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    Thread: I've allowed this Phobia to rule me for too long

    1. #1
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      Default I've allowed this Phobia to rule me for too long

      I never thought I'd be able to write about my teeth, my phobia has been so strong that for the majority of my life I have not been able to talk to anyone about my teeth, or dentists, in a very long time. I think writing it down is going to end up being a long task, as I don't seem to be able to compress it down. My dental treatment and teeth have been on my mind almost every day for years but I do believe that I am getting past the fear at last, although I'm not quite there yet.

      I can't imagine why anyone would want to read my story, but here goes....

      Part One - Childhood

      I'll start at the beginning. As a child I always tried to please others and do what the grown-ups told me to do. I brushed my teeth every night and nearly every morning, didn't eat that many sweets and always went to the dentist regularly.

      My childhood dentist was an older stern woman who didn't stand any messing around, her chair side manner was very brisk to say the least, but to me she was an adult and I did whatever I could to please her.

      Around the age of 8 or so I started to get problems with decay, which were sorted out with fillings. The dentist used a slow, belt driven drill and I thought it went on for ages. About this time trials of fluoride were starting and I remember having my mouth filled with rolls of cotton wool as she brushed fluoride directly onto my teeth, I then had to sit there watching a big clock tick off four minutes before I could remove the cotton wool and rinse.

      As all my adult teeth came through, one by one all the rear molars were drilled and filled. Every time I was told that I was not looking after my teeth, I didn't brush, ate too much sugar etc, my protests were scorned, I wasn't telling the truth, she knew the truth from looking in my mouth.

      The sight of the big clock on the table at the start of a visit made me happy though, as the fluoride treatment was the last thing she did at the end of the series of visits, in my mind it was fluoride then no need to see her again for a few months.

      This dentist had a big thing about overcrowding of teeth and many of my friends had teeth removed by her, just to make room. My teeth were a bit crooked so she gave me an x-ray to decide which ones to remove. What she found was that I had another set of rear adult teeth waiting to come through! This is something that is very rare and I have only spoken to one other person who has had extra teeth grow.

      She said there was nothing for it but to remove the adult teeth in the way, to allow the second set through. This was done gradually though, she monitored the movement of the new teeth by x-rays and only removed the exposed ones when she thought it was time. She would remove three or four at a time, I would be knocked out with gas which gave me horrible dreams. Over the space of a couple of years I had about 14 teeth removed.

      These new teeth were just as bad though as the last lot and pretty soon they were all drilled and filled just like the last ones. I was forever in the dentist chair being worked on, that slow drill whirring away in my mouth. I once asked if she could use the fast drill that she had, to speed up the process but she told me that she didn't like that and carried on.

      One of the last things that I had done as a child, probably a teen by now, was an extraction. Just a single one. you would have thought that I would be OK with that, after all I had had so many but this was to be done with me awake, with just a local anaesthetic from a needle. This really scared me, I can't remember ever having a local for any of the fillings I had had previously. I do remember being distressed during the extraction, being told to stop moving as I was making it hard her for, or that she was nearly done. This was a big thing of this dentist, it was all done at her pace, she wouldn't stop for me to have a rest, I had to sit still with my mouth open and let her do whatever she wanted for however long she wanted.

      In the end I did rebel a bit, every time the dentist stopped I sat forward, preventing her from carrying on until I sat back, although this didn't please her it was the only tiny bit of control I had over the pace of treatment.

      I went so many times to the dentist, that my mum stopped going with me unless I was to have an extraction done. I wanted my mum there, but eager to please, when she suggested that I didn't need her, I agreed to go on my own, just to make her happy.
      Last edited by robotguy; 10th February 2010 at 09:14.

    2. #2
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      Default Re: I've allowed this Phobia to rule me for too long

      Part Two - An Adult

      I finished school and went to work. I no longer had to go to a dentist if I didn't want to, so I didn't. Until, that is, I lost a filling. I did the sensible thing and made an appointment with another dentist in another village.

      I was nervous but not too bad, after all this wasn't going to be the same as when I was a child. I went in to the surgery and was told to get in the chair. Once seated I was asked what I wanted. I explained that I was nervous about dentists but I had lost a filling. I also told him a bit about why I was nervous, that I had a lot of work done by an unsympathetic dentist and that I had a second set of adult back teeth that had to be removed. He scoffed at this and said it was impossible to have extra teeth. With that he laid me back and stopped any further discussion by starting an examination.

      I had an x-ray which was fine, I'd had loads of them, and they don't hurt. I had a second appointment where I was given a temporary filling and a bit of a scrape clean. The day before I was due to go back for the proper filling disaster struck, the temporary filling came out and my tooth broke, but there was no pain. I went in to the appointment the next day, the dentist didn't appear happy; he now had much more work to do. I was given the choice of an extraction or a crown. The crown was going to be comparatively expensive over an extraction, but as this tooth was in almost the same spot at the single extraction I had as a child, the thought of reliving that experience was too much, so in a small voice I said 'a crown please'.

      Another temporary filling and back for a post to be fitted for the crown to sit on. He had a fast drill, this was new for me and it was 1000x better than the one I had as a child. Local anaesthetic was given and he started shaping the tooth. It was OK, a bit of pressure but no pain. It did go on a bit though, again the dentist carried on until he was finished, I couldn't signal a break for me. At one point it did hurt and I said so, the dentist just smiled and said, 'I thought that bit might'. Then why didn't you give me more anaesthetic I screamed in my head, I was losing trust with this guy fast.

      My post and crown was fitted and I felt pretty good that I had made it through the treatment, but I was very nervous every time he went in my mouth after he hurt me. I went to pay and they only charged me for a filling, about a 10th of the cost I should have paid. I smiled, paid up and left vowing never to let him in my mouth again.

      From here my phobia really got bad, every examination I could remember had hurt, the probe had jabbed in bad teeth so many times that I couldn't bear the thought of anything in my mouth, let alone letting a dentist back in there.

      'Dentists recommend the ultra-toothbrush with bits sticking out the side to clean away more plaque' the adverts said, I tried it; it ripped into my gums and made me bleed. 'A little bleeding from the gums is good, it means they are getting rid of the infection' I'm told, nope just hurts more. I can't even make a dentist happy by following their advice on cleaning with the toothbrush they say I've got to use, so I do the worst thing possible, I stop cleaning my teeth completely.

    3. #3
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      Default Re: I've allowed this Phobia to rule me for too long

      Part Three - Wisdom Teeth

      Five years on, my wife knows I don't like dentists or teeth but not quite how much. She goes regularly, takes the children when required but never pushes me to go or even tries to discuss it with me. They are all lucky, no one has any work done at all except a light clean and polish. I am so grateful that my children didn't inherit my teeth.

      For a while I'm getting an ache at the back of my mouth. Bracing myself I take a look. I see my lower wisdom teeth are coming through at an angle, pushing on my back teeth. To make matters worse I can see a hole in one of them. Now I have to take action.

      From overheard conversations over the years I'm sure that getting them out is going to be hard and most likely involve a hospital visit for a general anaesthetic. I'm not too worried about the hospital side of it, in fact being right out when they are removed suits me fine, but to go there, I need a referral from a dentist.

      My wife kindly makes an appointment at her dentist for me, informing them I am very nervous and I get given some valium to take before I go.
      I take the valium, but I'm so worked up that I don't feel it has any effect. I explain to the dentist that I'm really, really scared, that I have problems with my lower wisdom teeth. I tell him that I need to be referred to the local hospital to have them removed under a general anaesthetic, as I can't cope with being awake. I also ask him not to touch my teeth, just to look and make the referral.

      He starts his examination; the first thing he spots is the crown and says 'well you've got a crown so you can't be that scared'. Next thing I know he got tools in my mouth and is poking and prodding away. I'm almost in a blind panic with this, but I need the referral. Then he sticks the probe in somewhere and it hurts. I'm off the chair and over the other side of the room, saying I asked you not to touch. The dentist looks very shocked; I even managed to knock over a tray of instruments in my panic. Somehow my wife calms me down and I get back in the chair to finish off the examination, I still need his referral. He puts nothing in my mouth after that, except a mirror. When he is finished I'm out of there, right out into the street, I don't stop.

      Now my wife has seen me in full on dental panic mode, she sees that I really can't cope with a dentist and doesn't try to raise the subject with me, for which I'm thankful. She does say that the dentist didn't do what I asked and that his assumption that having a crown means I'm not scared was wrong. Having the crown was the lesser of two evils at the time.

      My referral comes through; my lower wisdom teeth are removed. I don't really remember much about the time in hospital, but my wife does say I was panicky the night before I went in. The follow-up appointment to have the stitches removed was also at the hospital. They were so kind, I asked if I could have all my dentistry done there, they laughed and said sorry, they can't offer a regular service.

    4. #4
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      Default Re: I've allowed this Phobia to rule me for too long

      Part four - The wilderness years

      What follows now is 21 years of totally ignoring my teeth. I don't clean them, I don't use mouthwash, I definitely can't floss and I never visit the dentist. If anyone has a conversation about teeth, I leave the room or change the subject very quickly. Any TV programs that feature dentistry, I leave the room. I talk to no one about this, not even my wife.

      I practice smiling in front of a mirror so that only my reasonably good front teeth are shown in photos when I'm asked to smile. I know just how much I can reveal safely. My teeth become stained from coffee and tartar starts to build up. Luckily I don't get bad-breath or have too much recession of the gums.

      About 11 years after I got the crown fitted it came off. A mild panic as I think I've got to go back to the dentist but as there is no pain, I ignore it. The post comes out a couple of months later. Slowly over the next year this tooth disintegrates until all I have left is a root level with the gums, but it causes me no pain so I can ignore it.

      About 10 years after I lose the crown the tooth next to the space breaks, just a corner. Itís sharp if I rub my tongue along it, but after a couple of days itís smoothed off and OK. Then the rest of that tooth breaks. I still have the whole height of tooth against my tongue but the front edge has totally gone. Amazingly there is no pain. Now itís a domino effect, with all the teeth back from the missing one, breaking in the same fashion over a few months. No pain what so ever, so I ignore it except for only chewing on the other side of my mouth.

      I can't believe what happens next, the other side starts to break in exactly the same fashion. One by one all my lower back teeth end up being only full height at the back. I think I'm doing this at night as I sometimes wake up clenching my mouth shut really hard, which is quite scary.

      Looking in my mouth now is a real struggle; all I see is broken, black teeth at the back. I am so ashamed at what I've allowed to happen. In my head I work out how long itís going to take for me to lose all my teeth at this rate and wonder if they will last until I die. (How bad is that statement!). I am just so glad my front few teeth are presenting an OK view to the world, I can continue to hide this.



      Oh no, I lose a filling from a back tooth at the top. Itís OK though, just a small hole I can feel with my tongue, a bit of food gets stuck in there sometimes but I can usually wash it out with some water. Itís not a great shock when the edge of this tooth breaks like the lower ones did. Now my mind is really screaming at me, I'm going to lose all my top teeth in the domino effect like the lower ones. I need to go to a dentist soon, but I shake with fear at the mere thought of getting treatment and still can't do anything to get help.

    5. #5
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      Default Re: I've allowed this Phobia to rule me for too long

      Part Five - Seeking Help

      My world came crashing down about three months ago when I had the worst pain ever from my first ever abscess. To be honest, I'm surprised that I haven't had more problems, as I have totally neglected my mouth for years. No amount of pain killers helped this time and I swelled up like a hamster, I thought people with huge swollen chins was just a comedy thing, but it really happens!

      I asked my wife for help, I knew I couldn't ring a dentist or talk sensibly about my problems. First of all she got me an appointment with my local doctor. I explained to him that I thought I had an abscess and then he asked to do the thing I dreaded the most, he wanted to look inside my mouth. This was extremely hard to do and had me in tears from the shame I felt, but I eventually did it. He agreed that a dental abscess was most likely and gave me antibiotics to kill the infection. He urged me to go to a dentist to 'get sorted out' (his words), he offered me mild sedation drugs just to get me to the dentist if I needed them, he could see how hard this was for me.

      The next thing my wife did was to ring up some dentists, to find out my options and to book an appointment for me ASAP. One dentist surgery she contacted said that they could recommend an anxiety therapist that may help. The therapist was primarily the dental hygienist they use, but she was fully trained in anxiety therapy and worked from separate premises to their main surgery. I was impressed they took my fears seriously and that they suggested therapy away from their surgery. She booked an appointment with a dentist for a few weeks time anyway, as appointments are not available quickly.

      Then my wife contacted the recommended therapist, explained just how bad I was and managed to book an appointment for me that evening with her.
      During that afternoon I decided that this fear had held me for too long and I wanted to get over it, even though I did fear that my teeth were a lost cause. I searched online for help and found this site. I couldn't read any of the forum posts, that were too difficult for me, but I did read through a lot of the 'Common Fears' section with tears running down my face. This was silly, I couldn't even read about getting help without breaking down. A lot of what I did manage to read though made sense to me.

      Well that evening my wife took me to the therapist. First impressions were of a modern office, none of the old posters that reminded me of dentists, one wall was a large waterfall feature, indeed this was a very relaxing place.

      The therapist came to see me in the reception and led me to a quiet area just outside her hygienist room, the door was partly open and I could see the chair inside, this did un-nerve me a bit. I later learned that this was just to gage my reactions, the door would have been shut if I couldn't handle just seeing the chair. We sat down and just talked. At no time did she lecture me or push me, I was totally honest with her over my fears and how I felt about teeth in general. I also did not try to hide my fear or how bad I was, I'm not ashamed to say I sobbed quite a bit.

      I've been to see her about eight times, I've learnt so much about why I felt why I do with dentists. I've learnt about teeth and why mine look like they do after years of neglect, itís nearly all staining from coffee, not rotten tooth. I also found out that extraction may not be my only option. I found it good to talk to someone who is trained in dentistry, to get an honest answer to my questions. She allowed me to move at my pace, gradually working up to sitting in the chair and allowing me to learn what I'm comfortable with.

      She showed me other ways of dealing with major problem tasks; for instance letting someone look into my mouth I found very stressful, but I discovered that I could show her my teeth if she sat by my side and I used a mirror. I could tell her what she was going to see, then show her in the mirror, I had control over the speed it happened and what she saw. To me this was better than someone looking down on me, passing judgement over all my mouth in one go. Now she has seen them, she can't un-see them. It won't be a shock the next time she looks in there and is much less likely to pass judgement without meaning to.

      One thing I did learn is that I can't have hypnotherapy. The therapist is fully trained in hypnotherapy and we tried it one evening, but it caused me to totally panic when we got under way. This was not a problem for her, it was just one tool that she could use, not the only one.

      She taught me so much, I truly did not believe that talking could help so much, (I told early on that I didn't know how talking would help me, I apologised to her a few weeks later, when with her help so much had come clear to me).

      A couple of weeks in I decided to start cleaning my teeth again. I brought a small soft toothbrush, no bits sticking out the side, no extra plaque cleaning pads, just a normal brush, the total opposite that is recommended by a dentist. I was very nervous the first time, was it going to hurt on all those exposed surfaces, were my gums going to bleed, worst of all I was going to have to look in my mouth to do it. Well I'm pleased to say that it didn't hurt at all and the smooth feeling my teeth had was amazing after just the first brushing. Within a few days the front teeth even started to change colour, they were getting whiter. I cleaned every morning and night, some loose bits of plaque came off but each cleaning got easier.

      After a couple of months I went to the original dentist surgery on my own, I just dropped in, my appointment wasn't for three more weeks. I explained to the receptionist that I was having therapy over my dental fear and didn't quite know why I was there. I think I went just to see how much improved I was, only a few months ago I would never have been able to even think about going into a dentist surgery. I managed to meet the dentist I had an appointment booked with. I would love to say that everything worked out at this point but it didn't. Using what I had learned in therapy I basically interviewed the dentist but soon learned that she wasn't the one for me.

      I was devastated that it didn't work out. I almost wanted to give up but instead I went and saw my therapist the next day and told her what had happened. We looked into the reasons the dentist failed my interview the day before, it became clear that it was that the dentist couldn't give me the time to use the techniques I had learned. She suggested that as the NHS dentists are always up against time, I may have to consider going private to be able to go at my speed. This was not such a shock as I had been discussing this option with my wife earlier.

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    7. #6
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      Default Re: I've allowed this Phobia to rule me for too long

      Part Six - A new beginning

      I didn't look too far for a private dentist, the practice the therapist was in has two. I got an appointment that afternoon with one of them.

      Strangely I wasn't overly scared of this appointment, I was going to be in control of the situation. Talking was the only thing on the agenda, but I had the option of taking it further if I wanted to.

      Meeting the dentist was a much better experience this time. I was able to explain a lot of what I was scared of and she listened to me. At times I had to stop and calm down as I found it hard to talk to someone new about this again.

      She was so good and patient with me that I felt that maybe I could trust her. I wanted to move on with the process so I asked if I could show her my teeth in a mirror, just as I had practiced in therapy. This went well, I felt even more in control than when I did this with my therapist. The dentist said that she could see I needed some work, (a mild understatement, my mind screamed), but that it was OK she could help me if I wanted her to. Revelation! She asked me for my permission to treat me.

      The session ended with me lying in the chair, allowing the dentist to look in my mouth and I didn't panic. It took me a while to relax enough to open my mouth, but she waited for me to be ready, no rushing, ordering or a lecture. She only used a mirror inside my mouth and didn't touch my teeth at all.
      She finished up by asking if I wanted to come back to have an x-ray and take another look at my teeth, this time recording the condition of them with her assistant, she promised that she would only use a mirror again. I agreed and made an appointment for the next week. Yes, I made the appointment myself.

      I was feeling really good all week, a bit apprehensive over what the x-ray was going to reveal and the treatment I was going to need, but I was finally going to get an examination.

      The second appointment went well. I started by telling the dentist how much she had helped me the week before by allowing me to just talk to her, without judgement or pressure. I don't know if this was necessary from her point of view but I wanted to get over to her that she was helping me so much.

      The x-ray was fine, first time I've had one that came on a screen immediately, heck the last time I went to a dentist there were no personal computers! Then I was examined in the chair again this time she was telling the assistant what was in my mouth. One thing that I was pleased with was when she went over the front teeth she said they were all OK.

      Examination finished she gave me the verdict, overall given the lack of care I was in pretty good shape. I didn't need them all to come out. In fact all my teeth could be saved with the exception of the root from the crown, but as that had not caused me problems then there was no need to touch it. She said the broken took at the back on the left could come out in the future but wasn't urgent, she could rebuild it for now.

      I had been extremely lucky, the fact that I stopped doing any cleaning to my teeth allowed the natural defences of my mouth to calcify over the softer parts of my teeth when they were broken. If I was brushing, then I would have removed the hardened plaque as fast as it was built up. I don't reccomend this as a method of keeping your teeth though.

      She suggested that the first stage of treatment was to get my mouth stable again, to prevent infection getting into my teeth. I'm going to have some temporary filler put on top of all the broken teeth to seal them, including the big hole at the top. Once that is done then we can work on a plan of action to rebuild the teeth back up.

      The sense of relief I have from knowing there is a way forward is immense. I am feeling happy that this dentist will work with me to get me through the treatment. She has given me a signal to stop if I'm uncomfortable at any time and I believe she will stop if I want her to, so far though I have not needed it.

      I've now got another appointment for tomorrow to get some covering on the exposed teeth, I'm actually looking forward to getting some treatment done, I feel I'm finally taking control of my own teeth at last. It’s not going to be a quick fix though but I've started and I'm not going to stop until it’s done.

      PS. I'm still cleaning my teeth twice a day!
      Last edited by robotguy; 2nd June 2010 at 14:18.

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    9. #7
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      Default Re: I've allowed this Phobia to rule me for too long

      Hi!

      i enjoyed reading your story You've come a long long way!

      It's such a shame that the NHS dentist couldn't make the time for you. I'm fortunate enough to have found a dentist on the NHS who has all the time in the world for me, I wish it were the same for everyone.

      Anyway I just wanted to say thanks for sharing with us
      FOUND YOU!

      if my posts ever seem poorly spelt or missing bits - it's probably because I'm using my phone to write!

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      Default Re: I've allowed this Phobia to rule me for too long

      Welcome to the forum, Robotguy.

      I'm thoroughly impressed with how you've come through all that's happened. To be able to write about it like you have took a lot of strength and determination. I hope you feel additionally empowered by putting your fears to words?

      You've accomplished so much in a short time span. I'm sure you'll continue on getting your mouth in shape with equal determination. I'm glad you've found the tools to get you going in the right direction!

      Like AlleyP, I thank you for sharing, too. You'll be helping others facing the same problems you've had.

      Lots of to you!

    11. #9
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      Default Re: I've allowed this Phobia to rule me for too long

      Wow what a journey you have been on. Thanks again for sharing. I'm 29 and I feel I can completely relate to you with the domino effect with your teeth, once one has broken the rest just follow and like you luckily enough my front ones have held on. It's amazing the dentist you have found can rebuild your teeth...unfortunately mine are past that stage and I'm having eight extractions, I'm on the NHS waiting list at the mo to have them done. You must be so proud of yourself, what a great feeling! I have been working with a hypnotherapist so my fears are starting to disapate now and I'm ready for the work to start (whenever that'll be!)

      Please keep us posted!!

    12. #10
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      Default Re: I've allowed this Phobia to rule me for too long

      Well done you!!
      So glad to read about your progress, isn't it great ,the change in dentistry,from years ago.
      I think the majority of dental phobia cases have started from childhood, the dentists were so horrible and unsympathetic, especially the school ones. That is why we now have such people as your lovely therapist. I certainly felt that going to the dentist,when i was a child,was something totally out of my control & like you,as soon as i was able to make my own choices i stopped going,also like you, i could not stand for anyone to even mention the word in my presence.
      As ever though, an abcess usually makes us HAVE to go.
      Congrats on your progress, this is such a big achievement, keep us posted

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