A Downward Spiral?
Much of the population falls into this category. The typical picture here involves a number of worsening dental problems throughout a person's mouth. This stage can be depressing, frightening, and emotionally draining. People in this situation can see that things are getting worse but often feel helpless and doomed to stay at this level until they lose all their teeth. Often fear, finances, or both keep a person out of the dental office except for painful emergencies. These happen less often at first but then they start to pick up speed as small problems become big ones in many different areas of a person's mouth at the same time. It's no surprise that when a person at level one makes it into a dental office with a painful problem that the dentist has to do something invasive to relieve the pain. Often this means an extraction or a root canal; while these procedures have become a lot more comfortable over the years, they still aren't entirely pleasant. It's no wonder that folks at level 1 associate going to the dentist with pain and expense, and they start to think "This is why I hate going to the dentist in the first place!".
What's a person to do?
Frustration and doubt are normal feelings that result from getting pulled deeper and deeper into this vicious cycle. My advice for those stuck at level 1 is to make an appointment for a non-emergency visit and for about the cost of an extraction the dentist can help you by making a complete list of the problems you're facing (from most urgent to less urgent) so you can start to get some control over the situation. Fear of the known is always easier to handle than fear of the unknown. Maybe you can't afford to tackle all of your dental issues right now, but knowing which problems are likely to be the next emergencies can put you in a position to take care of some of them beforehand and break the cycle. Since planned dental work is easier on you than urgent, unplanned work and fillings often cost less than difficult extractions, this path can be less expensive, more comfortable for you, and can allow you to save teeth while they can still be saved. There is no shame in losing teeth or not being able to go through with all your dentist's recommendations right away. What we can do at this stage is keep you comfortable and help you avoid emergencies as your finances will permit while keeping your options open for the future. As your feelings about dentistry and your circumstances change, you'll be in a great position to move up to the next level (which we'll discuss in the next post): routine, foundational care.