It is said that a wise person learns from the mistakes of others.
I’d like to share my own ‘dental horror story’ with you. In sharing this personal story with you, I hope that you can learn from my mistakes.
Like so much work in dentistry, the work I had done a few years ago is permanent. There is no way for me to go back and have this ‘redone’. After all, once a tooth is cut with a drill, there is no putting the removed tissue back on the tooth.
In sharing this story that’s close to my heart, we hope that you will remember this story if/when you are faced with a similar situation. Together, we can all benefit from one another’s successes and failures.
Many of you will remember back in 2013 we launched the Healthy Mouth World Summit. For those of you not familiar with the summit, it was an online gathering of 21 experts from 6 countries sharing their solutions to help each of us better navigate the path to optimal oral health.
Susan and I chose to create and host the summit and really didn’t know if the costs in time and money would be a waste or not. We ended up having 20,000 people register for the summit and had people attend from all continents except Antarctica. We also have over 200 pages of testimonials from people who attended the summit thanking us and sharing how they personally benefited from the information we gathered together. So, it was a huge success.
Prior to the summit launch, I recall praying that if the summit was profitable, that I promised myself that I would go have the mercury amalgam fillings still in my mouth properly removed by someone qualified to do such important work. (After learning from all the experts in the Healthy Mouth Summit, I realized the profound importance of having mercury fillings properly removed to avoid my immune system taking a big hit from the procedure.)
Well, the summit was very successful (thank you all) and so we planned a trip to the mainland to go to the partner of a very prestigious dentist in the US.
Once the time arrived to have the procedure done, I was told that since I had amalgams on both sides of my mouth, it was best for me to undergo conscious sedation, as this would allow all the work to be done in one appointment. (Some in the field of biological dentistry argue that only one side of the mouth should be worked on in one appointment and conscious sedation ‘bypasses’ this limitation of not being able to cross ‘the midline of the mouth’ in one dental visit.)
So, without researching conscious sedation, I agreed to the procedure. In doing so, I broke the #1 rule of ‘dental self empowerment’… Maintain control of the situation and fully know what’s involved with the procedure you have agreed to.
After all, each of us is ‘the captain’, the most important person in our personal journey to optimal oral health. If we consent to something that we don’t know anything about, we’re at risk of agreeing to something that we might regret.
In hindsight, I see that I trusted the office too much. In my defense, I’m sure I figured, “These folks are partners with one of the experts we just interviewed. They are some of the ‘A game’ players in dentistry’. In making that assumption, I turned over my power to them. I didn’t feel that I needed to do my own ‘due diligence’ on any procedures they suggested. (In the spirit of kindness, we are going to keep the office and dentist unnamed.)
Long story short, conscious sedation is not conscious at all. I barely remember anything, like a very dim, distant dream.
After coming to consciousness when the dental work was done, I was furious to find out that much more work had been done in my mouth than I would have ever consented to if I had been conscious. I’m sure the dentist thought he was doing me a service.
However, we each tend to be very conservative when it comes to agreeing to any permanent changes to the body. I never would have agreed to the sheer amount of work that was done if I were conscious and in control of my awareness.
In hindsight, I would have much rather have been fully conscious for the procedure so I could have stopped any excessive removal of tooth tissue.
To find peace with the situation, I have to rest in the belief that it’s all for good.
Perhaps one way I see good can come from this otherwise unfortunate experience is if you learn from my mistake and maintain control of your decision making capability in any dental or medical office.
If my error helps you avoid the same mistake, then good can come from this story.
Sure, there are times when sedation may be called for, even beneficial. However, if I’m ever faced with that situation again and determine that conscious sedation is the best route for me, you had better believe that I will make darn sure to have all planned work to be done very, very well articulated. I’ll also be very clear that no extra work is to be done while I’m ‘away’ other than the work that I have already consented to.
I will also probably choose to either have a loved one in the room with me acting as my voice while I’m ‘away’ or have a video camera set up to film the whole procedure.
Here are the main lessons I learned from this experience:
1. Always maintain control of your consciousness while receiving any dental or medical work. Otherwise, you turn your control over to the dental office.
2. If you have to undergo sedation, have very, very clear details of the work being planned.
3. Also, make it really clear that no extra work is to be done while you are sedated other than the work already agreed upon.
4. Gather as much information about any procedures you have been told you ‘need’ and determine if the procedure is truly in your best interest or not. Remember, you are the boss.
Whenever you hire a medical or dental professional, stay in your power.
No one cares about your oral health more than you do. Don’t allow yourself to be bullied into any procedure that doesn’t feel right to you or that you don’t fully understand.
You are the boss.
For information on how to evaluate dental teams, feel free to download our FREE Guide to Safe Dentistry, which explains what questions to ask to find a dental team who will work with you on your journey to greater oral health.
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