Siding with the scientific consensus of secular knowledge

So after going through a couple of bottles of Anbesol and walking around for a week looking like Caesar Rodney, I finally gave in and made an appointment with a dentist.

I’d been putting that off partly due to the financial aspect and mainly due to six very unpleasant years of orthodonture and oral surgery when I was a teenager. (Among other things, I had to have my fourth molars removed. Yes, I had fourth molars. It was bad.)

But I’m headed out to the dentist this afternoon because that’s what dentists are for and I need one. I’m going to the dentist because: A) She is an expert at this, and B) I am not.

So in Charles Fort’s terms, I am once again displaying my slavish devotion to the priestcraft of scientific experts. In Al Mohler’s terms, I’m opting to allow secular knowledge to trump sectarian ideology and thus, I suppose, rejecting the Bible. And Joe Carter probably thinks I’m only deferring to the scientific consensus of dentistry in order to curry favor with snooty Harvard intellectuals and East Coast media elites.

But the fact is that I’ve got a toothache. The tooth damaged years ago during the removal of the three supernumeraries behind it was neatly reconstructed at the time, but I was told that I’d probably need to get it fixed again someday. That someday, it seems, is now.

Faced with a throbbing jaw, I think it’s reasonable and smart not to pretend that I know more than the experts do. Right now, a bit of the old priestcraft of scientific expertise and the judicious application of wholly secular knowledge is just what the situation calls for.

And I’m not looking for a dentist who thinks of himself as a radical “skeptic” bravely bucking the overwhelming scientific consensus. I don’t even want to go to one of the 20 percent of dentists that I’m told still recommends chewing sugary gum. I haven’t been to this dentist before, but if she tells me that she’s a renegade contrarian thinker with a theory that toothaches are due to sunspot activity, or that the dental consensus is really a massive conspiracy funded by the floss industry,* then I’m leaving to find someone else who’s less of a renegade.

So contra Fort, Mohler and Carter, I will be siding with the scientific consensus of secular knowledge, blindly trusting their priestcraft.

I say “blindly” because once I get in that chair my eyes will be clamped shut.

Anyway, I hope to be back this evening to resume blogging. Possibly about Jell-o, oatmeal and room-temperature smoothies.

* The floss industry, I’m told, makes a mint.

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  • Lizzy L

    Jaw pain, bad. Dentistry is good. May it all proceed smoothly.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I am guessing that those same people you mentioned would also willing submit themselves to “secular knowledge” when need demanded, they would just rant about it even more loudly at length afterward.  

    Hope your jaw feels better soon.

  • http://willbikeforchange.wordpress.com/ storiteller

    Oooh, good luck.  And try not to talk too much with your mouth numbed – it’s really easy to bite your tongue or cheek multiple times and not realize it until later on.

  • Anonymous

    I thought you would be more afraid of the dentist bill

  • cjmr

    Only someone who is NOT phobic about the dentist could possibly think that.

  • Apocalypse Review

    One thing I wish more dentists advertised was whether they’ll knock you right out instead of sticking a freakin’ needle inside your mouth. I hate needle to begin with and the notion of getting a local that way is AAAAAAAAAAAAGH.

    I freely admit this is another factor in being a bit wary of the notion of needing extensive work on my teeth – the lack of knowing if a dentist will agree to general-anesthetize.

    Anyway, good luck, Fred!

  • P J Evans

     Find out if yours will use a local topical anesthetic (like Anbesol) before using the needle-injected anesthetic. It can make a big difference.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Even when they do it still doesn’t fucking help. I had one asshat grab my cheek and like, yank on it when he injected me. There’s just not a lot I like about needles and the way in which they don’t even seem to understand being a little gentler about injections is just icing on the failcake.

  • P J Evans

    That’s a bad dentist, IMO.

  • http://mmycomments.blogspot.com/ mmy

    There’s just not a lot I like about needles and the way in which they don’t even seem to understand being a little gentler about injections is just icing on the failcake.

    I mentioned to my dentist that I hadn’t even felt the needle when it went in and he said that giving almost painless injections was a basic skill that almost anyone could learn if they wanted to.

    I don’t know how easy that skill is but I have since had work done by a different dentist at the same service and the injections were also pain free. Apparently they pride themselves on that.

  • Anonymous

    I mentioned to my dentist that I hadn’t even felt the
    needle when it went in and he said that giving almost painless
    injections was a basic skill that almost anyone could learn if they
    wanted to.

    Phobias aren’t rational though.  For me at least, the anxiety about needles is far worse than any pain I’ve ever felt from them.  I can stand a little pain, but needles really freak me out anyway.  Giving painless injections is a great skill that every dentist should have, but that alone won’t be enough to stop needle anxiety.  It’s more complex than that.

  • http://mmycomments.blogspot.com/ mmy

    Phobias aren’t rational though.  For me at least, the anxiety about needles is far worse than any pain I’ve ever felt from them.

    Oh, he wasn’t speaking to phobias, just the fact that needles should be painless. Phobias about needles and dentists are not about pain (or at least they aren’t caused by the actual pain but the fear of something ELSE)

  • http://www.facebook.com/cjbanning Cole J. Banning

    Since I have an allergy to most local anesthetics used by dentists, yes, this.

  • Risser

    “Make a mint”.  That’s funny.  :)

  • http://www.aqualgidus.org/ Michael Chui

    I can’t decide if it was a good thing or a bad thing that my first thought was peppermint.

  • Lori

    Good luck, Fred! May all go smoothly. 

  • Jeff

    I’ve always thought it extremely tricky to keep track of which science you’re supposed to accept and which you’re supposed to reject.  How do you know which new finding to dismiss or accept in the news each day? 

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    This gets particularly troubling when you discover that much of modern medicine and other such things that these people still rely on are deeply rooted in the same scientific research that supports evolution.

  • P J Evans

    deeply rooted in the same scientific research that supports evolution

    And the same physics and chemistry that says the universe is a lot older than 6000 years.

  • Beepymusics

    I imagine that, if they’re reasonably rhetorically savvy, your basic science-denier would make a distinction between being a practicing doctor or an engineer and being a physicist or a biologist, calling the former a tradesman and the latter a priest. This would be because the former deals primarily in applications, and any abstractions (the laws of physics, principles of evolution, etc) are a means to achieve their ends, e.g. healing hurts or constructing buildings that don’t fall down, while the latter deals primarily in abstractions, and any applications (particle accelerators, behavioral studies, etc) are a means to figuring out how the laws of physics or selective pressures work. Since the ends of the priests clearly encroach on the domain of God, they are Bad Scientists, and there can not possibly be any connection between the work that the Good Tradespeople do.

  • Tonio

    Many of them seem to actually make that distinction in their own minds, instead of just using the distinction as a rhetorical tactic. That’s part of what I meant about the Big Stuff being the domain of their god. And I suspect that such a distinction may be taken for granted to a large extent in our culture, where it would subconsciously influence Stephen Jay Gould in devising his NOMA concept.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    I imagine that, if they’re reasonably rhetorically savvy, your basic science-denier would make a distinction between being a practicing doctor or an engineer and being a physicist or a biologist, calling the former a tradesman and the latter a priest. 

    Pretty much, yeah.  “That’s not science, that’s TECHNOLOGY!  No connection at all!”

  • Tonio

    Some of them do seem to reserve the “big” things for their god (the origins of the universe, life and morality). Likewise, climate change seems too big for them to ascribe to human action. Even Francis Collins rejects the possibility that natural selection could explain the existence of the moral sense.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve always thought it extremely tricky to keep track of which science
    you’re supposed to accept and which you’re supposed to reject.  How do
    you know which new finding to dismiss or accept in the news each day?

    Well, you wait until your pastor/preacher/priest/guru/captor tells you what to think and until then you carry on like you used to.  If you happen to do something that is now wrongthink, then you can worry about denying it ever happened later.

  • Anonymous

    After getting my bridge put in, which involved a fricking LASER at one point, I’ve became fairly blase about dental pain. I’ve instructed my dentist to do his best to avoid hurting me, but not at the expense of delaying the finish to my procedure unnecessarily. Good luck Fred… I recommend the liberal application of Bushmills to the pain afterwards.

  • MaryKaye

    Be sure to remember that, while the dentist is a medical expert, they are also working for you.  If you know that, for example, local anesthetics will be bad for your mental health, you should say so firmly and clearly.

    I have the opposite issue–I react horribly to general anesthetics and prefer to avoid them.  I have had several kinds of surgery, dental and otherwise, with local anesthetics, but it’s required being very firm with medical personnel.  (I once found that the orthodontist had agreed to local and written orders for general.  Always read the paperwork!)

    In each of these cases the medical folks told me “There is no medical requirement for a general here; it just reduces stress on the patient.”  Since it does not reduce stress on me, I insist on the local.  In the one case when they said “I’m not willing to operate on a non-sedated patient for this procedure” I deferred to their expertise.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I have actually come to enjoy the visits to the dentist (when I can afford them.)  If they give me a local, I kind of like the way half my face goes numb.  It creates an interesting sensation when I scratch my cheek, feeling the pressure of my fingers but otherwise no tactile sense of my fingernails.  There is something fascinating about the sensation gradually returning, the nerves slowly restoring up to nominal function, like a city gradually coming back online after a blackout.  Heck, I even have come to enjoy the times when they have to give me fillings*, the drill makes it sound like they are tuning a short-wave radio in my mouth.  

    * I brush every morning, brush and floss every evening, and otherwise exercise healthy dental hygiene.  My mother is always frustrated when I have to get fillings, because I did nothing “wrong” that would make them obviously necessary, and if I simply had naturally poor tooth enamel, that could reflect poorly on her genes.  

  • http://twitter.com/mattmcirvin Matt McIrvin

    I have really truly seen people respond to complaints about the expense of dental coverage by saying “Try brushing your teeth once in a while”.  Apparently, in their world, if you brush your teeth you don’t need periodic professional cleanings and will never get cavities.

  • http://mmycomments.blogspot.com/ mmy

    Apparently, in their world, if you brush your teeth you don’t need periodic professional cleanings and will never get cavities.

    And never get impacted wisdom teeth and never crack a tooth in an accident and of course, don’t have any inherited issues.

    Nope, none of those things exist in their world.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Which is simply not the case.  A lack of dental hygiene does not prevent such problems, it just makes them much worse.  

    It is like saying if you bath every day and frequently wash your hands, you will never catch germs and get sick.  Also not the case, but not doing those things increases the risk and frequency that you will.  

  • Anonymous

    I have really truly seen people respond to complaints about the expense
    of dental coverage by saying “Try brushing your teeth once in a while”.
     Apparently, in their world, if you brush your teeth you don’t need
    periodic professional cleanings and will never get cavities.

    I’m not surprised that some people think like this.  It’s really no different than those who think that if you eat right and exercise and live the right lifestyle you’ll never get sick.  Or that you’ll never need treatment for diabetes if you just put down that donut.  Or that you can avoid the flu by “boosting your immune system” with lots of fruits and vegetables.  Or that you’ll never need to give your daughter that HPV vaccine because she’s not a slut and she’ll never have sex except the 3 times with her husband to give you your grandchildren.  Or even that you can avoid being raped by wearing baggy clothes and not going out at night.

    Too many diseases are seen as punishment for living the wrong lifestyle.  It’s a harmful attitude, but really appealing to some people because it makes them feel like they are in control and that they can avoid all bad things if they just follow all the correct rituals.  It’s scary to think that sometimes bad things just happen.

    This is why I have mixed feelings about awareness campaigns.  On one hand, when there are risk factors that people have some control over, it can make people healthier.  But on the other hand, it more often makes people forget about other risk factors and feel invincible or look down on people who get the disease.

  • rm

    Good luck. My dentist believes that Obamacare threatens his freedom to run his business the way God intended, captain of his own ship on the seas of the Free Market. He seems competent in actual dental care, however.

    or that the dental consensus is really a massive conspiracy funded by the floss industry . . .

    How about an opthalmologist who rejects the “hypocritical” standards for board certification and creates his own certifying board, of which he is the head, in order to claim that his practice is “board-certified”?

  • Anonymous

    Good luck, Fred.  May eeeeevil science swiftly give you a pain-free jaw.

  • Jon Frater

    That reminds me, I’m due for a general cleaning, myself. Oh, well. Feel better, Fred!

  • Jer

    “In Al Mohler’s terms, I’m opting to allow secular knowledge to trump
    sectarian ideology and thus, I suppose, rejecting the Bible.”

    I dunno – what does the Bible have to say about dental care?  The only verse that comes up via a quick search seems to be in Amos, where Amos gives God credit for providing clean teeth to the Israelites.  Except that “clean teeth” seems to be a King James translation for “no food to dirty your teeth with”, so he isn’t really crediting God with being the source of good dental care but rather a source of punishment because Israel displeases him.  Again.

    Of course Mohler could let his own sectarian knowledge trump what it says in the Bible – he does it all the time anyway by forcing his own reading of the text backwards in time onto the people who compiled it.  So I’m sure if his teeth hurt enough he can find a passage that tells him to go get them drilled.

  • Anonymous

    The only verse that comes up via a quick search seems to be in Amos,
    where Amos gives God credit for providing clean teeth to the
    Israelites.  Except that “clean teeth” seems to be a King James
    translation for “no food to dirty your teeth with”, so he isn’t really
    crediting God with being the source of good dental care but rather a
    source of punishment because Israel displeases him.

    Well, that’s because you’re not reading it literally. If you were a Real, True Christian, you would know that what that verse actually means in the literal sense (when cross-referenced with John the Baptist’s eating habits, and Leviticus 2:5-7, also parts of Daniel) is that God wants us all to be paying for our own dental care, not siphoning out of the pockets of Big Government, because lo! the dentist’s right to free enterprise is a God-given one, and woe betide those who believe that he shall not do as he pleases and call it right!

    Also, good luck and a speedy recovery, Fred!

  • Anonymous

    “* The floss industry, I’m told, makes a mint.”

    Movin’ to Montana soon,
    gonna be a dental floss tycoon…

    -Zappa

  • RickRS

    Just me and my pigmy pony
    Over by the dental floss bush

    I have given up on dental floss and gone back to another product of the ’70.  Using a waterpik instead.

  • Anonymous

    The floss industry, I’m told, makes a mint.

    On the one hand, I want to applaud the punmanship; on the other hand, I don’t want to be an enabler.  I’ll split the difference.  Kudos are yours, but consider yourself on pun probation.

  • Anonymous

    Good luck, Fred, for prompt relief and uneventful recovery.

  • Anonymous

    Ezekiel 18:2-4: “What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel,
    saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are
    set on edge? As I live, says the Lord GOD, you shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel” (KJV, by God’s Own Secretaries).

    Verily, the Bible rejects Lamarckian “soft” evolution, whereby characteristics acquired during the organism’s lifetime can be inherited. If that’s not evidence that the Bible is solid science, I don’t know what is. [/hasty generalization]

    If you were getting this in time, I would have recommended taking an iPod with some good music, if you aren’t getting general anesthesia. It does make the time in the chair a bit easier.

  • guest

    I recently went to the dentist for the first time in more than a decade, to get a crack in my front tooth fixed.  He did that, covered the exposed bottoms of a couple of bottom front teeth, and filled in small cavities on a couple of molars, all without any anaesthetic at all–he only made me flinch once, and that was more in surprise than in pain when he touched something I could feel.  I was extremely impressed–he must have nearly superhuman eye-hand coordination.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, man. Toothaches turn me into a baby…

    *hugs* Fred. Hope everything turns out good. 

  • hapax

    So in Charles Fort’s terms, I am once again displaying my slavish
    devotion to the priestcraft of scientific experts. In Al Mohler’s terms,
    I’m opting to allow secular knowledge to trump sectarian ideology and
    thus, I suppose, rejecting the Bible. And Joe Carter probably thinks I’m
    only deferring to the scientific consensus of dentistry in order to
    curry favor with snooty Harvard intellectuals and East Coast media
    elites.

    “For there was never yet philosopher that could endure the toothache patiently.”

  • http://twitter.com/MuseofIre MuseofIre

    I seem to recall another instance where people decided they could get along just fine without the knowledge of them there fancy-pants intellectuals. Only, you know, it was in China, and it was a little thing called the Cultural Revolution.

  • Anonymous

    But why should we care about something that happened in China?  China is where goods are magically produced, Muse!  Nothing actually HAPPENS there except people drink tea and talk funny!

    (gods, that hurt to type)

  • walden

    Oh Fred, of little faith….
    Just place your hand on the laptop screen and claim your healing….

    (Then go to the dentist)

  • walden

    those crickets were not supposed to be a tag!

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    I hope you recover quickly. Tooth pain is the worst.

  • Will Hennessy

    While we’re on the subject of mouths, what are the odds that Joe Carter shows up here again and chews you out for making such outlandish claims about his person?

  • http://www.nightphoenix.com Amaranth

    Good luck, Fred.

    Tooth issues are right up there with smothering dark spaces and velociraptors on the list of things I have bad nightmares about.

  • Dan W

    All this talk about dentistry makes me think of this- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOtMizMQ6oM
    Fortunately, most real dentists aren’t like that :P

  • Anonymous

    I had a new dentist recently who keeps telling me to relax and it won’t hurt … which makes me want to hit him … especially since when I do relax it actually hurts less.

  • Kingston999

    I was going to wish you well and hope you feel better soon – but then I encountered that dreadful pun.

  • spinetingler

    I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt and assuming that the floss/mint line was written while under the influence of the first tendrils of gas…

  • Izzy

    It’s not even the pain I mind so much–okay, I mind the pain a lot, but it comes in second to the Cronenbergian knowledge that there’s a high-speed drill in my mouth, and the desperate pleading for the dentist not to be sleep deprived or recently dumped or whatever, lest I end up looking like the Joker. 

    Guuuh. 

    Meanwhile, my five root canals are one of the many reasons that I would not actually go back in time in any kind of permanent way. Because: no. Just no. 

  • Anonymous

    So, just yesterday, I received the following message:

    the scientific method has nothing to do with the theory of evolution. The claims that are made in the theory cannot be proven nor disproven by the scientific method. What you have is the speculation of atheistic scientists. That, Jerry, is nothing more than philosophy, not science. Moreover, they are excluding the alternative views of other scientists which similar or even the same kinds of degrees from the same sorts of universities. INTERPRETATION of evidence is is strictly philosophical, not scientific!

    Amazingly enough when I pointed out that you could replace “evolution” in the first sentence with “heliocentricity” or “atoms” or “germs” or “gravity” and all the claims made in it would be exactly the same, she didn’t take it well. It makes me angry that anti-sciencers lack the integrity and intellectual honesty to just admit that all of their arguments and ideas apply to things they absolutely accept as true.

  • Anonymous

    I know this wasn’t the point of your post, but dental anxiety is a very real and legitimate problem for some people.  I hope you can find a good dentist.  After 2 really bad ones, I found a fantastic dentist…only to end up moving away for a job.  Now I have to start the search all over again, and the only way to do it is trial and error.

    Most dentists are competent at the technical skills.  Sometimes you need one who is also good at dealing with patients with anxiety.

  • Jenny Islander

    I had a full-blown phobia of injections until I finally, in my teens, went to the dentist.  Luckily, I got one of the dentists who is trained in pain-free injections and in assisting people who are absolutely terrified of the whole thing.  They do exist.

    How good was he?  I had wisdom teeth in both sides of both jaws that would have to come out NOW or require surgery later.  He did them all at once.  After the initial injection, I did not feel a thing.  I had extremely deep roots, requiring him to keep repositioning my head and adjusting the chair; at one point he had to have his knee up on the chair to get leverage.  I still did not feel a thing except a sort of dull pulling sensation comparable to shoving one’s foot into a shoe while wearing wool socks.  I heard the distinctive sound of tooth hitting metal off to one side and said, “I’ a’ ‘y ‘oofh?”  “Yes, actually, that’s the second one,” he said.  I had had no idea the first was even coming out.  I was so blissfully numb that he went ahead and did a filling while he was in there to save me coming in for another appointment anytime soon.  And after the anesthetic wore off, while my jaws did ache a bit, my stitches itched more than that.

    Ask about pain management and ask about how they deal with people who feel extreme fear of needles and shots.  Sooner or later you’ll find a dentist who understands.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve never been afraid of the dentist– was very lucky, though. After getting out of our mom’s custody (she sorta believed in the miracles of homeopathy, and that anything involving more than four syllables was unhealthy unless it was an herb) we went to the dentist who’d taken care of our grandparents for time out of mind. Personable, friendly guy who ran the practice with his wife, and was reasonable and gentle with five absurdly hyper kids. He also put the permanent fix on my two front teeth after I got hit by a truck, and while doing so told me the story of the time he had to do a filling on himself since no one else was there in the morning and he had patients to take care of, and couldn’t use anesthetic because he had to be able to feel what he was doing.

    Crazy, brave, and/or some combination of both. And an absolutely fantastic dentist. (But I still can’t afford to go get my teeth cleaned, so it is obsessive brushing and praying that my historically very strong teeth hold out for me.)

  • aklab

    This was the wrong thread to read while I sweat it out before my afternoon flu shot. :( /needlephobic 

  • P J Evans

     Sympathy. But they can do it almost painlessly, if they’re good. (I. Do. Not. Like. Shots.)

  • Lori

    My dislike of going to the dentist has gotten worse over time. I’ve never had any really terrible experiences, but I’ve had a lot of not at all good ones and the cumulative effect has been to make me moderately phobic about the whole thing. 

    It’s a shame, because my first few dentists were fabulous. I broke a tooth when I was 18 and had to have a root canal in preparation for a crown. My dentist was so good that I literally didn’t know he had done the root canal. I thought we were still in the “prep” phase of the process and he was actually done. Gawd I miss him. I would go back to him in a heartbeat if I could. Sadly, that was about 8 moves ago. 

    Of course, my phobias are a moot point these days. Like SisterCoyote I can’t afford to go to any dentist and I’ve always had strong teeth, so I just brush and floss like a fiend and hope my luck holds. 

  • Apocalypse Review

    I hear ya. *bbrrrrr* needles. Ick, DO NOT WANT.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    You know, a lot of good movie, book, and video game writers understand that fear is not a emotion that a person has when they are being attacked, but rather fear is the emotion that a person has when they are made to anticipate that they will be attacked.  A scary story will bank on that, ratcheting up the tension to escalate that emotion and let it build.  

    I am thinking that the phobia of needles is something similar.  It is not the sensation of getting your skin pierced with a metal needle that causes fear, not directly, but the anticipation of that needle which causes the fear.  Your own instinct for fight-or-flight is being triggered by the thought.  

    I suppose getting a lot of needle injections over the course of a person’s life will dull that fear a bit though.  When a person is more familiar with the experience of it, the anticipation does not have as big an impact.  A person who knows what is coming, knows that they have handled it in the past and can handle it in the future, will on some level be more reassured, more practiced, less likely to trigger that flight instinct.  

  • Anonymous

    Well I have OCD so my experience might not be universal, but the reason I am so afraid of needles is because I can’t stop thinking about how something could go wrong.  I’m afraid that if I flinch or the person inserting it moves wrong, it will tear through everything.  I realize on some level that it would most likely just fall out, but I can’t stop thinking about it moving in deeper or going side-to-side.

    And yes, exposure can dull the fear to some extent.  One of the reasons that I donate blood regularly is to prevent my needle phobia from getting out of control.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    And yes, exposure can dull the fear to some extent.  One of the reasons
    that I donate blood regularly is to prevent my needle phobia from
    getting out of control.

    In my own life, I distinguish actual phobias from run-of-the-mill fears in ways that I am not sure are technically correct but seem to make sense to me.

    For me, fears are learned responses — learned either from bitter experience or simple knowledge. The fears diminish with repeated neutral-or-better personal experiences. Thus, I had a fear of dental procedures due to a childhood dentist with a heavy hand and crappy chairside manner, with hygenists in the office who thought that if they accidentally dig the hook into your gums, oh well, sorry, but they wouldn’t have to scrape so close to the gum line if you were better at regular flossing. Now that I have a dentist who gives pain-free injections (topical anaesthetic first! what a concept! injecting *slowly*! genius!), constantly checks on me to make sure I’m not feeling any pain, and will do something about it (with my consent) if midway through the procedure I start feeling *anything*, and the hygenist always asks “Are you OK?” if she sees blood or if she think she’s nicked me with the hook… oh, and then she tells me I’m a really good patient! which, rather than feeling condescending, actually helps heal that little kid in me who was told not be a baby! …well, I’m not really afraid of the dentist anymore.

    I think of phobias as being less rational. They needn’t have a traumatic source, they can evoke absolutely irrational and darn-near involuntary responses, and they don’t go away just because I’ve “forced myself to face my fears.” I class my fear of heights as a phobia because it has immobilized me from time to time — like, my muscles won’t obey my conscious desire to go for the next handhold in the climbing gym or leap for the trapeze while in belay harness. Can’t get the legs to move. And my fear of needles seems pretty phobic in that I couldn’t seem to stop myself from falling into screaming fits at the approach of a syringe at an embarrassingly late age (*coughcough* midteens).

    Of course, my idea of the term “phobia” does very much leave room for a learned response component. A situation in which a phobia expresses itself isn’t fun. It’s no good for my self-esteem, it feels like a personal failure, it represents something I can’t do, and then there’s also the problem of getting shamed by parents and peers alike for being a scaredy-cats. So I get into this ugly combination: I learn to fear the situation in which the phobia would arise. Argh.

    What others in thread have described as phobias diminishing with repeated experience, I experience rather as finding it easier to proceed despite the phobia. Although I can’t rely on the inner phobic response to diminish in intensity or frequency, I get better at controlling my outward response. So even though my skin is crawling and fight-or-flight adrenaline is pumping, it becomes easier each time to hold still and accept the vaccination.

    I started going for flu shots every year for much the same reason as bananacat describes above — it’s good to keep in practice with the whole “moving through the phobia” thing. The intersection of unlearning my fear of dentistry with learning to cope with needle phobia produces this weird sort of looking forward to dental appointments thing. Between the pleasure of feeling my load of fear get lighter and the pleasure of becoming competent at a thing — in this case, accepting injections “like a grown-up” despite the phobia — my last cavity filling experience was almost enjoyable. Weird, huh?

    Anyway, I wonder if my personal mental division between phobias and fears resonates with anyone else.

    I have this one friend for whom I know it doesn’t. She thinks I’m wrong, and that every phobia is essentially a form of PTSD, because there was a real and potentially identifiable T in my past for ever phobia I experience now. I told her I hadn’t had any traumatic experience that kicked off my acrophobia; she said, “Well, none that you can remember, anyway.” I think that’s a darn convenient way to construct an unassailable argument.

    …Gee, I hope this post has justified its length. I didn’t intend to go on quite this long. Oh well?

  • http://hummingwolf.livejournal.com/ Hummingwolf

    I hope your dental appointment went well, Fred.

    And I also hope that one day I’ll find some good dental floss that doesn’t shred between my teeth and also doesn’t taste like mint.  I say that partly because I do get tired of having mint every night but mostly because that was a bad pun.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Around here, the only dentists who do sedation specialize in it and advertise as such. 

    While it’s great that people who just can’t manage without it have the option, it kinda weirds me out. I mean, however unpleasant one finds dentistry, full sedation is a major major thing, and every time you do it, there’s a chance thatm even if you’re otherwise healthy and have never had a problem before, something will go wrong and that will be it for you. Sedation being part of a routine health-maintenance procedure seems like it points to a defiency in our medical capabilities.

    I don’t know what’s up with it, but every time my dentist gives me a shot, it feels like he sticks the needle through my lip from the outside to get to my gums. that’s the worst part of it for me.  Well, that and the fact that he keeps getting confused between me and my dad, and so under-numbs me because of the heart condition I don’t have.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I’m reminded again of someone I once knew, who majored in physics in university and was a very strongly Baptist Christian. I asked how he could reconcile his firm notion that the Earth was created some thousand years ago with the theory of radioactive decay, etc that he would learn about, and his response was basically, “I’ll ignore that part.”

    O_O

    As luck would have it, he ended up teaching at a private Baptist sponsored school where he happily teaches classical mechanics all day long and never has to touch that part of physics which might contradict his religion.

  • Rikalous

    just what the situation calls for.

    The “what the doctor ordered” joke was too easy, huh?

    Incidentally, I happened to like the mint pun. Of course, I think spiders and cephalopods are cute and enjoy giving blood because I get to watch it flowing through those plastic tubes, so take my appreciation as you will.


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