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Ashamed and scared - fear of brushing teeth

S

Scared2

Junior member
Joined
Sep 2, 2017
Messages
3
Hello.

All my life I've never liked the sensation of a toothbrush in my mouth (it feels too big and I feel like I'm going to gag), nor have I liked the taste of toothpaste. I did brush my teeth daily as a child, but after becoming very ill with a throat infection, I stopped brushing my teeth for a while, after a couple of years I managed to brush my teeth sometimes, but the fear was overwhelming and I hated the feeling in my mouth afterwards (my mouth felt dry, I felt sick) so I stopped, I haven't brushed my teeth for 10 years - I really want to start again, I feel disgusted and ashamed with how my teeth look and fear that I'm judged by how my teeth look, but just holding a toothbrush is difficult and I start crying and I can feel my throat tightening.

I have a fear which I've had my whole life of having things in my mouth (as already mentioned even the smallest toothbrush feels huge, I also can't eat certain foods because of how they feel) so this is a HUGE problem.
I am so ashamed and I'm scared that if I don't do something soon (maybe it's too late already?) I'm going to loose all my teeth. I'm lucky in that I'm in no pain at the moment, but I don't want to wait until then.

I have been reading about mouthwashes the last couple of days but not sure if I should try, one idea I have is to try a dentist approved chewing gum? That might help and may be a step in the right direction?

It's taken a lot to write this, I hope I'm not the only one with this fear. :redface:
 
Sevena

Sevena

Super Moderator
Joined
Jun 24, 2012
Messages
834
Location
UK
The good news is that you're definitely not alone, I have seen people with cases similar to yours. Being afraid of brushing is not unheard of. Not brushing for years is also not unheard of - I went a couple of years without, mostly for different reasons, but I too always had a problem with the feeling of brushing (I have sensory processing issues, and some foods I can't deal with due to texture also).

However, it's a slightly different kettle of fish to plain old dental phobia. It sounds like it gives you panic attacks (dry mouth, feeling sick etc are all signs of your body going into fight or flight mode) and that's something you may have to work through in therapy if you cannot overcome it yourself - and not being able to overcome it yourself isn't a sign of weakness. Lots of people need help overcoming fears and things that cause them panic attacks.

If possible, look into therapy. I don't know where you're from or what your monetary situation is, but many therapists in for example the US have sliding scale prices to help out lower income patients if that's a problem. Unfortunately mouthwashes and chewing gum, while perhaps better than nothing, really only help slightly, like with getting rid of bacteria, and brushing is the only thing that gets rid of plaque.

When you do make it to a dentist (and it doesn't matter if it takes a while - better late than never!) if you explain your issues, they should treat you with compassion. You shouldn't feel ashamed, you didn't choose to have this issue with things in your mouth.

Hang in there :)
 
S

Scared2

Junior member
Joined
Sep 2, 2017
Messages
3
The good news is that you're definitely not alone, I have seen people with cases similar to yours. Being afraid of brushing is not unheard of. Not brushing for years is also not unheard of - I went a couple of years without, mostly for different reasons, but I too always had a problem with the feeling of brushing (I have sensory processing issues, and some foods I can't deal with due to texture also).

However, it's a slightly different kettle of fish to plain old dental phobia. It sounds like it gives you panic attacks (dry mouth, feeling sick etc are all signs of your body going into fight or flight mode) and that's something you may have to work through in therapy if you cannot overcome it yourself - and not being able to overcome it yourself isn't a sign of weakness. Lots of people need help overcoming fears and things that cause them panic attacks.

If possible, look into therapy. I don't know where you're from or what your monetary situation is, but many therapists in for example the US have sliding scale prices to help out lower income patients if that's a problem. Unfortunately mouthwashes and chewing gum, while perhaps better than nothing, really only help slightly, like with getting rid of bacteria, and brushing is the only thing that gets rid of plaque.

When you do make it to a dentist (and it doesn't matter if it takes a while - better late than never!) if you explain your issues, they should treat you with compassion. You shouldn't feel ashamed, you didn't choose to have this issue with things in your mouth.

Hang in there :)
Thank you so much for your reply :) You are very kind.

I'm in the UK.
 
Sevena

Sevena

Super Moderator
Joined
Jun 24, 2012
Messages
834
Location
UK
You can try going to your GP and explaining the situation and asking about options. The problem is NHS therapy often has waiting lists months long. Private specialists are available though, and can also do sliding scale prices.

Please don't be afraid to ask for help. Often when we live with fears, anxieties, and phobias for a long time, they become our normal and it doesn't occur to us that life can be different. Which is not to say we can magically get rid of these problems, but they can become very manageable. And no doctor or therapist would find your problem strange or shameful.
 
T

Thephilsblogbar

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 23, 2015
Messages
657
Location
United Kingdom
You can try going to your GP and explaining the situation and asking about options. The problem is NHS therapy often has waiting lists months long. Private specialists are available though, and can also do sliding scale prices.

Please don't be afraid to ask for help. Often when we live with fears, anxieties, and phobias for a long time, they become our normal and it doesn't occur to us that life can be different. Which is not to say we can magically get rid of these problems, but they can become very manageable. And no doctor or therapist would find your problem strange or shameful.
I agree with Sevena tha NHS therapy waiting list are huge as I been waiting to see them for my health anxiety and got an pre appointment this week, I had help in the past but we did not click.
 
S

Scared2

Junior member
Joined
Sep 2, 2017
Messages
3
You can try going to your GP and explaining the situation and asking about options. The problem is NHS therapy often has waiting lists months long. Private specialists are available though, and can also do sliding scale prices.

Please don't be afraid to ask for help. Often when we live with fears, anxieties, and phobias for a long time, they become our normal and it doesn't occur to us that life can be different. Which is not to say we can magically get rid of these problems, but they can become very manageable. And no doctor or therapist would find your problem strange or shameful.
I tried speaking to a GP once before, when the not being able to brush my teeth at all was still a fairly new thing and the GP just shuddered, made a noise of disgust, turned away from me and said 'Ewww how can you not clean your teeth' - I was so ashamed and that made me very scared to mention it again :cry:

I've seen NHS therapists for other things and my teeth cleaning was sort of mentioned but the therapists I've seen never seemed that interested in helping, I was discharged from my mental health team about a year ago due to funding issues, so not sure they'd help, I never thought I'd be able to afford private, but I might look into that as you say they can do sliding scale prices.
 
T

Thephilsblogbar

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 23, 2015
Messages
657
Location
United Kingdom
I had say it is true that waiting list for NHS therapy I been waiting once again because I suffer from health anxiety
 
Lioness

Lioness

Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2016
Messages
29
Location
Poland
I wouldn’t like to pry really, but could anybody tell me how exactly the therapy for people with brushing difficulties look like? What methods does it use? Oral massages performed by sensory integration therapist? Conversations with psychologist? Or some other?

I’m really sorry for my curiosity but I hope that maybe somebody will be able to answer me.

Thank you very much in advance! :)

And good luck with your therapy, Scared2! :clover:

PS Maybe I should place this post in a new thread, entitled “Therapy for people with brushing difficulties – how does it look and feel like?”… I’m not sure in which section – perhaps in “Your Dentistry Questions Answered” or “General, News and Events”… What do you think?
I do apologize for the fuss I’ve made but I hope my post can be moved there if it will be needed.
 
Sevena

Sevena

Super Moderator
Joined
Jun 24, 2012
Messages
834
Location
UK
There are lots of different methods. I think most would involve some talking therapy - to try understand anything that may have caused the issue, and CBT sometimes involves thinking exercises to talk oneself into a better mindset. Exposure therapy can work for phobias and aversions, as can hypnotherapy. It would vary depending on the person, and some people may try more than one method to find something that works for them. It really depends on what causes the problem - problems with brushing for instance could be problems with having objects in one's mouth due to trauma, or sensory processing issues with the feel of the toothbrush/taste and texture of toothpaste, or have some other anxiety-related cause (fear of hurting gums, fear of teeth in general). Or more than one cause! Ideally, therapy would be tailored to suit the cause and the patient's specific situation. :)
 
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