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Anxiety attack during root canal - new dentist not sympathetic



Junior member
Mar 16, 2023
Hi guys, I'm needed to share as I'm full of anxiety and feeling stressed after visiting a new dentist after about 5 years. I am/was a relatively low level nervous patient when visiting dentists, until I had a needed tooth pull/implant about 5 years ago, where I believe I developed a anxiety about visiting future dentists, but as I hadn't been in a while and I wasn't in any pain, covid, not being able to find a dentist, etc. I put off going for check ups. During this time I noticed a molar would on and off give me pain when eating, but not unbearable. But knew something wasn't right, but ignored it. Fast forward until about a month ago, where I had a 48 hour cold virus where I felt totally run down/headaches and severe toothache around the molar in question. It was so sensitive to touch that I couldn't even touch it or brush it. I also developed an abscess swelling my mouth/cheek near it so knew I had some kind of infection. I started looking for a dentist as I was concerned, in between looking for a dentist, I woke up one morning and my cheek on one side of my face was major swollen and I panicked as I had never had a face swelling before. I called NHS 111 and I was impressed with the service - got a call back within hour and prescribed antibiotics that I collected same day. Took these for 5 day course and the face/cheek swell went down, but inside my mouth I could still feel the sore abscess so knew I had to book dentist. Anyway, I looked for ages trying to find an NHS dentist with good reviews as I feared visiting a bad one. I did find one and I was nervous, but not super nervous during an initial consultation.. I was relived all my other tooth were fine except for this one infected molar and told I would definitely need root canal or a straight up extraction. I want to save the tooth, so I opted nervously for RCT and had appointment next day.

On the day of appointment I was nervous as I am normally, but nothing major surprisingly... the first time I met dentist I didn't express my anxiety and she seemed ok, but on the day of the RCT she seemed a bit off, she communicated to me, but wasn't very chatty nor made me feel at ease.. I was anxious because I knew this session would be an hour long.... I was feeling very uncomfortable.. anxiety = feeling nauseous, shaky and fidgety and half way through I kept feeling a sense of panic as I didn't feel in control yet had to keep still. I raised my hand a couple of times as I wanted to sit up as felt sick and when I needed a little break. She didn't seem very sympathetic and somehow I felt embarrassed to keep wanting breaks. I did my best to finish and she did the bulk of the work and put a temp filling on along with my old crown and she said to book 2nd appoint which is due on Tuesday. I left feeling shaky and nauseous and ever since Monday I've been in a major panic/anxiety about returning to complete the work. I've never ever felt this stressed about visiting a dentist before. My sleep is affected, loss my appetite, feeling dread. This is not me and I hate this feeling. If I go back, I am afraid to have another panic attack or keep asking for breaks as she didn't seem caring enough to try and ease me or relax me or anything. I'm not in any pain, but I feel I need to find another dentist who is used to treating nervous patients and will have more sympathy, allow me to have breaks if I want, which would in turn probably relax me, talk to me during the session and break down what they are doing into smaller chunks, so I don't feel overwhelmed with a straight one hour of anxiety and feeling sick and out of control. I have been online for past 2 days Google searching for 'NHS dentists for nervous patients' who will accept me. I just don't feel I can go back to my new dentist and I don't know what to do!! Any advice. Sorry post is so long, thanks for reading
@Belinda2023 I feel for you so much. I totally understand. I have not had any root canals due to fear, but I have lost eight adult teeth now in addition to my wisdom teeth due to dental phobia and avoidance, and I am 52 years old. My mouth is just full of gaps. I just had my two lower right molars removed eight days ago. I had one done in December as well. Things went so well in December that I really thought things would be taking a turn for the better regarding the phobia and getting the work done so as to stop losing more teeth. Then came my appointment last week. I have used this oral surgeon four times over the last 13 years, including for the molar in December. I felt comfortable with him. He was always kind and took time to talk afterwards. He would show me the teeth and let me ask questions, like a teacher. He is part-time faculty at the dental college at the local university so that makes sense that he would want to teach and share knowledge. Last week was very different. It was like he was a completely different person. He seemed nervous and talked extremely fast. He felt off, but I had used him before and I had no reason not to trust him. Afterwards, he passed me off to the dental assistant to do post-op instructions, for the first time ever. He left for the adjacent room and it sounded like someone throwing metal things into a metal sink repeatedly. It was very loud. He didn't let me see the teeth. Now I wish I had asked. It healed differently this time. The sockets are looking better, but the gums look very wrong on the cheek side - like they're gone. I see redness and blood vessels, not like it's infected, but like something grazed it really hard and took the gum tissue clean off. What is there looks very thin and like I can see the bone right under this onion-skin thin gum. I also am still having altered sensation in my face, like when the anesthetic is 85-90% worn off, but it just stopped. I have so much other dental work to do to save teeth, and now I'm back to being an absolute nervous wreck. I can barely focus on work. I don't even want to brush my teeth or look at it anymore, but I'm supposed to irrigate the sockets to flush out food particles until the sockets close. I don't want to eat so I don't have to see it. I called two days ago about the nerve issue and the oral surgeon will see me tomorrow afternoon. I feel so nervous and scared that he's going to tell me that I need a gum graft now and that this altered sensation is permanent. I'm also scared that he'll just cover for what happened and not tell me the truth. I should probably already be scheduling a second opinion. (I'm seriously wondering if he was on amphetamines). I never should have relaxed and hoped for the best. Things going well in December put me off guard and now this. Sorry to have gone on so long. My goal was to empathize. I hope you can find someone else to finish for you. Or maybe she really was just having a bad day. I'm too freaked out right now to give good advice, but I do feel for you.
@Belinda2023 I'm so sorry for my earlier reply. If I could delete it, I would. I originally intended to express empathy, but I'm in such a state right now that I just blathered on about my issues when you have a real problem and not much time to figure out what to do. I should not have gone on the way I did. I do hope someone in a better frame of mind on this forum will have some good counsel for you.
@Anne2021 No worries. I've made contact with a private dentist and plan to book a consultation with them. I'll update if I make positive progress. Take care x
Hi @Belinda2023 - that's really good news. You may also want to check, if you haven't already done so, if they have an endodontist (specialist for root canal treatment) on their team.

In terms of actual treatment, taking an hour for the first part of the root canal treatment sounds rather thorough for an NHS dentist these days, but if her bedside manner is poor, there is no point in exposing yourself to further trauma if you can afford not to :).

Best of luck, and let us know how you get on!

P.S. we have some more info about root canal treatment here:

Hi @letsconnect yesterday after a couple of days of being in this anxiety stressed cloud I realised and figured out, that I think the reason I was so overwhelmed was because I hadn't been to visit a dentist for about 5 years and then going straight into having such a long and complex procedure (RCT) was just too much. On top, it didn't help that I had a dentist with an unsympathetic 'bedside' manner as you say. Also, she didn't sound 100% as she had some issues and kept calling her more experienced colleague in to approve her progress! Not good for reassurance while you're already feeling uncomfortable! I also felt that she didn't want to do it, but had no choice, as you can't refuse treatment. Just little things about her I felt something was off. So, I would have better peace of mind going elsewhere, even though I'm still feeling anxious. A Dentist who specialises in nervous patients should hopefully look after me and I get the treatment out of the way!
@letsconnect Can you advise how I can get recommendations for a London endodontist (for RCT) who specialises in dealing with anxious patients? I just want to know what my options are and also get an idea of costs. Thanks.
I wish I had the perfect recommendation but I don't - have replied to your post in the "Find or Recommend a Dentist" section!
@Anne2021 your experience will no doubt have put you off and it's understandable you're worried.
I've been in the other end of an 'off' dentist who was perfectly fine and friendly, until I went to the practice that she had moved to, then she was like a completely different person.. It wasn't overly far (I didn't follow her halfway across the UK or anything, far from it!) but I wanted to go to someone I trusted and had been treated by for years, so I booked in to see her at a new practice. When I saw her for my extraction I was scolded for "following her". I honestly felt like some sort of stalker at the end of my ear-bashing I felt extremely embarrassed as she did this Infront of the nurses. The whole thing made me feel awful on top of awful (as I was already anxious and in pain). Obviously I wasn't welcome so I didn't return, infact I don't think I saw another dentist again until I was desperate.

I hope you can get some resolution to what happened, hopefully you can explain to someone how you felt and see if they have anyone else you could see if you're not comfortable with that dentist. It's awful when you feel anxious, things like this certainly don't help x