Adventures In Dentistry: Dutch & Beyond

by farrah on January 23, 2015 · 8 comments

Yesterday I had my first taste of a Dutch dentistry procedure. It went pretty much as I expected, except for the part where the root canal wasn’t accomplished. If you’re squeamish, go ahead and skip my background as to why I have dental anxiety- and jump right to the part about what happened yesterday. It’s not nearly as bad.

dentThis was in the waiting room.

Where my fear comes from

I was around 19 years old when the time came that I had to get my wisdom teeth removed. Up until this point, I never really experienced an awful dental appointment, so I went in thinking that taking out my wisdom teeth would be no big deal. The majority of my friends told me that I would be put under, and wake up groggy and loopy- but otherwise fine. I didn’t say that this was a dentist I hardly knew who said he was going to do it. Later I learned that in most cases, you were sent to a specialist for this procedure- especially when they were impacted (as all four of mine were).

At my appointment my dentist jumped into taking out my teeth- and upon realizing that they were impacted, decided that he would just shoot me up with extra Novocaine and break each tooth into four pieces. Not knowing then that I was somewhat immune to Novocaine, I naively said sure! Go ahead. Well, over the next few hours I sat in a chair- looking out the window with tears running down my face. I felt excruciating pain with every piece of tooth that he ripped from my gums, and had to brace myself for this sixteen times over.

My gums, tender and bleeding were hastily stitched up after the procedure and I called my friend to pick me up. He wanted to be there to see me drugged and rambling for a good laugh and when I got into the car he was stunned at what had happened. While I sobbed he drove me home saying how sorry he was, and assured me that the pain medication they must have given me to take home would make up for it. Clutching the prescription, I hoped he was right.

I went to the living room and lay on the couch, when within about an hour what little Novocaine I had wore off.  My mother came home to find me writhing on the couch, crying hysterically- and ran to the pharmacy to fill my pain medication. When she got back home, she told me uncertainly that this was only 800mg of ibuprofen, and was a bit concerned that it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t. She angrily called the dentist. Later we talked about how we should sue. He should have referred me to a specialist. What ended up happening to me was nothing short of torture.

I had to return a week or so later to have the stitches removed- and still today I remember him jabbing the small scissors into my tender sockets. All over again I had to endure this pain. I vowed that I wold never again put myself in the position to blindly trust a dentist. And so my fear was born.

The Dutch experience

I went to the dentist that was referred to me by a classmate’s parent. I had been avoiding the dentist as much as possible- out of the knowledge that the Dutch are tough. And drugs were probably hard to come by when it came to pain management. I knew enough from talking to friends of mine who had given birth in the Netherlands- as even with a c-section, one friend was only given a low dose of paracetamol that she had to beg for.

So I went to this doctor with my referral from a home dentist I saw over Thanksgiving. The tooth in question was x-rayed and appeared to be on the cusp of needing a root canal. I had an old filling (at least 30 years old) that had come loose and the tooth was infected. I wasn’t in too much pain, but the recommendation by both dentists was to have the root canal and be done with it.

Needless to say, this terrified me. Such a procedure sent me right back to that horrible fiasco when I was 19. I stressed over this appointment for weeks- and so when I went yesterday I was utterly disappointed with how it turned out.

First, I told her, her receptionist, and anyone else who would listen that I wanted ALL THE DRUGS. ALL THE MEDICATION. I was a high-anxiety case, and didn’t numb easily. She said she understood- and would ensure that I would be ok. So when I sat down in the chair and she told me that there was a mix up with the appointments and I would have to see her husband instead- I was already sensing doom. Strike one.

I told her no. I wouldn’t do that- she was referred because she was known to be gentle and that was the one thing I clung to. So she said she would start it- and make sure I was good and numb before anything else. It would be ok.

When I received the first injection, I immediately felt faint. I am one of those unlucky people who experience the ‘Vasovagal response‘. It’s an annoying condition to go around fainting whenever you have to get a prick or a poke in your skin. Patiently, she waited- and continued onward. Nope. I could feel what she was doing- and although I tried to soldier through it- the shooting jolt made it clear that I needed another shot. Strike two.

She gave me two more injections. One on each side of my tooth and said we’d give it more time. Again I fainted. Maybe it just hadn’t taken hold yet? We waited. Meanwhile, the radio in the corner boomed Thrift Shop (the unedited version) and We Built This City. The flat screen tv above my chair showed a Nat Geo World War I documentary with injuries where people had their faces blown off, and were clearly much worse off than I . It was bizarre and I thought how truly insane this would be if I was high on gas. Poor me, no gas. Still I waited. When she came back around 30 minutes later to check if she could go on, it was clear that it wasn’t working. Strike three.

She said some people just need more time with numbing. I knew this- as there were times in the past when I had seen the dentist and had up to six injections- which left me numb in the face for almost a day afterwards. But this, this was the Netherlands. She told me that she had already given me as much medication as she could- and if this amount didn’t take she couldn’t do anything more. She would go in, replace the fillings and close the opening that was made in my tooth.

We made it through that part of it- yes it hurt like the dickens, but that was all that could be done. I had to have it closed- and when that was finished she said ‘Fingers crossed‘.

So instead of a root canal, I have a brand new filling which at this moment hurts like hell. It hurts more than when I went to have the tooth fixed to begin with. I know it’s not her fault- she’s very nice, and made every effort to help me. But the difference here is that back in the US- the dentist would have kept shooting me up until I was numb enough for the procedure. Additionally he would have given me gas and probably even a sedative to take before the procedure. In fact, I remember one instance when I explained my anxiety to the dentist and he prescribed me with a valium before my appointment. In a million years I cannot see that happening here. No way. Does the US overmedicate? Sometimes. But in this case I wanted to be overmedicated!

What you should expect

If you’re living here as an expat, by no means am I saying your experience will be like mine. You probably don’t experience the Vasovagal, nor do you have trouble numbing with Novocaine. But to be sure- don’t expect gas. Don’t expect post-pain medication. Don’t expect the cushy things that we’re used to back at our home dentist. You’re not in Kansas anymore Dorothy.

Additionally, I wrote this post in 2013 about our first ‘check up’ as a family at the Dutch dentist. The one mentioned is the husband of the female dentist I had yesterday.



{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Leighann January 23, 2015 at 2:44 pm

yikes! I’m so thankful that I am numb on the first shot… I’m thinking of you, and hoping you recover soon.


2 farrah January 24, 2015 at 10:07 am

You are indeed a very lucky lady 🙂 and thanks! I’m fine. Just annoyed.


3 Kristin January 23, 2015 at 11:46 pm

Oh my goodness! I was totally under for my wisdom teeth (also all impacted), and I suffered without pain medication afterwards because I threw it all up. My stitches popped during the vomiting — and my entire family left me at home for the week to go to Cape Cod.

Even so…NOTHING compared with what you experienced. And then this! I have a dentist appointment next week. Fingers crossed!


4 farrah January 24, 2015 at 10:08 am

Yeah, see- that’s the not so fun part about being put under. I too throw up afterwards. I’m sorry that it happened like that for you. And omg popping stitches?!??!

I’d say you give my story a good run for the money since your family left you on vacation!!!

And good luck!


5 Kiley January 23, 2015 at 11:53 pm

You poor thing–I hope you are on the mend soon!


6 farrah January 24, 2015 at 10:09 am

I will. Just not very fun. Tooth issues are a super annoying kind of pain, you know?


7 Donna January 29, 2015 at 1:15 pm

One the things I miss most about the US (in addition to Craigslist, free libraries, and mango salsa) is nitrous oxide at the dentist. Best thing ever. I white-knuckle my way through cleanings and fillings here. Guess I’m becoming more Dutch?


8 farrah February 2, 2015 at 3:13 pm

Mango salsa! You know- I made friends with a woman who just moved here from Texas. She was saying that her neighbor is from Texas and MAKES HER OWN SALSA. I told her I’m making a road trip as soon as my Pace runs out. 🙂

Speaking of Craigslist- have you had luck in any of your FB swap and sell groups? People avoid me, like I’m there to scam them or something!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: