- How many times have you literally white knuckled your way through a dental appointment?
- How many of us 40, 50 or 60-year-old somethings have dental anxiety?
- How many of us watch how differently things are done with our kids and think to ourselves, “Man, if that had been done with me, I wouldn’t have nearly the issues I have right now with going to the Dentist.”
Count me in as one of the 50 somethings with dentist/dental issues; that is, until today.
June 14th, 2019 at 8am: Dental Appointment to fix cracks in a tooth with a silver filling. (Damn those silver fillings that fixed our cavities as kids and then cause our teeth to crack as adults!) Gotta get up early and get there on time. Run through my checklist: Ear Buds? Check. Spotify on my phone? Check. Super loud music so I don’t hear any high-pitched drilling? Check (Btw, I highly recommend the Careless Whisper cover done by Kiara Rocks). And out the door I go.
I get on 95 and head South to Laurel. Can’t help but think about all the years of dental trauma I endured as a kid: braces twice, head gear (remember how they made you wear it 24 hours a day; great fun in middle school….[smh]…not.), retainers, multiple teeth pulled (a personal record of 4 yanked in one sitting), and the Novocain shots…..oh man the Novocain shots. It’s no wonder when I hit adulthood only acute problems would force me into the Dentist’s office. And even those visits, as an adult, my heart would race; I’d feel it skipping beats and wondered if I was about to have a heart attack and die in the chair. No wonder I was on the verge of tears before I even hit the door and actually IN tears by the time I sat in a waiting room chair. One time, in my twenties, I full on cried throughout the panoramic x-rays, which in and of themselves, hurt like hell. Or how about the name of the Orthodontic office I went to during my middle school years: Dr. Hammer and Dr. Yank (I kid you not). Let me tell you, they lived up to their names. So why am I not on the verge of tears as I gear up to face yet another Dentist’s drill? Why am I not feeling the 10/10 anxiety and damn close to a panic attack as I head toward my date with the Dentist’s needle on this fine morning?
Because EMDR…that’s why (dental trauma…spider phobia…be gone!!). Because of EMDR, I can go see a Dentist sooner than I used to. I can go see a Dentist without tears. And when I go see a Dentist, I can calmly talk with them about what bothers me most about being there (the pain, the shots, the drills, the racing heart). EMDR didn’t make me like the Dentist (Dr. Bryan did that…. more on that later though) but it did get rid of the anxiety and panic so I could go in when I had to. And, back a few months ago, I realized I had to.
A Few Months Ago: My teeth are normally sensitive to temperatures so when I noticed increased sensitivity in an upper right tooth, I thought, “Maybe it’ll go away” (assume Ostrich position…prepare to stick head in ground). Then Melmo’s Acupuncturist (Noreen Javornik…she treats people too!) told me about a father and son dental office in Laurel. They’d come highly recommended by over 10 people and she’d checked them out. She spoke of liking the vibe of their website and really liking the fact that she wouldn’t have to transition to a new dentist when the father retired. Noreen was singing the song of my people! So, I checked them out, agreed with her, called them and made an appointment.
May 13th, 2019: I meet Dr. Bryan Kitahara and his Assistant Valerie. I introduce myself and my issues to them. They didn’t bat an eye. They empathized and said things are very different now but they’d certainly work with me (I’m suspicious 🤨). Valerie took my panoramic x-rays and, low and behold, it didn’t hurt! “Yeah, ok, but…” I tell myself, “a needle is still a needle and a drill is still a drill.” Dr. Bryan tells me I can have nitrous oxide, something that’s never been offered to me before (I thought it was just for kids!). And get this: Dr. Bryan tells me Novocain has norepinephrine in it!! 😯 All this time Dentists have been giving me something that speeds up my heart rate???? While I’m having a panic attack??? What-the-ever-living-f? 😟 Dr. Bryan says they will use a Novocain that doesn’t have any norepinephrine in it. He’s got my attention; I gently shove my inner skeptic aside and I get an appointment on the books. (total aside and a nod to the power of dissociation…. after looking at my x-rays, Dr. Bryan tells me I’ve had a root canal. I’m like “No I haven’t, I’d remember that.” He proceeds to show me positive proof via the x-ray. I have zeeeeerooooo recollection of having that done. Smh…the power of our brain to keep us safe under awful circumstances.)
So back to this morning, June 14, 2019 at 8am: My EMDR Therapy has me walking in to have a cracked tooth repaired, dry eyed, calm and feeling like maybe I can trust Dr. Bryan. I go in and sit for a few moments in the waiting room, which is simply but beautifully decorated. I’m distracted by the art hanging on the walls and the book about essential oils on the table. It’s not long before I’m taken back by Valerie, who gets me situated and comfortable in the chair. They introduce me to a young, pony-tailed college student who is studying pre-med and thinking about becoming a Dentist. If I’m okay with it, can she watch? Sure, why not? So, she patiently stands by while Dr. Bryan explains what’s about to happen.
Ear buds in. Careless Whisper cover by Kiara Rocks poised and ready to go. He puts the nitrous mask on me and tells me to breathe deep through my nose, which I do. Then he uses a numbing gel on my gum and lets that take effect. He checks with me multiple times about how I’m feeling. I’m so grateful for him checking. My body is feeling weird, kinda starting with my feet and working its way up. So strange. I close my eyes as he approaches with what I know is the needle. I feel pressure but no pain. No. Pain. At. All. And it wasn’t the nitrous. It was the thorough job Dr. Bryan did with the numbing gel. And omg….my heart is still beating like normal…. it’s not speeding up…. it’s not skipping beats! My hands are resting, palms down, fingers outstretched on the arms of the chair. No white knuckles!! While we wait for the Novocain to take full effect, Dr. Bryan adjusts my nitrous mask to ensure I’m receiving full benefit. And then he begins. What happens next is craaaaazeeee to me.
I close my eyes because I know the drilling is about to begin. I can hear it. My mind starts to race but my heart is beating like nothing major is going on. Dr. Bryan reminds me to breathe deep and through my nose, which I do. I max the volume to the music and just keep breathing deep. I keep my eyes closed and focus on my body. I’m noticing that it feels weird but I still feel it. My heart, still beating like normal. My hands, splayed out on the arm rest, no grabbing, no white knuckles. I start to practice what I preach with “making the rounds”: breathe in slow and deep, release tension in my neck, my shoulders, my arms, my back. Breathe in slow and deep, release tension in my hips, my stomach, my legs, my feet. Breathe in slow and deep, start again at my neck and work my way down again. I realize my mind isn’t racing anymore. I’m curious about my experience. It’s almost like my body is tensing because it remembers this is what it’s supposed to do in the Dentist’s chair. But I purposefully check in: am I feeling pain? Am I about to feel pain? I’m literally looking for and waiting for the pain but it never comes. My heart beats like normal, there is no pain, the drill is a distant noise, my body is relaxed and Dr. Bryan is drilling away, getting all of the silver filling out of my cracked tooth. At one point, I open my eyes…. masked faces hovering over me (usually a trigger but not today). Dr. Bryan on my right. Valerie on my left. And leaning over my abdomen so she can get a good look is my young, pony tailed college student friend, soaking it all in.
I find myself drawn to watching the artistry of Team Bryan and Valerie. They are Masters. He’s fully absorbed, quick, gentle, but intensely focused on nothing but my tooth. Valerie anticipates his needs and mine. She’s in and out of my mouth with tools and assists, never in his way, never in a way that hurts me. It’s seamless. It’s a sight to behold. I start to feel intense gratitude and I know this man and his team are truly Rock Stars. What would the world be like if patients were treated with this level of caring, with this level of expertise all the time?
I take advantage of a moment when I can speak and I tell Dr. Bryan he is a Rock Star. I tell him I’m dedicating a page on my website to him, Valerie and this experience. He may think it’s the nitrous talking but it’s not. It’s the patients I treat with dental trauma. It’s my heart beating normally in my chest, my hands relaxed on the arm rests, the Zen I feel in my body, that’s what’s doing the talking. Next thing I know, they’re almost finished and Valerie uses her knowledge of sign language to communicate with me to bite and grind my teeth so Dr. Bryan can get my bite right, which he does…. on the first try. It’s NEVER been done on the first try…until today. There are a lot of firsts happening today. Before I know it, the nitrous mask is off my nose and I’m slowing sitting up. I am in awe. I can’t believe it but it’s true. Never have I ever stood up from a Dentist’s chair or walked out of a Dentist’s office smiling and saying to myself, “That wasn’t bad at all! In fact, it was awesome!!”
The power of EMDR combined with the magic of a Dentist like Dr. Bryan has me saying something I’d have sworn you’d never hear me say: I like this Dentist! Not only will I be back soon (got a small cavity to fix) but I look forward to coming back and my next appointment is already on the books.
If you suffer from dental trauma or dental anxiety, contact me for EMDR Therapy:
Then go see Dr. Bryan. The Kitahara’s home page says, “Experience a New Calm in Dentistry.” To which I say, Yes Indeed!
**I do not receive anything in return for making referrals to the Kitahara’s dental practice & vice versa.**
**I’m sharing because I know what it’s like to suffer and now I’m a believer: Yes… you truly CAN “Experience Calm in Dentistry.”**