How She Dropped Her Extreme Fear of Dentists
Mae’s mother couldn’t afford to send her or her siblings to a dentist.
When she finally did go, she remembers pain. After that, she refused to go again. “I was so petrified of a dentist,” she said, “that it took me many years to reconsider.”
But years and years of neglect led Mae Jenkins, 62, to wear a mask to cover her mouth, so no one would see her discolored, infected teeth. “I was like a lone ranger with that mask,” said Mae, who slowly withdrew from people. “I couldn’t eat anything that had to be chewed. Cold drinks hurt a lot.”
And, she said, smiling was rare. After she moved to Cobbs Hill Manor a year ago, she heard a fellow resident talk about getting her teeth fixed.
“She told me they were very good,” Mae recalled about the Eastman Dental SMILEmobile that comes to Cobbs Hill once a month. “She said ‘it won’t hurt you.’
“I prayed and prayed and prayed,” Mae said. “I really wanted to get my teeth fixed.”
“The first time we saw Miss Mae for an exam, she out rightly expressed to me how scared she is of being in a dental chair,” said Dr. Bhumija Gupta, assistant professor at Eastman. “I could tell how uncomfortable she was just sitting there, without ever opening her mouth.”
So Dr. Gupta listened to Mae, and they just chatted for a while.
“She wasn’t smiling because she was so self-conscious, and in a lot of pain, especially because of her front teeth,” Dr. Gupta added.
After Dr. Gupta removed the first tooth, Mae didn’t believe it.
“I was terrified, and thought I was going to break her hand by squeezing so hard,” Mae said about Tequila Wright, the dental assistant working with Dr. Gupta. “She was so gentle. It didn’t hurt! I was so surprised! They had to show it to me before I believed it was out.”
Over several visits, Dr. Gupta and the SMILEmobile team, also including Leanne Cassevoy, worked closely with Mae to remove other infected teeth and to begin the process for dentures.
Mae said Dr. Gupta eased her fears by listening to her.
“It feels good to be understood,” she said, overcome with emotion. “God answered my prayer.”
After a few months, Mae was ready to receive her new partial dentures. She was ready to shed the mask and begin enjoying life again.
“It was so amazing to have my teeth, I can’t describe it,” she remembered, starting to cry again. “I couldn’t stay out of the mirror. I got so many compliments on the work they did, and how well they matched my natural teeth.”
When asked if she was still afraid of the dentist, she replied: “Not as long as I come here! Dr. Gupta and her team are the angels God sent.”
Eastman Dental’s wheelchair accessible SMILEmobile travels to area nursing homes, group homes and other places where children and adults have challenges accessing oral health care. For more information, visit our website, or call 585-275-5007.
Karen Black |