I am petrified of the dentist.

Yes, I’m in my mid-twenties, yes, I’m planning to go hike alone in the woods for six months, yes, I rode horses and sang in public and fell down the stairs when I was little and kicked them instead of crying.

But one of my biggest fears is the dentist. Which is a little odd, because I am the most self-conscious about my teeth and smile. The dentist ought to be my best friend. If only my teeth were better, and healthier. But despite my teeth being my biggest area of body image concern, I don’t take very good care of them.

Actually, last week was the first time I even used my own dental insurance, which I’ve had for three years now. So it had been longer than that since my last visit. I’m not good at sticking with habits. I go through phases of flossing every day with care, and just as suddenly, I stop. I crawl into bed and don’t get out to brush some nights. So forget about flossing.

So one day, with a lot of support from my boyfriend and a stroke of courage, I went into the dentist office I’d walked by several times on my way to work. I stood waiting for the couple in front of me to finish, wishing for a paper bag to breathe into. I told you, I am petrified to point of unreasonableness. I forced myself to be this “adult” word I hear so much about, and stayed. With wringing hands, I walked to the counter.

“Hi,” I coughed out. “I need to make an appointment.”

“Okay, have you been here before?”

“No, I…I…I haven’t been to a dentist in a very long time. I’m terrified. But I need to fix my teeth.”

Actually, this all made me so nervous that this post is likely the first my parents are hearing about it at all, and I am very close with my parents.

My first appointment actually went really well. I like my new dentist a lot. Bedside manner was great, and he actually recognized me from the building I used to live in (apparently he lived there too, still does). I told him I was nervous, he told me not to be. He talked about things besides my teeth, then eased into my issues. He does this – he talks about small details, then your teeth, then back to not-teeth. He and his tech are a great team. He cleaned my teeth himself that time, and it barely hurt (I am used to bleeding, terrible pain and techs on seemingly bad days – oops, got your gum). Except for those wing things for the X-rays. I have never done well with those. They had to go down a size, since I couldn’t close my mouth down on the first ones.

This week consisted of not one but two appointments to fill cavities. I had a lot. I had more than even I expected. So Monday, they numbed the right side of my face and drilled away for a good long while. Today, they numbed the left side of my face and drilled away for a bit longer. Pretty much my jaw has been in some form of pain all week. My right side is still sensitive, so I bought Sensodyne and yogurt tonight.

This post was going to be better. Something about thanking dentists. How bedside manner can make such a difference. How at ease I was compared to what I recall. Blessings on anyone who actually wants to be a dentist. I suppose I should have written it last week, as this week has been an utter week from hell. I think it’s been like that for a lot of people. Pre-holiday stresses? Travel? Work? You name it.

I get to see family in less than 24 hours. And my boyfriend. I won’t have as much time off as I’d hoped (and am at a pretty low point mentally for that), but I will get to see them. And that’s all I’ve got to hold on to now. Let shit-hell-week be over.

Anyway. Face your fears. Go to the dentist. Don’t ever, ever put it off for this long if you can afford the visits. It will be worse for you the longer you’re in denial. Trust me. I know.