i went to the dentist today. i'm very bad at going to the dentist ie i generally don't. even though i've paid the price by having to go through a couple of root canals. i know it's silly and i should just take better care of my teeth by visiting the dentist regularly. but today reminded what an unpleasant experience it is.
it was just a regular check-up with a clean and polish. no fillings required, no injections and drills. but even so, even with the numbing gel on my gums, i found the cleaning to be painful. i wouldn't have taken more than 20 minutes (the cleaning part), but it was really unpleasant and i was thinking the whole time "i've really got to make sure this doesn't put me off coming back for my next check up".
i don't deal well with pain. maybe i'm overly sensitive, but physical pain is a real issue for me. i try to be tough, i mentally prepare myself to endure but when the time comes, i find i can't endure very much at all. don't even ask me how i went through labour pains, twice. i was a pretty hopeless case with that as well, a real screamer and basically opting for every drug available. i had an epidural the first time around, and made do with a tens machine & a pethidine injection the second time around. but i certainly didn't face the whole experience with stoicism and dignity. it just doesn't seem to be in my repertoire.
i have the same problem with cervical smears. for some reason, i find them extremely painful and the last one i had left me bleeding as well as crying out loud with the pain. this was despite the fact that the nurse who did the smears was very experienced and very well aware that smears are painful for me. i'd avoided smears for many years just for this reason, and i know that having cancer is actually much worse, but i just can't seem to get over this very strong tendency to avoid anything that involves physical pain.
possibly it's more a mental thing - the tensing up which causes me to experience more pain than i should. but i really tried physically relaxing all my muscles today, unclenching my fists, relaxing my shoulders, breathing slowly. it doesn't seem to help. and the dentist telling me that i may need to have at least one crown in the reasonably near future is really not good.
aside from the cost ($1,300? how on earth do people with no jobs or on low wages afford this stuff? i suppose they opt to have teeth pulled out as it's cheaper?), the whole procedure looks beyond my ability to endure. the last root canal i had involved going to a specialist and getting some heavy duty pain killers, and cost over $3,000. this was after the regular dentist gave me five injections and i still couldn't bear the pain.
i know how very much i sound like a pampered princess here, in the sense that many people endure far more physical pain for much longer periods of time and with much more courage. even knowing that doesn't help. i have extreme admiration for their endurance and pretty much contempt for my inability to do the same. but that's just who i am.
in the meantime, the one reason i miss jim anderton as a politician is because he was about the only one actively campaigning on making dentistry affordable. i think it's really important - i know i have the ability to pay, but those who don't should be able to access an equal level of care as someone like me.