Dealing with a Dental Phobia
I have the worst dental phobia, well, I think HAD is a better word. We’re talking serious phobia that started when I ran out of my dentist’s chair aged 5 and out onto a busy street. I would have gas and air aged 14 for any work that needed doing and as soon as my braces were off (1 year early) I stopped going to the dentist for about 10 years.
I would cry, I would panic, I couldn’t even say the word for YEARS. My daughter’s father had to do all the dentist and orthodontist appointments as it wasn’t something I could cope with and I didn’t want to pass the fear down. Add a serious panic attack disorder and periods of agoraphobia on top of the dental phobia and you’ve got a serious problem, well, I did.
I did go to a dentist eventually but sadly the dentist was a cruel man. He lied to me; he made me feel terrible for being rubbish in the dentist chair and was simply crap at his job. If you have a dentist that you dislike (or who dislikes you) change your dentist. There are really great ones out there and you have the right to swap if you wish. Your dentist will make a lot of difference in helping you even get to the appointment.
Readers of this blog will know that I’ve been working my arse off to learn to manage my panic attacks and I’m doing really well in that area. So last Autumn I finally got the courage to register and go to a dentist appointment. It wasn’t easy, the root canal two weeks later certainly wasn’t fun, but I did it. I know there are others like me who suffer because of a dental phobia, so I have a few tips that I hope will help you to break the cycle.
- Find a dentist that is good with phobias like yours. Ask your friends, research online and even email various dentists before you commit to one. The most important thing is to be 100% open and honest about any panic attack disorder you may have as well as the dental phobia. If you know that they know how hard it is for you to even get there it will make it easier for you. I find it so much easier to deal with the stress and anxiety knowing that I don’t have to hide my fear.
- Take someone with you who understands (or is used to) your emotions and fears. Hold their hands, talk to them, ask them to talk or to be quiet, whatever you need. You can even invite them to sit in with you during the appointment if you like (this is another reason to be 100% honest with your dentist). I had G wait for me in the waiting room because I was too embarrassed for him to come in for the check-up.
- Book an appointment and don’t plan anything else for that day. This is a day to be kind to yourself and to reward yourself after the check-up.
- Remember that the first day will only be a check-up and nothing more. You won’t be subjected to anything that will hurt you. However, if you’re uncomfortable with a check-up do agree a signal with your dentist that indicates you need a break. Raising the hand, making a noise, anything.
- Distract yourself with music or an audio book. I take my phone in and play it throughout the entire appointment. Use headphones with a volume control so you can quickly turn the volume up or down as needs be.
- Don’t rush. If you need treatment but aren’t quite ready for the work I recommend telling the dentist and arranging to come back for a few more check-ups until you’re really ready to move on.
I have a second root canal next Monday and it is certainly weighing on my mind. I know it’s something that is totally worth the discomfort and the feeling of facing such a fear and getting a result (a nice new crown and the ability to eat without fear of breaking a tooth!) is unbelievably rewarding. I practice what I preach and I hope that this post will help anyone suffering as I did to make a positive step forward.