Those of you that see me in real life are fully aware of my dental woes. It’s a humbling experience to be in such a vulnerable situation. I have had a myriad of MSK issues; fracture, sprains, strains, disc bulges, pelvic organ prolapse, incontinence and even a diastasis. When these arise, it’s upsetting or just plain maddening, that I can’t play or run for a few weeks, but it’s not the same feeling when you’re out of your comfort zone.
The thought of having a root canal done was upsetting enough. I was angry, feeling like my dentist had failed me, after all I had been complaining about this tooth for 3 years (yes years). She would reassure me, do some desensitizing and send me on my way. Nothing beyond conservative treatment was considered until I went in with real pain. I couldn’t chew on that side, so out came the filling and the revelation that there was indeed something worse. So begrudgingly off I went to the endodontist for a root canal. Nervous, but relieved that finally this tooth would be dealt with and I could move on. After all it’s not life threatening, it’s just a root canal. So after about an hour of drilling, he gives me the bad news: he can’t save the tooth. It’s too far gone. Cue the waterworks. I can’t describe the emotions I went through, from disbelief and denial to anger and resentment. Not toward him, he is great and I highly recommend him, but toward my dentist of 5 years. I am angry that she didn’t listen to me and that she brushed it aside. Could this have been prevented? Maybe. But maybe is good enough for me. I am typically pro-active. As a physio I know how much easier it is to resolve something in the acute or early stages and the importance of early intervention. The good news is that this will make me more aware of how my patients feel when I give them the news of their diagnosis. I am also feeling very vulnerable. I didn’t study teeth. I don’t treat teeth. I treat TMJ, but that’s a joint like any other, it just happens to be in the mouth. Dr. Moncarz was very sympathetic to my tears. He reassured me, same as I do to my patients when I tell them they have a disc bulge or pelvic organ prolapse. I felt better, after all it’s not life threatening, and in fact, a disc bulge is probably worse. I guess at the end of the day, what we don’t know, or don’t understand is scary. Whether or not it should be. As far as my anger, it will subside. I don’t think I can trust my former dentist again. My endodontist has referred me to a new dentist. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Bottom line: Physios, please remember the emotional impact that your diagnosis can have on your patient. Patients, ask your therapist, dentist, doctor questions, we are here to guide you through. We’ve seen it a million times. It’s not scary to us.
Great post, Julia. Always good to remember what’s it’s like to be on the other side.
Also a good reminder for healthcare practitioners to listen to their clients. I believe clients (or patients) know their bodies best. If they think something is wrong, like you with your tooth, we need to figure it out or refer them to someone else who can.