Time to Pick on Dentists Now

Since I wrote about doctor visits on Wednesday, I thought I’d give equal time to the other doctors in my life – my dentists.

Here’s a little cautionary tale for those of you who avoid going to the dentist.

I’ve always been a little afraid of going to the dentist; you know, the drill, the noises, the smell. As I gained massive amounts of weight, I used my weight as an excuse to quit going to the dentist. I diligently brushed and flossed my teeth, but avoided making and keeping an appointment for a check-up. Why? Because I was afraid I wouldn’t fit on the skinny little chair that was designed for regular sized people.

The thought of plopping down on the chair, lifting my heavy legs over the side and laying with my big self hanging over the sides of the chair struck terror in my mind. I imagined the repulsion the dentist and his assistant would feel as they had to reach their arms around my big neck and face. Maybe they wouldn’t feel that way at all, but that’s what I thought they’d be thinking. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to use my lax stomach muscles to pull myself up and use the spit bowl, and also worried my weight would prevent the dentist from properly numbing my mouth. All ridiculous worries I know, but worries just the same.

I’d make appointments with the dentist the rest of my family used, but cancel them before the actual day arrived. I got numerous post cards in the mail cheerfully reminding that I was overdue for my check-up. Overdue was an understatement at that point, as I was overdue by several years. Everytime a little card came in the mail I’d look at it, rip it into tiny pieces and throw it in the trash. “No way,” I’d think. “No way I’m going to be embarrassed.” So I didn’t go.

As I got closer to my goal weight my lack of dental visits began weighing heavily on my mind. I knew I could go now, and not be worried about hanging off the sides of the chair or breaking something. Finally, I made an appointment with a new dentist and actually went. Because I was a new patient, I had to endure the “welcome to our practice, why are you here” talk. When he asked me about my last visit to a dentist I tried to just get away with mumbling some nonsense. It didn’t work. He pressed me, and I finally confessed that I hadn’t been to the dentist in over 8 years. He was shocked, and asked me why. I explained that I used to be obese and I was worried about fitting on the skinny chair and using the spit bowl. He just looked thoughtfully at me and said, “I see.” He also explained that during my eight year hiatus spit bowls had become passe and I didn’t need to worry about that part of the experience. “Wow,” I thought. “Technology has moved a long way while I was busy gaining 150 pounds.” Eventually our little chat was over and he turned me over to his assistant, to whom I also had to explain my long absence from dental offices. To her credit, she didn’t say much, but proceeded to x-ray my teeth. I was understandably nervous when the dentist came back into the room. He said, “Didn’t you say it had been eight years since you’ve been to the dentist?” I nodded, waiting for the bad news. And bad news it was because then he said, “Well, you’ve got eight cavities – one for each year you missed.”

So, the point of this little story is encourage you to not only get regular check-ups with your doctor, but also to check in regularly with your dentist. If you don’t, you may be missing some great new technological advances and missing some teeth! Just another expensive reason to lose weight, get healthy and stop being afraid of things! 

Have you ever avoided a dentist appointment?  Diane

29 thoughts on “Time to Pick on Dentists Now

  1. Sara N. says:

    Oh yes. I’ve avoided the dentist, the doctor, the chiropractor and every other medical professional. I force myself to get a checkup, but I hate every minute of it.

    Sorry you had all those cavities, but glad you finally went!

  2. Desert Agave says:

    My husband pretty much forced me to go to the dentist this fall after a 5+ year absence. I was lucky and didn’t have any cavities or gum problems, but I know I shouldn’t have put it off so long. That’s a bad habit I get into — putting off needed medical check-ups. There are a couple appointments I should make soon, now that I’m trying to take better care of myself.

  3. Sharon says:

    How ironic! I had my six-month dental appointment yesterday! And yes, like many of us baby boomers, I had a bad experience in the dental office as a child that took me many years to get past. But it is a lot different today (i.e. no spit bowls) and most dentists are kind and caring. BTW, got my usual good report – no problems, come back in 6 months!!

  4. vickie says:

    I had medical thing I avoided too, so I realize relate to these two posts.

    and one thought with the second. If you had been blogging then, you would have been able to voice your concerns and other bloggers would have been able to ‘talk you down’ from your anxiety. and would have been able to give you practical advice (no more spit bowl, now they have the sucky straws, etc).

    I have not flown in a long time and was on a plane (two planes in fact) this week and I am here to report that those seats ARE SMALL. So everyone that has felt ‘big’ on a plane, it wasn’t all ‘you’ – seats are really slim cut.

  5. Susan says:

    I too have avoided the dentist. I skipped a lot of years like you because I didn’t have insurance. When I got remarried and put on my husbands plan I got caught up on dr. appointments ended up having to have my gums scrapped they numb you up for it though now days I go every six months. Right now I’m overdue for my mamogram.

  6. Tish says:

    Yes, I’ve avoided the dentist. I hate the noise, the smells (when the drill is going). Yuck. I force myself to go, because I want to be the look-ma-no-cavities kid. And now that I’m at “that certain age,” I finally realized what the Dentist Hymn is: Crown Him (or her) with Many Crowns.

  7. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman says:

    I’m strange–I love going to the dentist. The feel of my teeth just after an appointment is amazing. I wish they could feel that way year-round. And given the opportunity by my insurance I’d go every three months. I know, I have issues.

  8. Emergefit says:

    Did not see a dentist from ages 12-44. Not due to obesity, due to fear. That absence cost me $14,000 — once I finally decided to get over the fear. Lots of work to still be done too…

  9. Marsial2010 says:

    I’ve always been faithful about going to the dentist. My mother lost all of her teeth by the time I was born (she was 32) and I remember being terrified about losing mine. As a kid, I truly believed that I would rather lose a leg than my teeth. I don’t know why losing my teeth scared me so much — I had many childhood nightmares about it. Anyway, now in my 60’s, I’ve never lost a tooth or had to have any work done on my gums. But a couple of years ago, I did have all of my silver fillings replaced with porcelain. I’ve been going to the same dentist since we moved here more than 20 years ago. He and his partner have a tiny little practice — nothing fancy, no assistants….yes, they still have spit-bowls.

  10. Leah says:

    I’ve never avoided a dentist or any other doctor appointment and never would’ve considered someone would for the reasons you mentioned until you wrote about this.

    My husband is in dental school right now and they actually had to have a patient leave and come back because he was too heavy for the chair. At the time they thought the chair was broken and there wasn’t another available seat. A mechanic came in to fix it right then, but it couldn’t be fixed.

    After the patient left the student was told by the mechanic that there is a weight limit and the back wouldn’t go down because of a safety mechanism that stops it if the weight is too high. The patient was much larger than you at your heaviest, Diane, but it was a real eye opener to my husband and I that your weight can affect your health in this regard as well.

    So, here’s my little plug…
    Don’t be scared of the dentist, blog friends. They want to help you just as much as other doctors want to. Trust me, I live with a soon-to-be dentist. Just don’t watch Little Shop of Horrors before you go, or even Nemo for that matter. 🙂

  11. Tami says:

    I have always had a fear of the dentist and the ironic thing is my husband designs dental offices and sells the capitol equipment to dentists!

    Some dentists do have concerns about their obese patients and the chair holding up to their weight.

    I am so glad you went back to the dentist as it does have an impact on our over all health not just our teeth.

  12. Margaret says:

    I have many dental fears from childhood, but I go every six months anyway. Good thing, because I had a filling that cracked. Decay was starting under it. If I had waited longer, probably it would have become a crown problem, but as it was, another small filling. There is a good reason for the semi-annual cleaning, besides shiny clean teeth.

  13. JourneyBeyondSurvival says:

    I just got back from the dentist! yesterday. My teeth feel so clean…

    But I used to hate going because of my unique bite. Dentists always shake their heads and throw up their hands. But now, that he knows all my issues, I’m happy to go.

  14. Taryl says:

    That’s quite the raw payment for missing your checkups! My husband, on the other hand, hasn’t gone to a dentist in over a decade and his teeth are perfectly white, straight, and he’s never had a single cavity. Doesn’t floss either. He has genetically good teeth that can get away with that. Mine are good (I didn’t go to the dentist for several years and had only one cavity – my first – to show for it) but npt like his!

    I would not have thought of that as a barrier of weight – dental work – but I can see the embarassment you were worried about, now that I think about it. Fortunately I am one of those weird people who likes the dentist, but my fat has isolated me in other ways!

  15. fittingbackin says:

    Wow – i never thought about that with that chair – it is narrow. 🙁

    I honestly love the dentist – but that’s probably easy to say since i’ve never had a cavity or any kind of issue (outside of braces, but that’s orthodontia aka a whole other story!)

  16. Jody - Fit at 52 says:

    Diane, you know me & my dental woes & nothing to do with weight. All had to do with money. I wish, once again, that there was some insurance plan out there to help people. For me, I don’t like dentists but I go.. and would have gone more if there had been affordable plans to go….. but like you said, a lesson learned… and since I have always had bad teeth no matter what I do, a very costly lesson.

  17. Kate says:

    It seems there are many reasons some of us avoid the dentist! Or hate to go when we do. I think some are using lasers now, and don’t drill at all 🙂

  18. MB says:

    I have way too many horrific dental stories to tell. I don’t want to scare anyone away from seeing one though so I’ll just keep them to myself.

    One thing I’d really like to know is why 30 minutes of the dentist’s time and a little piece of plastic can cost thousands and thousands of dollars. What a racket!

    Smile 😉

  19. BlessedMama says:

    Thanks for being so honest and sharing your experiences with us. I’ve never skipped an appt. due to my weight, but I’ve avoided sitting in certain chairs because of fear of breaking the chair. I made certain to arrive early to meetings, so I could be assured of a sturdy chair.

  20. Jeremy Logsdon says:

    You know, trips to the dentist is one that never occurred to me to be a weight issue. As I grew up overweight, I never thought to worry about obesity as an issue for going to the dentist. But your thoughts make sense. I’m just glad I never had them. I think I’ve been pretty lucky that my dental horror stories are pretty few and far between. My fear of chairs was always an issue in the waiting room, however. I to this day do not like chairs with straight arms that don’t move, just in case it isn’t ready for someone of my girth.

  21. Fran says:

    No never avoided an appointment but as a child I had such problems with my teeth (I was born with that, that’s possible) that I’m scared for the dentist but that never stopped me from going even though I’m nervous every time.

  22. mamajuliana says:

    I am currently in the midst of ‘paying’ for not going to my dentist for so many years. I finally had the guts to go to our family dentist this past spring. He has been the children’s dentist all along…but me, well I just took the kids!

    I went in April and I have been back every month or so to fix what was wrong with my teeth! My ‘last’ trip for this round in the end of October. By then it will be time for a regularly ‘scheduled’ check up! But I have got to do it!

    Did I forget to mention that I HATE visiting the dentist. I sit there shaking and babble on incoherently…not a pretty sight!

  23. Jane Moss says:

    I don’t know if you will read this since your last posts were 2010. I too have the problems connected to obesity. My wheelchair will not fit the door’s and I don’t walk. My husband and I both retired in 2004, and lost our dental. About 2years ago my husband finally went because he was having pain. Well $2,500 later he is finally done. 1 1/2 years ago I started having serious problems. I lost a crown over a root camel and after a few months the pain became severeso I started looking for an alternative. I called a service that refers dentist’s and spoke to all of them..nothing! Id found a Traveling Dentist! Of course I made an appointment. All of his equipment is portable! He took ex-rays and then we discussed my situation. i need fillings and roots. His fee is $300 per visit and he only does one thing per visit. Since I saw him I have lost another crown and had 3 teeth crumble. Time for the dentist!

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