Dear Kind Mr. Dentist –
Hi! It’s me, your favorite patient. (At least in my own mind). I feel the need to drop you a note of apology. I’m sorry I can’t seem to stop hating coming to see you. Now, before you tell me you’ve never noticed, I know that can’t be true. You see my sky high blood pressure each time I sit in your chair so we can dispense with any denials. I’m certain you’ve heard this before, but I swear it’s not you, it’s me. I have a dysfunctional relationship with dental care. For that I can thank a few terrible dental experiences in my childhood.
I love how I feel walking out of your office. I smile bigger and spend hours after a cleaning running my tongue over my teeth, reveling in their silky, shiny glory. It’s truly one of life’s pure joys. As an added bonus, I don’t have to floss that night. There’s really not a downside to seeing you every six months. So why can’t I remember that? Every. Single. Time.
When I leave your office, I say to myself, “Self, you will remember how great you feel now and you won’t freak out next time!” And every time I fail to keep that promise. In the past, no matter how hard I tried, the anxiety began to set in and my blood pressure rose. Ugh. If it’s any consolation, the last few times my heart rate hasn’t shot up. I’d say that’s progress. Right?
What’s even more ridiculous is that I can’t even blame dental troubles for my reticence in seeing you. I have good hygiene and no longer have to lie about how often I floss. I haven’t had a cavity in years and your care, and that of your staff, has always been stellar. You even remember personal things about me and my family. You’ve given me no reason to be as nervous as I am walking through your doors. It really is a me problem.
I’m sorry if my autonomic systems and their protestations at visiting with you hurt your feelings. I’m sorry that I can’t get a handle on it. I promise I’m trying. I even tell other people how great you and your staff are. Please forgive me and don’t take my fear personally – that belongs firmly at the feet of a past dentist and one terrible orthodontist. (In fairness, I did accidentally bite said orthodontist, but it really was his fault.)
Surely I’m not the only one that gets nervous seeing you? My guess is that the vast majority of your patients find themselves in my boat. I’ve seen the panic in others’ eyes and the plastered on smiles in the waiting room. To your credit, they’re all happy walking out, just like I am. You are a great dentist!
I hope and pray the world outside your office treats you kindly enough to override any negative effects of the panic a dental chair often elicits. Thank you for your incredible kindness and understanding. I promise I’m working on my issue, but the progress is slow. One thing I do know, even if my nervous system tries to revolt, I’ll see you in six months.
A Grateful, and Penitent, Patient
How about you? Are you afraid of the dentist? Or a fellow white-coat hypertension sufferer? I’d love to hear how you combat it in the comments. Maybe if we work together we can overcome it for good!
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