Help. I'm a pansy.
November 6, 2009 6:04 AM   Subscribe

This is so shameful. I haven't seen a dentist since 2005.

I've always been terrified of the dentist, but now it's been more than four years. When I finally go again, it will be so much worse. My teeth hurt sometimes, so I probably have cavities. What if I need a root canal? And the scraping! I know this sounds stupid, but for me, the scraping is the worst part. It's the way it sounds and the way it feels. It's not just the stabbing my gums with metal hooks, which novocaine helps... nothing helps the scraping.

So I can't go on like this, things will just get worse and worse. I have to go. I tried googling to find a sedation dentist... I feel so paralyzed by anxiety. I got nowhere.

Here are my conisderations. MetaFilter, please help me get this done. You are far more rational than I am and I need someone's objective, unemotional guidance.


I need to see a dentist. I need a cleaning and to figure out if I have cavities, and if I do, I need to have them treated. I don't know what else I might need.

I do not have dental insurance. I do not have any money. I'm living without a cushion right now. My parents said they would pay for a visit to the dentist as a birthday present, but there is a limit to what I can ask them to pay.

Because of the financial constraints, I feel like I have to get it right the first time. If I go to a dentist who does a bad job, I will be stuck with it. This contributes to my anxiety and paralysis.

Sedation dentistry seems perfect but incredibly expensive. Do I need to accept that this is not an option for me right now, or are there reasonably-priced sedation dentists who are also reliable and good?

I'm in NYC.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (43 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sure someone from NYC will pipe up, but I'd highly recommend calling whatever good dental school is in your area. Where I am, the local University has a fairly inexpensive dental clinic and also does some free service in certain situations.

I can't help with the anxiety. If it were me, I'd just want to get it over with, though. That first cleaning is an hour, tops, so it's not like you're being consigned to hell for all of eternity. And the anxiety really is worse than the actual dental work.

You know what you need to do, so do it. Set up an appointment and designate a friend to make sure you don't back out.
posted by paanta at 6:10 AM on November 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

I was recently in a similar situation. When my parents were responsible for making dental appointments, I went every 6 months. When I moved and needed to find my own dentist, it took me well over a year and a half.

Some practices will not charge you for a first visit, or will give you a substantial discount, so don't feel like you need to get it right on the first visit.

Bring a friend who has minimal anxiety about dental visits.

Bring a fun trashy magazine that you wouldn't normally purchase, since doctors' offices seem to have family-friendly magazines only these days.
posted by casualinference at 6:12 AM on November 6, 2009

First, four years isn't all that long, so you needn't beat yourself up about that. I just went for my first cleaning in two-and-a-half years (not anxiety-related, just lazy), and it went fine.

Second, and more importantly: they don't all scrape anymore! They have a new technology that involves pressurized water or something. My personal dentist still scrapes, and I don't mind it, but I know my husband has seen a dentist who uses the pressurized water. There must be plenty of dentists in NYC who do this.
posted by palliser at 6:24 AM on November 6, 2009

Dental schools often have a long wait time to get an appointment. It was a sad thing, the morning I was in the lobby of the dental school, and a young man who could not sleep due to pain came in. The earliest time he could be seen was three weeks.

You know you have to do it. You can start by flossing now, to get you gums used to the idea of a rude invasion.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 6:24 AM on November 6, 2009

I stayed away from the dentist from around 16 til 24 when a tooth turned black and fell out. FELL OUT! OF MY MOUTH. Turns out it was a baby tooth, so its all cool. Anyway you can try my dentist because he is a great guy. How many people invite their dentist to their wedding? Well me, at least. Call Dr Bohlin, 212 586 2333, and tell him whats up! Tell him you are scared. Tell him you might need a payment plan. Feel free to MeMail me if you like.
posted by shothotbot at 6:36 AM on November 6, 2009 [8 favorites]

You might already know this, but holding off on dental treatment will exacerbate any problems you might have, if you have them.

I'm fairly good about dental care, but have weak enamel. At my last visit with bitewing x-rays, the dentist discovered around a dozen cavities--many minor enough that we're choosing to hold off on filling them until I have dental insurance that will cover them. The others are fairly small and only need minor fillings; I've had four fillings done already, and it was really a breeze. However, he did say that waiting on a few of them would have made the necessity of things like root canals far more likely.

Also, look into Care Credit and find a dentist that accepts it. I originally got a Care Credit to cover vet bills, but it's been a godsend for dental costs. You still have to pay it, of course, but under certain payment plans there's no interest for a year.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:42 AM on November 6, 2009

One of the great things about AskMe is that you get confirmation that you're neither crazy nor alone.

I haven't seen a dentist since 1995. First it was because I was poor. Then it was because I was a wimp. Now I'm just being silly. I actually have an appointment in two weeks. I'm sure they'll tell me I was silly, and they'll be right, but they'll take care of me, I'm sure.

Call around and ask about types of care, and even payment plans if you have to. Take your time, do it right. You're not alone, and you're not a wimp, because you're taking action.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:45 AM on November 6, 2009

I'll let others in NYC offer specific locations and financial aid local to you.

But I can second palliser's note that some dentists don't do the scraping anymore. Mine doesn't - they use some sort of pressurized water tool - and it makes a world of difference.

Second, four years is a bit long but it's not too bad. Dentists are used to this. So don't feel that it is shameful.

My teeth hurt sometimes, so I probably have cavities. What if I need a root canal?

If your teeth hurt only sometimes, then you probably don't need a root canal. So treating the cavities now will head that off at the pass.

I needed a root canal long ago because I just never got around to going to a dentist as I moved into my adult life (which is very typical, according to the dentist I ended up seeing). When it got to the point that it hurt all the time I finally made an appointment. The root canal was actually not as bad as I imagined and the cleaning felt great.
posted by mikepop at 6:47 AM on November 6, 2009

Because of the financial constraints, I feel like I have to get it right the first time.

They're probably not going to do everything the first time. I went back to the dentist for the first time in a looooooooooooong time recently (way longer than you) and while there was a lot of stuff that needed to be done I was pleasantly surprised to find out they were not going to tear out all my teeth and give me dentures. I needed one root canal (still procrastinating on that) and a filling and got my teeth cleaned. The dentist I went to (a friend of mine, if you were in Philly I'd hook you up because he and his staff are all young and totally cool) had to do a full set of x-rays first since it had been so long, then had to refer me out to someone else for the root canal after doing a cleaning. So it's honestly not terribly likely that you're going to go once and they're going to do a root canal or another serious procedure right then and there. They'll assess what work you need done, clean you up and schedule you for another appointment down the road. Which is a good thing; since you don't have to get it all done at once you shouldn't feel so much pressure about the first sitting. And yeah, they use this pressurized water thing now, they don't scrape so much. The pressurized water thing is a little ouchy at points but totally not in the sedation needing range of discomfort. It took forever to clean my teeth but they stressed that if I come back every six months like they tell me to instead of once like every other decade it only takes 10 minutes or so.
posted by The Straightener at 6:48 AM on November 6, 2009

Seconding doing a bit of flossing. Also get mouthwash, get those inter-dental brushes, in fact, basically try anything on the dental shelf at the store to get you in the mood and ready for the big day!
posted by KMH at 6:50 AM on November 6, 2009

Oh, hey, if you haven't been to a dentist for a while -- root canals are incredibly non-painful these days. Seriously, I just had one done twice, and I didn't feel anything other than the injection of the anesthetic.
posted by Comrade_robot at 6:54 AM on November 6, 2009

I left it for seventeen years. Finally plucked up the courage and went four years ago, and everything was fine. I just needed a clean, and it was about 1/100th as traumatic as I'd built it up in my mind to be. I happily go every year now; the sensation of having truly clean and well-cared-for teeth totally outweights the minor discomforts involved.

Remember, the dentist will stop any time you want them to - it's not torture. Try earplugs to help with the sound of the scraping and see if that helps.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:59 AM on November 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Contact NYU's dental school. They have low price clinics I believe.
posted by dfriedman at 7:03 AM on November 6, 2009

I went to the dentist for the first time in 4 years about 2 weeks ago. My teeth were absolutely fine, though they did admonish me to floss more often (just like every dentist I've ever gone to!).

As long as you're still brushing regularly, you have nothing to worry about. Dentists don't do anything super-magical to keep your teeth healthy, and not having seen one for a few years won't mean your teeth are in bad shape. Just call a dentist and make an appointment, it really will be a load off your mind.
posted by explosion at 7:10 AM on November 6, 2009

A suggestion for the anxiety: Xanax. It's for anxiety, ask a doc if you can get a couple for the occasion. Or, the dentist may be able to prescribe them as well. Not sure, as it is a controlled substance.
posted by kellyblah at 7:34 AM on November 6, 2009

Headphones and a tape player/iPod for the scraping noise. And yeah, if you've been practicing OK oral care, nthing that this probably won't be as bad as you're imagining.
posted by availablelight at 7:46 AM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have extremely sensitive teeth and dental appointments have always been painful for me. In college, I didn't go for 3 years for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was dread.

When I did go, I went in there with my boyfriend as my ally, told them that I ABSOLUTELY needed to have novocaine while having my teeth cleaned due to extreme sensitivity. At first they were dubious, but they gave me the shots. After a few appointments, they realized that I really DO have extremely sensitive teeth - I still had sensation even after several shots - gave me several products to help decrease sensitivity and prevent cavities, and best of all, they never question me any more. They automatically schedule me for 2 consecutive days when I need to have my teeth cleaned (1 day for each side of the mouth; you can't have both sides numbed at once.)

Just march right in there and ask for whatever will make you comfortable. YOU are paying THEM. There is no shame in having your teeth cleaned under local anesthetic, and as others have said, it's VERY IMPORTANT that you go sooner rather than later as dental problems, as you know, only get worse. Be an advocate for yourself!

During the years that I didn't go to the dentist, I had increasingly bad nightmares about my teeth falling out and other dental misery. It was really awful. I'm so glad I went, and I bet you will too.
posted by Cygnet at 7:50 AM on November 6, 2009

Columbus Circle Dentistry on 59th-ish is great--they were super nice about my dental anxiety and I got really good care there. They were very gentle, and it didn't hurt at all, even when they gave me the novacaine! I went to a student dentist (at Columbia U) and had a bad experience, so while I do know lots of people who have been fine with student dentists it might not be the best way to go if you're already anxious. After the bad experience I didn't go for a few years, partly because I didn't have insurance and partly because I was terrified, but Columbus Circle was a good first place to go back. Dentists know that people aren't always insured, so they're used to people not going for awhile. They aren't going to shame you. Definitely look into getting some Xanax or Ativan or something, if you think it might help.
posted by min at 7:51 AM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I might suggest learning as much about it as possible. Read up on the latest dental techniques and equipment. I had a rather large fear of flying for a while until I got into the technology of it and now fly much better, even enjoy going to airports. This is especially helpful if you like gadgets, technology or science. It also feels empowering to know what is being talked about if you overhear people talking. I am also slightly dental obsessed and simply from worrying about if my teeth were in good shape so I am generally familiar with specific teeth they are referring to when the doctor and hygenist are speaking. It really helps, trust me.
posted by UMDirector at 8:26 AM on November 6, 2009

12 years, man. It took twelve years for me to get to the dentist after I left home (a.k.a. "my mom stopped making my appointments"). One almost-cavity and a filling replaced was all I needed. Like Cygnet, it was the nightmares that ended up getting me to the dentist. I liked the dentist I found very much, she was professional, sweet and affordable. But mostly I was looking for something in my 'hood.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 8:28 AM on November 6, 2009

I didn't go for about 12 years also. When the dentist told me how many cavities I had, I asked him how many teeth were in there, becuase it sounded like all of them. Turns out the majority of them were small and localized around my old (20+ years) metallic fillings. Three years and many trips later all of my metal is gone, replaced by shiny epoxy (or whatever) fillings. I've yet to have a root canal, and I have no more mouth pain. I also floss regulary now.

Just go.
posted by Big_B at 8:54 AM on November 6, 2009

Just becuase you see one dentist for a cleaning does not necessarily mean you are going to have to spend a bunch of money. But it will give you an idea of what the damage is and help you come to terms with it.

(I didn't really answer a question the first time around)
posted by Big_B at 8:57 AM on November 6, 2009

If it makes you feel any better, I've never been the dentist. (My teeth are straight and white, for the record.)
posted by spaltavian at 9:21 AM on November 6, 2009

I didn't go to the dentist from the time I was 14 until my mid 30's. I was always an avid brusher (though not flosser) so not much of an issue. The only reason I went is because a filling fell out and I let it go so long it turned into a root canal.
I specifically looked up (in the yellow pages at the time) a dentist that was marketing themselves as a gentle or pain free dentist.
I had the entire root canal with essentially no pain whatsoever. A dull ache, but nothing I needed to hit the vicodin that they gave me over.
I won't give the name because she was pretty pricey.
I do have two other suggestions, however.
The Ryan/Nena clinic (there are a couple, one around Hells Kitchen, and one in the East Village) have dentists, and they charge based on what you can afford to pay. If you call them they will give you all the info you need. I have written many letters for my employees (indicating how much I pay them) to go there so that they can get various medical services, and all of them were very happy.
I have gone myself just because it's convenient (and payed full price, which I think is $90) and was more than happy with the service and quality of care.
Another suggestion I have if you are downtown, there is a dental clinic on Rivington street just west of Allen that I have gone to a few times, and now consider my regular dentist. The woman there is as good as the more expensive dentist I went to years ago, and the price is a fraction of what it was. The name of the place is smile america, and the dentists anem is Vetrinko, I think. You can call them and ask if they have any affordable pricing options.
posted by newpotato at 9:24 AM on November 6, 2009

I just had a root canal last week! It was great. My dentist explained everything she was doing to me as she did it, and showed me before and after pictures, and told me I had "beautiful canals". I would have told her she was too kind, except, you know, I couldn't speak.

Obviously you have some anxiety issues related to dentistry and me saying, "Oh, it's not so bad" isn't super helpful, but really, your worst case scenario is you have to get a shot to make you numb and then you plan a novel out in your head for an hour while the dentist fiddles around in strange but painless ways inside your mouth. And then it's over.

I guess what I'm saying is - you've done the dentist thing before, so this anxiety is surmountable. And a lot of your worries seem resolvable (new tools to use instead of scraping, probably don't need a root canal). So why not try a regular dentist again, someone who understands your issues and will work with you to make you as comfortable as possible, and if you really can't manage it, then drop the cash on the sedation dentistry.
posted by shaun uh at 9:26 AM on November 6, 2009

YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I know you're super-anxious and feel guilty about not going. You can't change the past, all you can do is try to face your fears in the safest environment possible. There are plenty of awesome dentists who are used to nervous patients. The best way to find a good dentist is to ask around - looks like you're already getting good recommendations from MeFites.

Definitely step up the brushing and flossing from now until the appointment. This will help minimize any gum sensitivity.
posted by radioamy at 9:39 AM on November 6, 2009

I know the first thing you say in your question is that it's so "shameful" you haven't been to the dentist in so long, but please don't feel ashamed. I hope seeing everyone's responses in here, and realizing how common it is to not see a dentist for an extended period, alleviates some of your anxiety. Don't beat yourself up.

Now, to find a dentist. Have you read through Yelp reviews? I know Yelp can be kind of annoying sometimes, but it can also be very helpful if you are patient and get lucky. You can read about other people's experiences with a particular dentist's demeanor and what type of cleaning and advice the patient received. I would narrow it down to a few, and then call and ask 1) whether they are experienced with and equipped to handle apprehensive patients, and 2) whether they scrape or use a newer method. You should have no problem finding a dentist who fulfills these needs, I promise (also, you can use price as a factor). You will be told you need a cleaning and X-Rays, and they will then let you know what type of further work you need, if at all (fillings, crowns, root canals). These require follow-ups and/or referrals to an oral surgeon, and you will be able to discuss price up front, before committing to anything further.

Don't be surprised if you don't need much follow up work; just experiencing slight tooth pain once in awhile doesn't mean you have anything terribly wrong. Some people never get cavities, despite the fact that they drink sodas and never floss. So don't automatically think worst case; however even if you do have a cavity or two, it's really quite quick and routine to get it filled. But start with the cleaning and X-rays, and go from there. You will feel awesome to finally get checked out.
posted by JenMarie at 9:45 AM on November 6, 2009

Great advice here, mostly.

When I finally went to the dentist (after MUCH longer than you; it's a long story) I just told them that I was not overall scared of going to the dentist (true for me) but that the scraping drives me CRAZY. When I got in, the hygienist and dentist both asked me more questions till they figured out what was the worst part for me, and they used a buffer tool instead of a pick. <3>
Good luck!
posted by wintersweet at 9:57 AM on November 6, 2009

like everyone says, just go. i was terrified as well and didnt go for a long time, and i ended up getting a root canal all that, etc... it wasnt that bad. i found out that i wsant terrifed at all this time around. the worst part of the root canal was having to keep my mouth open that long, the actual rooting of the canal was nothing, didnt feel a thing.

also, care credit is great, i got it for my wifes invisalign braces and then used it @ the vet for my dog. 18 months interest free. also now that ive discovered those flossy pick things instead of actual floss im addicted to it.
posted by fumbducker at 10:03 AM on November 6, 2009

Shame: unnecessary. Many, many people put off dental visits, then feel embarrassed, so put it off longer, etc. To the extent that their breath is fetid and they have visible decay. 4 years is not that extreme. Dental health affects general health, so you'll want to go in soon.

My dentist has an ipod, lots of playlists and a headset. It's a huge help for me not to hear the drill, or, for you, the scraping. Take your own music/earbuds or borrow a music player from a pal.

Dentists know their work is expensive, and if you need work, the dentist can prepare an itemized, prioritized plan.
posted by theora55 at 10:23 AM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I too am terrified of the person with a drill. I have to wear an MP3 player, and for just about anything but xrays, I make them hook me up to Nitrous. Laughing gas...totally the way to go for scaredy cats. Trust me. (Also, a valium couldn't hurt.) I sympathize, I do. My last dentist totally screwed up my teeth, and I'm going to need a lot of work, and probably my own tank of nitrous to get through fixing it.
posted by dejah420 at 10:52 AM on November 6, 2009

I have to second the comment about Nitrous Oxide. Combine that with some with Pink Floyd playing on your headphones and you'll be asking to come back every week!
posted by scottatdrake at 11:04 AM on November 6, 2009

hermitosis has recommended norman dental clinic on here before and so have i. here's what i said last time, cause it's still true:

"if you can get to greenpoint (they're right off the g), dr erin teague at norman dental center is very nice and very good, as is their periodontist dr juliana yun and all the staff members i've ever interacted with. no one scolded me for skipping a few years worth of visits, although they probably should've! they don't take insurance and so also don't charge very much, especially compared to manhattan dentists."

which reminds me that it's time for a cleaning and i really should go! theora55's advice is wise, please please please take it.
posted by lia at 12:16 PM on November 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh, god. Yesterday i went to the dentist for the first time since 2005 also. I was TERRIFIED ... and I only went because my teeth had started to ache on and off. And I'm also in NYC, so hopefully my info will help!

I cannot recommend Dr. Sachar at enough. First of all, everyone from the receptionist who made the initial appointment to the hygienist to Dr. Sachar herself were super, super friendly and did not shame me AT ALL about staying away from the dentist for so long. I don't know about you, but for me it just sort of snowballed, and half of my fear of going back was shame. I really appreciated that they were like "it's totally normal, a lot of people hate the dentist, you're doing a good job just by coming" etc etc.

Secondly, both the dr and the hygienist were very gentle and VERY concerned with my comfort. Also, they use water-pressure tools now for the majority of the cleaning. I will warn you that they make a ... sort of intense squeaking sound, but I think you could put in earplugs or an ipod and it would be fine.

There are a lot of comforting stories upthread about putting it off for years and having nothing wrong, but I have quuuite a number of cavities and I'd venture to say that if your teeth are hurting you might have one too. But this is not a reason to worry! Cavities happen all the time and can be fixed. And if it's only hurting on and off, you probably don't need a root canal -- the nerve is still around and is just protesting. I'm going back for a couple follow-up appts.

And I have to say ... I feel SO MUCH BETTER now that i know what's happening up there and have a "plan" to fix it. I bet you will too. Don't be ashamed, just go get it fixed.

PM me if you want further details, especially on the costs/quantity of work I'm having done. I have insurance but I know what the cost before insurance was, and I also overheard them working with several other clients on both prioritizing what work was really needed, and on payment.
posted by alleycat01 at 1:11 PM on November 6, 2009

You are soo not alone! And really, congrats on just doing it. I haven't been to the dentist in about three years (no insurance). I brush twice a day and keep my fingers crossed. I bet all they would do is scrape a little and yell at me to floss more. My boyfriend hasn't been in eighteen years. Although I think his teeth are perfect, I'm sure it wouldn't be pretty if someone got up in there with a drill. So - don't let it get that far.
I'm echoing everyone else: four years is nothing! Get a quote for sedation dentistry and go from there.
posted by pintapicasso at 1:50 PM on November 6, 2009

Norman dental clinic in Greenpoint was inexpensive and totally not scary despite the fact that I needed teeth *taken out*.
posted by The Whelk at 2:04 PM on November 6, 2009

I was an anxious patient and avoided going in for somewhere around 10 years. A good, understanding office and dentist, a calming playlist or maybe even a audiobook to distract your brain, and a nice, big hit of Nitrous will go far.

It took a handful of visits and cleanings, but I'm almost completely cool with dentist visits, now.
posted by moira at 3:18 PM on November 6, 2009

Ditto. It's been more like 8 years for me, I think. Your post and the responses to it have inspired me to "just do it". Thanks and good luck!
posted by ourroute at 4:58 PM on November 6, 2009

NYU Dental School. They are an extraordinary resource here in NYC and seem to practically exist for these kinds of situations. Call them ASAP.

I did the same thing as you, except worse. I put off a dentist visit for nearly ten years and kept terrible dental hygiene until, finally, an entire piece of my tooth broke off. So no shame there. A good portion of the population neglects this aspect of their hygiene.

I was also completely broke at the time and lacking any health insurance whatsoever. (Still am! USA! USA!) It's about two years later and my teeth are in tip-top shape because I started the process at their dental school. Here's how their process works:

1.) Call and set up an appointment for an examination. This will cost you $90 and covers two separate appointments. In the first you get your entire mouth x-rayed, no stone unturned, and then in the next (usually a separate day) they sit you down and tell you where all the cavities/bad stuff are, what it will take to fix them up, and what each procedure will cost.

Although it's still $90 up front, this is a significantly cheaper price (for two appointments and a huge bundle of extra x-rays) than I was able to find in any private practices in the city. (As in, three to four times cheaper.) You'll find this to be the case with all of the prices at the school.

2.) Prices: If you need fillings, they charge $90 to $110 for each one (depending on the tooth). Root canals are around $400 each and are often accompanied by the cost of a crown, which is an extra $450 to $650, depending on the type of crown you get. A cleaning is $50, but you might just get that for free if you have other treatments set up that necessitate a cleaning beforehand. (Like a root canal.)

3.) You can set up a payment plan. The procedures are still a lot of money for the moneyless, but nearly every patient there is low income, so the school makes the process of setting up a payment plan extraordinarily easy. As in, you go up to a desk, say you need a payment plan, and they ask how much you can pay and when. Boom. You're done. The school is VERY flexible about this. I got to a certain point where I couldn't pay anything for a few MONTHS, and they continued with my treatments regardless and didn't hassle me.

4.) Going ahead with a treatment. If you give your okay to all or even part of the treatment plan that is drawn up for you, then you are set up with a third or fourth year student (usually the one who takes your initial x-rays and draws up your plan, but that can differ) and set up for your next appointment. Appointments are in two-hour blocks between 8 AM and 8 PM.

Yes, you will be there that whole two hours. Be prepared to get really familiar with the fourth floor lobby and the ever-present CNN being broadcast. Don't be surprised if it is packed every time you go there.

Here's the awesome thing, considering your nervousness. The students are a million times more careful with patients than experienced dentists. If you go "ow!", they stop and ask how they can help. If you say you're too nervous to continue, they'll stop. If you request gas or sedation, they'll provide, although they'll prefer not to since it slows things down. (I don't know if there's an extra cost to that because I never needed it. It's very possible there's not, though, as I was never dinged for anything extra, like bonding materials or further x-rays.)

You'll also get so used to the routine after only a couple visits that you'll wonder why you were ever scared of the dentist.

POSSIBLE BONUS: At the end of every semester, the students hire patients for their exams. It depends on what requirements that student needs (i.e. they need to be able to fill a cavity on the front teeth to pass the exam), but if you get offered this SAY YES. You come in on a weekend for three hours, get the same treatment as you do usually, except the filling is FREE and you get paid around $100 on TOP of that. So basically you get to cavities filled for free. I was able to get $700 worth of free dental work done because of this. (My teeth were a freakin' wreck.)

So. Yeah. NYU Dental School. I had a great experience there and I (obviously) can't recommend them enough.
posted by greenland at 5:02 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

During phases of discomfort, my dentist taught me to wiggle my fingers and toes. Apparently it diverts your physical focus. I do it at physician appointments if necessary, too. Those guys look at me funny, but too bad.

In the run-up to your appointment, floss daily -- after every meal if you can. Get some anti-plaque mouthwash. Consider brushing with baking soda until your appointment, and then switch to regular toothpaste. Straight baking soda is abrasive, but you probably have so much plaque that you'll be fine. It takes some getting used to, but it leaves a really clean, fresh feeling.

The only mechanized toothbrush my dentist recommends is Sonic Care; the others are too aggressive and lead to receding gums. (They recede as you get older, so no need to hasten things.)

(This past year I was in the dental chair, mouth stuffed, of course, and the dentist said, "you know about the recession, right?" I nodded, thinking "what, is the practice doing poorly - laying off staff?" and "but I have dental insurance, and the co-pay can't be that much." When my mouth was freed up, I asked her why she asked me about the recession. She replied that she was referring to my gums. D'uh.)
posted by jgirl at 6:15 PM on November 6, 2009

I just wanted to say that really, this isn't shameful. Seriously. Lots of people (myself included) grew up at a time when kids were subjected to this awful shame-based approach to preventative dentistry where cavities were SOOOO BAAAAD and you were a terrible person if you had them. You have nothing to be ashamed of. It's okay to be freaked out by someone scraping around inside your mouth.

I didn't go to the dentist for like, 15 years because of my severe anxiety. I ended up finding a dentist who was just astoundingly helpful and understanding. Don't assume that sedation dentistry is prohibitively expensive--my dentist offers options from anti-anxiety medication to nitrous oxide and it does not appear to be costing me any more than a regular visit. (If it's an additional charge, it's not so terrible that I remember it now.)

You're not alone. And if you were in L.A., I'd recommend Dr. Mileham in a heartbeat.
posted by corey flood at 6:19 PM on November 6, 2009

1) Price: Nth-ing NYU dental school. Also, I've heard good things about Chinatown's Dr. Toothy, both in terms of price and service. One of my friends swears by him, despite his website (warning: music). Some friends go to Dr. Charles Dorato, who is a sweetheart, though he's relatively 'spensive.

2) A friend of mine who hadn't been to the dentist in years (since well before 2005, I think) went this week. She was absolutely terrified that she was going to need multiple fillings, if not worse. Guess what? No root canal. No fillings. No admonishment from the dental staff. Try not to expect the worst going in. There's a good chance you're fine! Promise.

3) In addition to being expensive, being put under can be physically taxing. Just something you might want to take into consideration.

4) I haven't been to a dentist since 2006, for basically no reason. Not having been to a dentist in a while is pretty common, as is anxiety regarding the appointment. Dentists are very, very used to this, and most of them will be happy to work with you to make sure you have a positive experience.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:08 AM on November 7, 2009

Way late, but if anyone stumbles onto this. Dr. Sinkin in Midtown East (40th btw Park and Madison) is amazing. He found me on Twitter when I was complaining about pain following another appt where pain hadn't been solved in 18 months.
His office fit me in the following Monday (this was either Thurs or Fri) and he fixed the pain in one appt. Whole office staff is very friendly and see us as people, not cash cows. Always asking questions about life/family etc. He's wonderful for those of us who are terrified at the dentist. Nitrous and gas is amazing way to relax.
posted by TravellingCari at 10:17 PM on October 23, 2010

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