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Coping with my boyfriend's phobia

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waterlily

Junior member
Joined
May 18, 2011
Messages
1
Hi, I'm new here!

My fiance, A, has dental phobia and we're trying to work through it together. He's been going to some of my dentists appointments in an effort to desensitize himself. He has not been to the dentist in 10+ years, and I'm afraid he has an infection or something life threatening. I don't know how bad off his teeth are. He refuses to talk about anything very in depth. I feel lucky on days he talks to me about it at all.

I am very afraid for his health, and its really taking a toll on my mental health. I'm trying to be there for him and help him, but its extremely hard sometimes. He's been breaking promises he made me to go, and I've been putting off a trip I want to go on to be there for his first dental appointment but I have a feeling it won't be happening. I'm very afraid that he's going to get sick because of his teeth and whenever I think about it I end up crying. Its so difficult to watch the person you love slowly killing themselves and theres nothing you can do about it.

How do I cope? I know I can't do anything more than I am to make him go so I'm trying to focus on controlling my feelings and my reactions. Should I just try to let it go? Give up? Go on this trip anyway? Or push him harder? I'm at a loss right now on what to do. :confused: Advice?
 
G

gpsmith86

Junior member
Joined
May 9, 2011
Messages
9
Hi, I'm new here!

My fiance, A, has dental phobia and we're trying to work through it together. He's been going to some of my dentists appointments in an effort to desensitize himself. He has not been to the dentist in 10+ years, and I'm afraid he has an infection or something life threatening. I don't know how bad off his teeth are. He refuses to talk about anything very in depth. I feel lucky on days he talks to me about it at all.

I am very afraid for his health, and its really taking a toll on my mental health. I'm trying to be there for him and help him, but its extremely hard sometimes. He's been breaking promises he made me to go, and I've been putting off a trip I want to go on to be there for his first dental appointment but I have a feeling it won't be happening. I'm very afraid that he's going to get sick because of his teeth and whenever I think about it I end up crying. Its so difficult to watch the person you love slowly killing themselves and theres nothing you can do about it.

How do I cope? I know I can't do anything more than I am to make him go so I'm trying to focus on controlling my feelings and my reactions. Should I just try to let it go? Give up? Go on this trip anyway? Or push him harder? I'm at a loss right now on what to do. :confused: Advice?
Hello,

I don't know what your boyfriend's teeth are like. Mine are in pretty bad shape, but luckily not too visibly terrible at first glance. I can tell you that I made the same sort of promises to my girlfriend, only to break them over and over again. The cycle would be the same: My teeth would hurt, I would promise to make an appointment, then I wouldn't. Eventually, the damage to one tooth in particular became so bad that I got scared what would happen if I didn't make the call. I was terrified of the chair, but I was even more terrified of what would happen if I kept ignoring the problem.

I obviously don't presume to speak for him, but based on my own extreme phobia of all things dental, I think it is important that you know that when he fails to make an appointment, he is not doing it to hurt you. It is 95% certain that he is not doing these things because he is terrified of being in that chair. He is terrified of what will happen to him if he gets in that chair.

Logically, of course, the dentist is not there to hurt him, but to help get him healthy again. But if he truly believes that something horrible will befall him, it's just as "real" as the sun rising or the grass being green.

Of course, you are correct that untreated teeth can cause severe damage. However, I don't think it is necessarily up to you to "make" him go. Not just because it is ultimately his decision, but because it is not fair to you to be the ultimate arbiter of getting him over his fear.

I know there are a lot of UK posters here, and the health system works a lot differently than here in the US. If you are in the states, I don't know what your finances/insurance situation is like, but if at all possible, I would suggest having your boyfriend speak to a therapist about his fear as a first step. If cost is an issue, many universities with masters or doctorate psychology/social work programs will let their students take patients from the community. These sessions are usually free or very low cost, and subject to all the same rules and privacy agreements as fully-licensed therapists. My own therapist was very helpful in getting me into "the chair" this past Monday.

If at all possible - and assuming his phobia does not stem significantly from lack of control - I would strongly suggest looking into moderate IV sedation. I had a root canal on Monday, and at my consult, I was begging the doctor to set me up for general anesthesia.

GA was not practical for my root canal, but I can tell you in all honesty that the IV sedation made this terrifying thing so very easy. The hardest part of the day was getting the IV needle, which was nothing more than a small pinch. IV or "Moderate" anesthesia is unfortunately named for the terrified patient - there is nothing moderate about it, you are in a state of blissful unawareness the entire time. They use it to perform colonoscopies and even put stints in hearts. My therapist used it for his shoulder surgery. It is good, good stuff.

When I went into the office, it was the first time since mid high school that I was having dental work done. I needed Ambien to sleep the night before. I actually said goodbye to my girlfriend as if I was saying goodbye for the last time - I had told my parents to make sure she was okay if something happened - I was so scared of this procedure that I was sure that I would die while in that chair. It sounds ridiculous, considering how many thousands of people have this done every day. But it was 100% "Real" to me. I thought I would somehow feel every single pinch, pull, and drill, even while sedated. Nobody could convince me otherwise.

I was so, so wrong. All I remember of the appointment is being told I might feel a warm tingle in my arm while the IV kicks in. Then I vaguely remember them having to ask me multiple times to bite down on an X-Ray while still asleep (it is important to mention that I was told this was near the end of the RC, after my mouth was worked on for 2 hours, and I still felt absolutely nothing.)

Then I was asleep in the car, going home. I am not exaggerating when I say that IV sedation is an absolute miracle. I cannot imagine someone alive being more terrified of the dentist than I am. My RC'd tooth is a little tender now, but nothing I can't control with some basic ibuprofen, and definitely nowhere NEAR the pain I was experiencing from infection. Compared to that, it is a minor annoyance at worst. I am not exaggerating one bit when I tell you the entire thing was painless and wiped from my memory, start to finish.

I have three more appointments left, and while I don't exactly look forward to them, I am considerably less scared than I ever thought it possible. Sedation can be expensive, but there are ways to get financing, even if they aren't ideal (especially here in the states, where we haven't yet caught up to the rest of the first world with that whole UHC thing).

Still, the peace of mind it brings cannot be measured in dollars. If possible, I encourage you to share this with your boyfriend, because I went from feeling like I was sentenced to death to absolute relief thanks to the IV. If you have any more questions, please let me know and I will answer them best I can.
 
brit

brit

Super Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Mar 23, 2006
Messages
6,958
Location
In My Dental Happy Place
I would suggest you go along with him to any appointment for moral support. When he has attended your appointments, has he met the dentist or just sat in the waiting area?
Does he like your dental practice or does he need to find a different one - one more able to help phobics? It is best if his first visit is just a chat about how the dentist can help him.http://www.dentalfearcentral.org/help/find-a-dentist/first-appointment/

You are in a difficult position as per this stickied thread: http://www.dentalfearcentral.org/forum/showthread.php?8877-NEED-IDEAS-to-get-step-dad-to-see-dentist


If you are in UK it is much easier to find sympathetic dentists with painfree techniques and the time to help in the private sector. Check our Dentistfinder to see if any recommended ones are near you: http://www.dentalfearcentral.org/forum/forumdisplay.php?33-Dentist-Reviews-and-Recommendations

How do you feel about your dentist? Is it something you dislike but put up with or do you actually not mind going/even enjoy it?
A dentist you enjoy seeing, is likely one your boyfriend could get on with. If you are lukewarm about your own experiences/dentist, they are maybe not the best choice for a phobic. After all if you want him to stick at it, you need to find somewhere that will take good care of him at his pace so he feels in control.


http://www.dentalfearcentral.org/fears/
You could also read the Common Fears and get him to work out what his main fears are: pain, lack of control, embarrassment etc etc - make sure that if he fears pain, you are not confirming his fear by sayng things like 'well it doesn't hurt much'....he needs to know it won't hurt at all which is doable with the right dentist but not with all dentists.

Is he aware of the options for sedation such as described above - could be just what he needs - he does not need to be fully aware while he is being fixed up if he doesn't want to be.

Thanks for trying to help, it must be very frustrating for you.
 
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