I had to visit the Dentist yesterday to have a *small* cavity filled. While this is a pretty routine, not-a-big-deal procedure, I still managed to have a panic attack during the first few minutes of the drilling. Here is what I think happened.
I am a pretty nervous person in general, but when it comes to medical tests, I can be...well lets just say sensitive. Most procedures make me nervous. From having blood drawn to sitting through an MRI, I just can't ever seem to be fully relaxed, or even a little relaxed for that matter. I usually manage to get through my nervousness because I know these tests/procedures are to help me and I get through them one way or another. And when they are over I almost always say "there was really nothing to be nervous about!"
Besides by-annual routine cleanings, I don't have a lot of experience with dental work. I did have my wisdom teeth pulled several years ago and I have only had a cavity filled one other time. So, at least I knew what to expect when having a cavity filled, but of course I was still rather nervous. To make things easier for everyone, I requested the "laughing gas." I though if I could be placed in a more relaxed state, I could relax and the Dentist would have an easier time.
This was problem #1. As the gas started to kick in, I felt like I was weightless. Is this normal? I asked myself. Because I really felt like I was going to pass out. Maybe the Dentist was giving me too much? Maybe I was going to have some sort of negative reaction? I could tell my heart beat slowed down, what if my heart stopped? As all these thoughts raced through my head, I was now more nervous about the side effects of the gas, opposed to procedure it self. I shared these thoughts with the Dentist. He adjusted the dose, stating I was probably just getting too much in my system at once. I starting feeling better. Until problem #2: the rubber dam.
The Dentist explained that they would be using a rubber dam during the procedure. I was pretty sure the devise was used with my previous cavity, so when they asked me if I had a problem with that, I simply stated no. As they started to connect the devise to my mouth, however, I quickly realized I was definitely NOT familiar with this devise. Oh well, what could be the big deal anyway?
With the rubber dam in place, Novocaine shots taking affect, and the laughing gas in my system, the dentist began drilling. At first I found myself in a very relaxed state and then something in my mind just started to panic. I felt the instant need to rip the rubber dam off my face. It was constricting and I suddenly felt like I couldn't breath. Then I realize I couldn't speak to the dentist with this thing on my mouth. More panic set in, not only about having this thing on my face that I couldn't get off, and not only about feeling like I couldn't breath, but I was back to thinking about the gas: what if I had a reaction to the gas and I couldn't tell the Dentist there was a problem? And how do I tell him all of these fears I am having at this moment? Then I felt like I was spinning. I raised my hand and the Dentist stopped. I'm guessing he could sense something was wrong and he asked me if I could breath and swallow. I said yes to both. At that point the assistant took my hand and said everything was fine. The procedure would be quick and it would be over before I knew it. They also cut me off of the gas, which I guess was for the best.
Having the assistant talking to me really helped. It helped me calm down. I just closed my eyes and it really was over rather quickly. It didn't hurt, I was fine. All that and it was all really no big deal. I wish I could train myself to realize these things are no big deal BEFORE the procedure, but the nervousness is involuntary. It's like trying to stop your heart beat, you just can't control it.