course, I've got two new cavities that will need to get filled sometime soon. Oh, joy.
(I've had lousy teeth since early childhood when my baby molars came up without enamel. My permanent teeth didn't have that problem, but they seem to have thinner than typical enamel, or so I've been told by several dentists.)
As I was leaving, the hygienist told me to come back next time when I was having a good day. "It's a little challenging to plan those in advance," I responded.
I don't know. Maybe I should have postponed the visit until I feel better, but I don't know when that's going to happen and when I go longer than six months between visits, I always end up needing work done. I actually did consider calling this morning and rescheduling, but thought I could do it because it shouldn't be that hard to lie in a dental chair.
But I was there for over an hour before I walked out. And that's all I'd expected to need since that's the typical length of the cleanings I've had done. And it was just too much for me.
Should I have called in advance and gone over some of the accommodations I might need, such as longer and more frequent breaks to rest my jaw? Is there some way I could have explained my illness to the hygienist, who didn't seem to understand that I actually was ill even though I look mostly fine to someone who doesn't know me?
It was just so frustrating. And I felt lame for crying over it, and humiliated that I cried in the office in front of the nastiest hygienist I've ever had.
And I'm sure she wrote down in my file somewhere that I am a "difficult patient."