• Dental Phobia Support

    Welcome! This is an online support group for anyone who is has a severe fear of the dentist or dental treatment. Please note that this is NOT a general dental problems or health anxiety forum! You can find a list of them here.

    Register now to access all the features of the forum.

1st appointment in 6 years... 23 year old female. Terrified by dentist (Bad experiences)... Help!



Junior member
Aug 26, 2012
1st appointment in 6 years... 23 year old female. Terrified by dentist (Bad experiences)... Help!

I am always a big of a tough girl. I have piercings, donate blood regularly, work hard at the gym 6 days a week... but I am scared of the dentist. While reading some of these articles, I actually started to cry.

I had negative experiences at the dentist when I was a kid... I never got to see the same dentist because we went to a huge clinic and I wasn't troublesome... nothing special needed to be done with me. So I became the patient that was passed around to anyone who was available. Not only did this lead me to not taking proper care of my teeth, no one ever showed me how to because I always became someone else's patient... someone else's problem. At the age of 7, I had to have a tooth removed and I got this man who I had never met before. After 4 attempts at freezing me and me telling him straight out that it still hurts, he told me to stop complaining and that he'd done this on children half my age. He proceeded to remove the molar without talking to me. It was horrible. The sounds and the smells of the dentist is enough to curl my hair. Not only was he too rough, but he kept telling me to open my jaw wider and wider. It finally cracked, and for years I have had pain on the left side of my face... although its healed pretty well now, I can completely unhook it and pop it back at will. I was never able to before, until this dentist basically forced me to go beyond my limits. While setting a brace in the spot where the molar was removed, he slammed it on (after the hygenist helped fit it with me slowly and comfortably), tightened it to the point where it hurt, and left without saying a word. When he left, the hygenist appologized and unscrewed it for me. We complained and have never seen him at that clinic again... I think he might have been fired.

So now, I am 24, and I have booked my first appointment in years. I am so scared because I decided to try somewhere new now that I am old enough to decide. However, while I realise logically that I just had a horrible dentist, I can't help but feel doom at someone new. I have always had someone new... and it went badly.

I am wondering if anyone here has ever had any kind of similar situation of abuse at the hands of their dentist, and what can I do to make it easier. After reading these articles, I noticed I have more fears than I thought... fear of pain, fear of humiliation, fear of showing fear, and oddly enough for someone who is so ok with needled... fear of needles in my mouth! I am also terrified of the dentist making a mistake.

Any suggestions for the girl with an appointment coming up in a few weeks???
Re: 1st appointment in 6 years... 23 year old female. Terrified by dentist (Bad experiences)... Help

Hello and welcome Kathryn285

How awful for you to have been at the hands of a professional person, and being treated like that - dreadful!

So good on you for plucking up the courage to make this new appointment, and for trying out a completely new surgery to boot. Can you e-mail them explaining your situation so that they are aware of the need to treat you with even kinder hands and words? If so, give it a go, it will give you the opportunity of explaining what you have shared with us, and they will know beforehand, because quite often, we get there, and all sense and sensibility go out of the window, and if we are able to get anything out of our mouths, it is usually a garbled mixture of words ;)

And no matter however many 'tough' sides to us we all have, we all have an area in our lives that we feel more vulnerable in, and yours, mine, and a whole load of other people on here have the dentist ;)

If for whatever reason, when you go to your appointment, you feel at all uncomfortable with your new dentist, then, try somewhere else. You need to feel at ease with the person who is going to help you on your way to a healthy happy smile, and so you are the one making the decisions about who is going to treat you.

I truly hope that you get the kind and considerate treatment that you so definitely deserve.

Take care and let us know how you get along.

Re: 1st appointment in 6 years... 23 year old female. Terrified by dentist (Bad experiences)... Help

:welcome: Kathryn,

I hope you understand that your dental experience as a kid was abuse, plain and simple. Traumatic experiences like this at a young age have a way of impressing themselves on your body and mind at a very deep level. As an adult, you might know "logically" that your childhood dentist was horrible, your body still associates dentistry with the pain and loss of control you experienced as a seven year old. So in a way, there's still a very frightened seven-year-old inside you who's never really dealt with all the pain and shame and fear you experienced at a time when your little self didn't even have the emotional tools to understand it.

My first recommendation for you is to allow yourself to have a vulnerable side. Have yourself a big old cry about the the bad dental shit that was done to you. Get a nice comfy teddy bear or some other object from your childhood, and rock yourself to sleep and let it all out. It sounds a little psycho-babbly, but you don't have to be the tough girl all the time. Being scared of the dentist doesn't make you weak, or wimpy, or a bad person. It's just your body reacting to a lifetime of dental abuse and neglect. If I told you a story about a little girl who was viciously attacked by a dog, and then had bad experiences with dogs all her life, would it surprise you if the little girl grew up to be a woman who was scared of dogs? You're a good person, you take care of yourself, but this part of you needs to be cuddled a little.

So, go a little easy on yourself, and stop trying to reason your way out of being scared. It doesn't sound like you've had any good experiences at the dentist, so your new dentist will have to earn your trust. Until he does, you're going to need a lot of courage and patience, from yourself and from your dentist. It's okay to cry and freak out a little.

Next, some practical recommendations. I'd really recommend sharing your story here with your dentist. You can send him an email, or print it out and show it to your dentist BEFORE any work is done. It's really important that your dentist knows you have a strong dental phobia and a history of dental abuse, so he can be extra careful working with you. And it's important that YOU know that your dentist sees you as a person and knows a little something about you, and doesn't just see you as another set of teeth. This is the first step in creating a positive relationship with your new dentist.

Understanding your history should also prevent the dentist from shaming or lecturing you. When I went back to the dentist after about 20 years of not even brushing my teeth, I was sure she'd be shocked, or accuse me of being a meth addict, or think I was a horrible person. I was shocked (in a wonderful way) when she just focused on the work to be done, and actually praised me for having the courage to take control of my teeth. A good dentist should be happy to work with you on fixing your teeth, and shouldn't lecture you about what's in the past.

The other thing you want to establish with your dentist right up front is some ground rules. (Your new dentist probably will tell you these things, but make sure you understand them-- really understand them-- yourself). As the patient, YOU are in control. That's a really hard one for us phobics to understand, especially with your traumatic history of being so out of control at the dentist's. YOU can stop the dentist at any time, no matter WHAT they're doing. If you feel any pain, or start to panic, or need to just take a break, raise your hand or make a noise, and the dentist will stop IMMEDIATELY. There aren't any dental procedures that can't be stopped at any point.

You also have the right to have the dentist explain what he's doing. Fear of the unknown is a big part of the phobia, and I find it a big comfort to be told each step of the way what's happening. I wouldn't advise looking at any of the tools, but you can ask your dentist to tell you about each tool as he works. A good dentist will tell you in gentle terms what he's doing, and should stop from time to time and ask if you're feeling any pain.

The last aspect of control is, you can decide what procedures to have done, and when. Your dentist will recommend what you should do, but you have every right to just say, "I don't want to do that right now." A lot of us feel like the man in the white coat is an authority figure, but the truth is that the dentist works for YOU, so you can do whatever the hell you want.

I think the majority of dentists out there are well-intentioned, good people. But not every dentist is for everyone. So part of creating an adult, professional relationship with your dentist is understanding that you have the freedom to fire your dentist if he/she isn't giving you what you need. I think you should aim to find a dentist who will be your permanent, long-term dentist, but if you don't find that person on the first try, don't be afraid to find someone else.

My biggest advice to you is just to take it slowly. Your first visit can (and probably should) just be a consultation, and the purpose is as much for you to "audition" the dentist as it is to check out your teeth. The dentist can tell a lot just from looking around in your mouth visually (he'll use a mirror too, and sometimes a "probe" to move your tongue out of the way), and looking at some x-rays. None of this involves anything painful or sharp. Some dentists have a standard regimen of things they do for an initial exam, but remember that you don't have to do it all at once. You're completely within your rights to say something like, "I don't think I can handle that today, can we stop there?" I'd recommend trying to get through the x-rays, since these are the most important diagnostic tool the dentist has. But you can do the cleaning or periodontal exam later if you're overwhelmed. If the dentist is preachy or insensitive or just not your style, thank him or her, and don't call back. I really think after all you've been through, you deserve a dentist who treats you really compassionately, and who doesn't mind if you act a little "childish" in the dentist's chair. My dentist is so sweet and gentle, she's really helped me overcome my shame and fear, and helped me feel like a "normal" dental patient.

I want to congratulate you on having the courage to schedule an appointment :jump: :welldone: :jump: . As a fellow phobic, I know how hard it is to make an appointment for what feels like certain doom and death. So give yourself a whole lot of credit and be really proud of yourself for taking the first step, as well as for sharing your story here on the forum. That's another thing that takes a lot of courage all by itself.

:welcome: to the club! It does get better, and we're always here to cheer you on, answer your questions, or just virtually hold your hand. Good luck!
Re: 1st appointment in 6 years... 23 year old female. Terrified by dentist (Bad experiences)... Help

I'm in the same boat!!! Except I have to have close to 16 teeth removed and I haven't been in 10 years, I'm 20. :o I'm terrified of needles though also... so that don't help. My only advice is to find a dentist who is going to calm your fears. The one I'm going to see I was referred to by my Mom's dentist because he does IV sedation, when I talked with the secretary on the phone she informed me that they would give me laughing gas then the IV sedation so I shouldn't feel it. So really, find one who will accompany your fears and make your anxiety less. I'll let you know how mine goes, it's on thursday! :redface:
Re: 1st appointment in 6 years... 23 year old female. Terrified by dentist (Bad experiences)... Help

Good morning Kathryn. I am petrified of dentists. I had a nice dentist that I lost trust and faith in. So long story short the fear is back. I am back at square one so to speak. I actually wrote a letter to my husbands dentist explaining my story. They are 'reviewing' it and hopefully will get back to my husband this week. I asked for something to get to the appointment. I am fearful so walking in and allowing some stranger to look in my mouth will not happen. I had also planned on interviewing him the first time and not allowing him to touch me unless I was completely at ease. Remember you are in control and you have to feel comfortable and at ease. I also had a bad dentist as a child which I feel my fear stemmed from. I was amazed and comforted by the number of people out there afraid of the dentist and willing to share their stories. It gave me comfort. I have an appointment in September that I am dwelling on to the point I am making myself sick. If you do not like the new dentist I would find another. I am going to keep others in mind just in case my husbands dentist does not want someone as fearful as me. It is certainly a long, stressful road we are embarking on. You should be proud of yourself for making that appointment. Maybe you can try taking something of sentimental value with you to the dentist for comfort. I would take a hand written note my son wrote me and I kept it in my hand or in my pocket. Sometimes having something small and sentimental in your hands helps. Maybe even wearing earphones to listen to music if that is allowed. You are not alone in your feelings. I had bad dentists too and I understand what you are going through. All my best to you.
Re: 1st appointment in 6 years... 23 year old female. Terrified by dentist (Bad experiences)... Help

Hi, Girl!

I experienced something very similar to you. At seven, I had my mouth forced open and had cavities filled with no anesthetic. It was really traumatic and made me never want to go back to a dentist.

I think the first thing you should remember is that your bad experience isn't normal and not what you can expect from modern dental care. It wasn't even normal then, nor was my bad experience when I was a kid normal. That means that there may still be some not so good dentists out there, so it's important to make sure that you don't have any more bad experiences by choosing a good one. (lots on that on this page!). Good dentists can do any kind of work on a tooth without it being painful for you.

Also, now you are an adult, so you get to decide what they can do. I had to have a lot of dental work done recently, and I had a plan in my head that if the dentist wasn't nice to me, or if I wasn't OK with what we were doing, I'd just get up and leave, which of course I didn't. They were nice to me, and we were always 100% agreed on the treatment plan. This helped me feel more in control.

What also helped me feel empowered, was reading up on dental procedures on the internet, so I knew what was going on, I used Doctor Spiller's page a lot.

For the needles in the mouth thing, I found it helped a lot to just close my eyes. Tell the dentist that you don't like seeing the needle, and they'll warn you so you can close your eyes. I'm OK with injections too, it's just the sight of that thing close to my face that I don't like.

It's really easy to tell if I'm frightened or not, but I decided that I wasn't going to be embarrassed about my fear, I'm allowed to look stupid at the dentist's.

I was worried that the dentists might make a mistake too, but that's always a risk no matter what we do. I had a bunch of teeth treated, it cost me a lot of money, and it went well. I used a specialist dentist, an endodontist for my root canals, and an oral surgeon did my complex extractions, make sure you go to someone who is good, and the chances for a mistake happening are very low. And if you don't think their diagnosis is right, you can always get a second opinion.

You sound a bit like me, only tougher, and probably fitter too;), I think your fear will go away like mine. And you haven't been to the dentist for a while, that doesn't mean that you have problems. For all we know, you might only need your teeth cleaned. The above worked for me, it might not work for you, but I hope it helps.

Good luck on your appointment!
Re: 1st appointment in 6 years... 23 year old female. Terrified by dentist (Bad experiences)... Help

I want to thank everyone for the support I recieved here. I wrote this in August and after stalling for a few months, I now have an appointment that I booked today... for tonight! Not bad after 8 months of consideration, don't you think?

I am still scared, but I am allowing myself to be scared. I am paying for this from my pocket, so I feel a bit more like I am in control... I am buying this service. If I don't like it, I will do what I do anywhere else when I don't like the service... I'll leave and never come back.

I am no longer the child going to where my parents bring me. I found the dentist myself and plan to explain to her my situation. Who knows... maybe the idea of the dentist is actually worse than the appointment itself. I suppose I'll find out.

I will be back tonight to post what happends, hoping it is good... hoping I can inspire other people with the same phobia and reassure them that it really will be fine.

We'll see.

Similar threads