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Coping with unwanted dental thoughts



Nov 3, 2012
Okay I know this sounds a bit odd at first, but ever since I started having panic attacks over my fear of the dentist (about a year and a half ago) I have realised that they have come about by thoughts about dental procedures or having things wrong with my teeth and needing extensive treatment. Basically, it all started when I thought about at least trying to find a dentist that specialised in phobics like myself and I sort of played scenarios over in my head that everything would be alright: so thoughts like sedation would be there; that I would really warm to the dentist and they were expert at treating phobics; I didn't need anything doing beyond a cleaning or something; there would be gadgets there (i.e drill-alternatives, numbing gel etc.) etc. Now I did this to try and comfort myself and to give myself a sort of hope that there hopefully would be some sort of dentist out there that would be able to help and that is what got me looking at this website ages ago before I made an account here.

But along with that hope that I would find a dentist I liked, I also got unwanted thoughts of nightmare procedures which have made me cringe and have played on my mind a lot and has put me off looking for a dentist a bit. What also didn't help was my friends telling everyone about their toothache, painful extractions, new fillings and numbed faces all over social networking sites; before I just used to ignore it because when I was younger I used to think it was only adults who got things like fillings etc. and I used to never think that would happen to me because I looked after my teeth well and that I was younger than them. But my friends having this done and telling us all about it on social networking sites just hit me hard that most people my age (nearly 17) are starting to have stuff like this done - leaving the thought in my head of when will I need stuff like that doing (hopefully not for a long time!) :frantic: So yeah, the thoughts of having dental treatment really don't appeal to me and the thoughts that come into my head out of the fear really do get me down and make me worry even more :dunno:

Anyway, I was wondering if anyone else gets these "thoughts" in their heads and also if anyone has any effective coping strategies that help? Thanks :XXLhug:


Try to ignore it when people tell about their scary dental experiences and about all the things that can go wrong with teeth.

You will hear about dental stuff because having dental work done is very common.

You will only get a selection of the worst experiences, this is why it sounds so bad. When I had my teeth fixed, I didn't post on facebook about the lovely root canal or super easy extraction I had, nobody tells about that. I don't know the exact reasons why only the bad experiences are worth telling, but I'm sure people who have experienced something that they find traumatic want sympathy, and also it makes a better story.

Also, when you hear about someone having a bad dental experience, you only know what it was like for them, not for you. There are things that others might find hard that will be no problem for you. I don't really have a problems with noises in a dental surgery, many other people have, and will tell horrible stories about the sound of the drill.

The state of your teeth doesn't just depend on your age, but on many other things too. Things don't just happen with teeth, you will not unexpectedly run into big problems without there being a cause. If you haven't yet had your teeth checked by a dentist, I recommend you do, because then you know if everything is fine with them. Then you won't have to worry about procedures that you don't need, and that are nowhere near as bad as you'd think from reading on social media or google anyway.

I hope this helps, at least just a little.

Good luck!

I understand exactly how this feels. I remember confiding in a colleague when my fear was at its absolute peak, telling her that it would be so much easier to deal with if I wasn’t bombarded with horror stories, exaggerated media depictions of dental situations and everyone complaining about their own dental problems/treatments all day, every day. She said that as a non-anxious person, she was barely aware of these stories and situations being around us but admitted that when she was going through divorce, she felt everyone was talking about falling in love & getting married so she understood how it can feel to have certain things feel like they are closing in on you, especially when it is something you want to avoid.
The problem is that a lot of people who spread these stories, are unaware that they are contributing to a sea of “what if” scenarios that is rapidly coming towards us phobics and adding to the pressure we already put on ourselves. :frantic:

Unfortunately, it is human nature to want to tell stories, be the centre of attention, turn trauma into humour and share bad experiences. We all do this to differing degrees – bad news and experience certainly travels faster than good. In the past week, I know I have complained both in person to friends and in facebook updates about really shoddy customer service and the same principle applies here. As much as I would like to say I also speak about good experiences, the truth is that as a whole we look for what makes a shocking or humorous story and will get a reaction from others – whether that is sympathy, empathy, humour or a “like” on facebook. Indeed social media has made this attention seeking side of our personalities even worse in recent years and I myself have been left bewildered and slightly freaked out my the dental horror stories posted as status updates. In fact my big bugbear at the moment is that fact that everyone I know seems to be either having babies or partaking in exotic travel; either way I am confronted on a daily basis by updates about injections, enormous needles, sore arms, crying children and often for the latter – video accompaniments (I will refrain for giving my feelings on this which would fill an entire thread on their own). I find the descriptions absolutely horrifying and often feel extremely queasy which only adds to my own existing phobia.:faint:

I think we are also socially conditioned to talk about these things – and probably dentistry more than most – as horror stories. Again this comes down to media depiction. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone say they have just come from a dentist appointment only to have someone else ask “was it awful? Share your trauma, give me all the gory details...” So a lot of people in turn play up to this, even when not invited to do so and this cycle will continue until people stop thinking of dentistry as something necessarily awful and to be feared. Usually now if anyone tells me they have been to a dental appointment I answer with “oh nice, I love that clean feeling after being at the dentist” Often this is met with a look of utter confusion and then “yes actually, it was fine and nothing to worry about”. Being utterly paranoid about these things however, I do worry that I might at times be dismissing someone with a real phobia who maybe did need to talk about it.:(:(

I mentioned this kind of thing to my dentist once, saying that I had been very confident and anxiety-free until I got caught up in a horror story conversation the day prior to my appointment. He agreed that this is a problem but is solely down to people enjoying playing to a crowd and bad news travelling faster than good news. Dentistry is only a bad example because it is expected to be and because in times gone by, techniques and practitioners were quite nasty. On the other hand (excuse the pun) many people have manicures and haircuts on a regular basis but every so often you will hear a horror story about over vigorous filing, burning from chemicals etc. These are the stories that people like to repeat but it doesn’t mean that 99.9% experiences are painfree and very enjoyable and so it is with dentistry.

Remember also that everyone is different. I sat opposite a colleague for 3 years who had visibly damaged teeth and was always heading off for lengthy and (as she told it) horrific sessions in the dentist chair. She also happened to attend a dental practice where I had one very bad experience :cry:. She would always tell me all the gory details, including the fact that the dentist was always “angry” at the state of her teeth and when I tried to ask her to stop because I was “ a bit squeamish” she told me that that kind of attitude would get me nowhere and everybody at some stage in their life would end up undergoing at least one nasty dental procedure no matter how well they look after their teeth, it was all just one of life’s inevitabilities. :hidesbehindsofa: This thought terrified me for a long time, then I suddenly realised that in all the time I had sat opposite this lady, I had watched her crunch her way through a 500g bag of pear drops every single day, washed down with 3 cans of irn-bru per day. That made me realise that whilst I may still face dental work at some point, I can, to some extent, control the likelihood of this and if and when this does happen, I also knew I was in safe hands with my own dentist who would help me though any treatment.:superman:

When I had CBT to help deal with my dental phobia, I was encouraged to keep a thought diary to detail how often I would be thinking about dental problems and possible treatments and then went through these with the therapist to assign “belief ratings” from 1-10. This encouraged me to think rationally about whether these things would happen and what the real likely outcome would be based on my experience and knowledge with a good, sympathetic dentist. It did take some time – at first I could not get beyond panic and into a rational place but it does work and after a while I was able to trigger a rational response whenever the what if scenarios took hold. Another technique I learned was simple distraction: It became apparent that these thoughts would really take hold when presented with otherwise “empty space” so on the commute to work, during boring meetings:innocent:, when trying to get to sleep at night… So I started playing word and number games in my head so as not to give the dental thoughts any space – counting backwards from 100, naming as many bands/films/countries etc beginning with a certain letter of the alphabet. My CBT therapist did emphasise that this kind of thing is a short-term measure to change the way in which you use thought processes and as a technique to overcome the negative thoughts, more focus should be on the ability to answer the negative thoughts.

It is hard though. I wish facebook had an embargo and reporting function for anything to do with needles or dental procedures:hatecomputer:. Or that people would just be aware of others’ discomfort and keep their horror stories to themselves.:mad:
Hi guys,
I like your CBT's suggestion of counting number of bands beginning with the alphabet - I may try that sometime, it sounds like a really good idea! It sounds a lot better than the tactic I tried previously which more or less involved me staying up late till the point where I got so tired I just fell asleep straight away so I wouldnt have time to think about the thoughts; but then the problem was that I then lost sleep and made myself feel ill on the next day and so I decided that probably wasn't a good idea haha.

When it comes to social networking comments and updates, I usually try and hide the comment from my newsfeed but still I have usually read the comment and I make myself cringe for hours afterwards, especially when it is someone who I am quite good friends with that has the bad experience. Even then, I still don't really understand why they would post about that on Facebook etc. Ah well, isn't social media such a wonderful thing.....

I also quite like the idea of writing down the feared event and the rationality of that fearful event becoming true or not. I sort of already do that in my head eg. I am scared to death of the thought of having cavities and toothache, but then again I do look after my teeth well I guess (Clean 3 times a day for 2 minutes each time, mouthwash 2 times a day for about 30 seconds each time and floss 1 time a day - its my obsession with "clean teeth = no tooth decay = no dentist") and I am started to resist the temptation when at college to buy cans of fizzy pop daily and to buy chocolate bars etc. so I think I am starting to plan ahead for the long term run until I can find a dentist who is good with phobics like myself. I don't mean here that when I find a phobic-specialist dentist (PSD) I will pig out and trash my teeth, but if I ever need treatment and have a PSD that I am comfortable with then I suppose getting the treatment done wont be as nerve-racking if they have good staff, gadgets, sedation etc. So yeah, I guess in my head that if I keep this up then the chances of me needing fillings, extractions etc. will be greatly reduced. Also, when thoughts of the dentist being nasty, uncaring or clumsy etc. come up, I comfort myself with that I don't even go to a dentist at the moment so obviously that has no chance of happening currently (Not the right attitude to take I know :redface: but still, it is a comfort in a funny kind of way)...

What I am currently doing to cope is writing down every tiny detail of my fear in a Word document and so it feels like I am letting it off my chest and so I can vent my frustrations and fears to the computer if you know what I mean?

Thanks guys, I do appreciate the help :) Good luck for the future :)

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