How do you reward / bribe yourself to go to the dentist for fillings?
September 6, 2017 1:16 AM   Subscribe

How do you reward / bribe yourself to go to the dentist for fillings?

Apparently I need seven (!) fillings.

This is painful because:
a) sitting in dentists chair = TMJ pain; neck/shoulder pain; lower back pain
b) tooth pain
c) fear and stress
d) being lectured condescendingly by dentist about brushing/flossing etc

I am so, so, so tempted to cancel the dentist appointment that I have booked for tomorrow, but I know that avoiding getting a filling now risks needing a root canal later. (A friend of mine put off getting a filling for six months and needed a horrible root canal as a result.)

Hence, bribery!
posted by Murderbot to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
A and B are easier -- here's what I'd do:

a) Book yourself a massage for the next day.
b) Splurge (calories- or $-wise) on delicious soft treats.

c) and d) are tougher, but a good dentist's office should be able to kindly and gently allay your stress, and not lecture. I have a nightguard; I never wear it; I am chewing through my teeth for sure, but my dentist just tells me to try to wear it 3x a week once per appointment.

But if you want pure bribes, I would book myself an hour at a cat cafe for c) and decide to take my healthcare dollars to a different office, if d).
posted by batter_my_heart at 1:30 AM on September 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

For a to c, gas.
For d, more gas.
posted by Thella at 3:26 AM on September 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Sometimes, the thing that helps with anxiety is telling them you have anxiety. Dentist anxiety is SUPER normal. TELL them you don't want to be lectured about dental care, you just want it done.

Put some headphones in!! (That's something they don't tell you that you can do, but you likely can. Just keep it low enough that you can hear them ask questions.) Listen to some lighthearted music or a book on tape or something.

Then, after it's done, buy yourself something nice. You earned it. You'll feel so relieved when you don't have to think about it anymore!

I've had to do a shitton of painful shitty things (chronic illness, tests, surgeries). My favorite thing is a dumb illustration that's an awards ribbon that says "Cried, but did the thing anyway." GO do that thing!
posted by Crystalinne at 3:34 AM on September 6, 2017 [5 favorites]

I had to do this too. Headphones are *hugely* helpful as it turns out an enormous portion of my stress was due to the drill noise! Also, definitely break it into two appointments (my dentist did one side at a time a few weeks apart).

100% chocolate milkshakes, crap to, and a day off work.
posted by jrobin276 at 3:41 AM on September 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

I agree with Thella, try gas and see if it helps. If I had used gas when I was younger I would have much better teeth today. I no longer need it as I have come to some place where the stress just isn't there any more. Also, find a dentist who doesn't shame, I think when I was younger the shame was worse than the pain, a good dentist knows better.
posted by InkaLomax at 4:11 AM on September 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

This isn't quite a direct answer to your question, but it helps if I remind myself that I'm only going to be in the chair for maybe three hours at the very most, and probably more like an hour and a half. I can endure almost anything for that amount of time, and then when it's done it's done. No more worrying about the state of my teeth, no more anxious waiting for the appointment, no more drilling and filling. All done! Being finally done with it is sort of its own reward.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:38 AM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I had a lot of oral surgeries in high school, and my dad always took me out for a giant milkshake afterward. It helped.
posted by coppermoss at 4:44 AM on September 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

1. Focus on how great you'll feel when all fillings are completed and your mouth is 'healthy' again.
2. Podcasts, audio book or music (whatever you like) for during the dental procedure.
3. Ice cream for dinner afterwards with some comfort tv.
4. Strong pain killers.
posted by jazh at 5:28 AM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

All of the above and see if you can switch roles in your head so that you're no longer the bad child who needs a talking to, but a consumer who can take their business elsewhere. I have a lovely dentist who only hires genuinely kind and caring technicians. If I exhibit ANY anxiety, he stops everything to make sure I am comfortable and free of fear. I've never been lectured by anyone there, even during the 15 or so years that I had piercings that could have caused damage to teeth and gums (they didn't, but I know some dentists would disapprove on general principle).

So ypur dream dentist is out there, and you can encourage your current dentist to be that person by asking for what you want in the moment.
posted by janey47 at 8:07 AM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

My treat would be to find a better dentist. Seriously you should have a dentist that doesn't talk condescendingly to you, & that takes into account your fears & pain. Talk to your nurse before the dentist gets there, I've found they usually take that sort of thing more seriously & will communicate with the dentist. Your dentist may well then suggest gas or anesthesia or be willing to work in short bursts to handle any pain in your jaw or body situations.

Also make your appointments for first thing in the morning so you can't talk yourself out of it or find excuses not to go.

Treat wise I get myself a fancy iced coffee from Starbucks once I can taste things again and if your teeth allow take yourself out for a bang up dinner that night because hell you deserve it.
posted by wwax at 8:08 AM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nitrous. I'm serious. I have experience in this area; almost every tooth in my mouth has had a filling in it. I used to go to dentists who only used injectable anesthetics. Now I go to a dentist who will use nitrous if you ask for it. I ask for the maximum. It practically makes it enjoyable. I mean, I don't love getting fillings, but nitrous is lovely and it helps a lot.

As far as the floss-shaming, I don't go to doctors/hygienists who do this anymore, but when I did, I tell them firmly that I am in my thirties and know all about flossing, thank you, so they can skip the shame.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:05 AM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I bribe myself by reminding myself that neglecting dental care has resulted in both my parents (and many other older family members) having full sets of dentures. And I *REALLY* just don't want to get dentures. So that's my motivation.

In your immediate case, if you've not yet had to do major work with this dentist, maybe call them today and warn them that you're feeling apprehensive, and ask how they can accommodate you. If you still don't feel good about it, maybe seek out a dentist that advertises themselves as specializing in treating patients with anxiety.
posted by vignettist at 9:05 AM on September 6, 2017

Seven is a lot in one go. I only do 1 side at a time if I can help it, however many that ends up being.

I always ask for the topical anesthetic before the injectable, and I ask for a LOT of novacaine. I will stop them in the middle of filling if it starts to hurt. Agreeing on hand gestures beforehand (this hand is "need more suction", this hand is "need more novacaine") helps with anxiety.

My sister gets valium to take before her appointments. Yes, you need someone to drive you, but her anxiety is much less.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 9:11 AM on September 6, 2017

Ativan sublingual is another option. Take a small one before you go. And if it's still not enough, take another in the office. Effective in 10 minutes. Handy if you can't get the gas mask on for the procedure.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:16 AM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Anti-anxiety meds and/or prescription painkillers. I have TMJ and a neck injury, and I have to take Percocet before getting any dental work, even a cleaning. I also am _very_ clear that I need to take breaks and not have my jaw open a second longer than absolutely necessary.

Seven is a lot! I'd break it up.

I hesitate to tell you to break your appointment, but there are definitely dentists that specialize in dental anxiety. That sounds like it would be a better fit. At least a dentist who doesn't lecture you, sheesh.
posted by radioamy at 9:27 AM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have teeth that need a lot of care. Remind yourself that taking care of your teeth is an excellent idea for general health and not ending up with dentures. Our childhood dentist was a jerk, and it took me ages to get over it. I learned relaxation techniques and it helps a lot. Headphones help with the sound of the drill, and general distraction. Gas sounds like an excellent plan.

Reward? Remind yourself that you are being a responsible adult, which is a real achievement. Then go to the best ice cream place in town, or stop for a pint or 2 of your preferred premium ice cream.
posted by theora55 at 9:52 AM on September 6, 2017

Most dentists / hygienists are actually nice people. If you walk in the door and tell them how they can help you have a good experience, they will follow that to the best of their ability.
"I am nervous about being here today, and I really want to just get through this. I know it's going to be a long process, but if you could, please just keep reminding me how great it is that we're taking care of this now. I know there are plenty of things I could have done differently and could do better for the future, but let's just keep today about today."
posted by aimedwander at 12:27 PM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I used to HATE going to the dentist because dentistry is stuck in the dark ages. It wasn't a problem with me, it was a problem with dentistry and I knew it. Never again!

There's this new (to the USA) material called silver diamine fluoride. It's cheap, it's painless, it kills the caries and caps the cavity.

The downside? It leaves a black spot where your cavity was, but no black spots on healthy tooth! Larger cavities will still need some filling for structural reasons, but with SDF, they won't have to destroy healthy tooth.
posted by aniola at 1:24 PM on September 6, 2017

I reward myself with iced coffee, but honestly nothing got me to the dentist on the reg quite like finding a dentist who wasn't an enormous asshole. **

Now, you haven't said whether your dentist is actually the lecturing type or whether you're just afraid of that, but if they are, fuck 'em! Go on Yelp and find someone with great reviews, or poll your friends on FB or whatever.

(Bonus, you will get a second opinion & maybe it turns out you don't need quite so many fillings.)

**Oh, also, watching my mom have 100% of her teeth pulled and replaced with implants that cost more than a fucking car...that was pretty uh, inspirational.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:31 PM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am going to also suggest you find a new dentist.

Mine has massaging chairs you lie in while they work on you, at least until they get to the fiddly parts and are super sweet and not condescending ever. They will put on a movie for you, ply you with stress balls, and / or dose you with some nitrous if you are feeling nervous. I think they even have Valiums for the extra phobic.

These dentists are out there.

If all else fails, you get a day off work with your favorite comfort foods and no guilt about binge-watching Netflix :)
posted by ananci at 2:00 PM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

When I was in my early 20s, I had EIGHT teeth taken out at once, including 4 wisdom teeth. It was a rather miserable experience, mostly due to an uncaring dental surgeon with too many needles without proper numbing, who also gave me shit because I was shivering uncontrollably in reaction to everything. Worst of all, all this despite a preliminary discussion of my fears and concerns regarding the procedure where I explained my low pain tolerance and fear of needles.

Nowadays, as an older adult, I have found a new dentist who really goes the extra miles to help allay my fears. He was the first to offer me Nitrous Oxide (Nitrox), and that has made a world of difference to me! After it has kicked in, he applies a topical and lets that kick in before I actually get the needles -- which thankfully, I now barely feel more than a tiny pinch. What a HUGE difference!

He also checks in with me many times during the process, making sure I'm feeling okay, especially regarding the Nitrox.

I have an old back & knee injury, so sitting in the chair for a long time can be super uncomfortable, and I know I can shiver as a reaction, so I bring a small lap blanket and a tube-shaped knee pillow to help me with a more comfortable position. The staff have no problem with it; "as long as it helps you" they say.

I also made myself a custom "Dentist Playlist" on my iPhone, filled with happy upbeat tunes, and I listen to it in one earbud, to help drown out the drill sounds. The ear closest to the dentist I leave "open", so I can hear any questions, or requests to shift positions slightly, etc.

AFTER DENTIST REWARDS: After my appointment, I usually visit one of my best friends who lives nearby who I rarely get to see. She's the one who recommended this particular dentist! We usually go out to a nearby café or restaurant, and nibble and sip on whatever I can handle afterwards -- which usually includes a treat such as French Vanilla cappuccino, or possibly a thick slurpable milkshake. The next day, I usually take it easy, and treat myself to some special time for myself -- whether that includes watching a movie I've been looking forward to, or even playing computer games.

Seconding the recommendation of finding another dentist/business if they don't take your demand to stop "shaming" you regarding your health practices. It's not worth the stress, and you have a choice to bring your business elsewhere where they won't pull that crap on you as an adult.
posted by Jade Dragon at 2:01 PM on September 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Re D: have you asked the dentist to not lecture you? You're both adults. When I first saw mine after a long period of not going due to fear of lecturing, I flat out told him I was anxious, I hated being lectured, I'm committed to following his directions, but please don't try to guilt me into doing anything - I react better to fact based discussions. He wrote me a script for Ativan for before the fillings, and never lectured me. Maybe try telling your dentist why you're reluctant to go and see what he or she says!
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 4:13 AM on September 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

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