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Feeling embarrassed (dentist visit discussed)



Junior member
Jun 24, 2022
Florida, USA
Some background information to help: I have a lifelong fear of dentistry as well as a history of dentists that were less than kind. I have always had enamel that breaks down too fast, and no matter how hard I try with brushing and flossing and every-three-month dental visits, my gums always bleed. It seems like nearly every time I go to the dentist, there's a problem--cavity, a tooth that needs a crown, an old cavity that is breaking down and needs replacing, judgement and more judgement about the condition of my teeth and gums, etc.

When the pandemic began, I avoided going to the dentist, eye doctor, regular doctor, for nearly 2 years to protect family members that have compromised immune systems. In September 2021, I finally went to a new dentistry practice for a cleaning/exam. I wrote on the new patient questionnaire that I had a strong fear of dentistry and pain. I placed this information into the answer fields of several questions so it could not be missed. On that first visit, everyone was very kind and patient, walked me through everything. The dentist was a bit judgy, though. For example, they took images of my teeth with imaging tools my previous dentists did not have, and instead of showing me the images on the tablet in her hand, she said she was going to put the images up on a big-screen monitor hanging on the wall in the exam room, and she said, "Let me know when you see a problem". Then started flipping through a slide-show of all the decay on my teeth--loads of black marks, discoloration, decay seen under the edges of crowns, etc. The verdict was that I needed 9 crowns (some were replacement crowns), several filings, and a bite guard because her imaging showed I was clenching my teeth. I had all of those repairs done between October 1st and November 30th. For the most part, the numbing worked. All was good, any discomfort was tolerable, and the dentist began labeling me as "brave" when she talked about me to other office employees who were assisting in my visits. She would say, "This is one of my best patients. She's so brave. She never fusses or complains. You can do anything to her, and she says nothing. She's the type of patient you love to have in your chair". And she would make these comments all through my visits--while they were working on my teeth as well ("See how great she is? What a great patient. Wish I had more like her.")

During a recent cleaning, two bottom molars had filings which had cracked and had formed a pocket where food was getting stuck. So, those two teeth needed to be crowned. The prep visit was fine. I was well-numbed, and everything went just fine, and her praise of my bravery continued. However, last Thursday, when I went in to have the temporary crowns replaced with the permanent ones, I think I destroyed her "brave" image of me. I was not numbed, which is not uncommon for placement of a permanent crown, but for some reason, those two teeth were super sensitive without the temporary crown on them. They had to keep spraying cold water in my mouth, followed by cold suction, followed by cold air in order to clear out the old adhesive and get it dry for the permanent crown. Then after the permanent crown was placed, the excess cement began to dry too fast, so they were rushing to scrape that off and each time a piece gave way, they had to use the cold water, cold suction, and cold air again. Over and over. I started by yelping at the first feeling of strong pain and telling them it was far too sensitive and painful, but they kept pushing on, saying they had to work fast. By the time the visit was over, I was in tears, moaning, curling up twice into a near-ball in the exam chair during the visit, and my face was throbbing. The dentist kept saying, as she sprayed more cold water, "Oh, we just have to....just a bit more.... I just have to..." and kept spraying. At the end of the visit, the doctor left the exam room and asked the dental tech to apply five coats of desensitizer to my crowns...but after each coat, it had to be flushed with cold water, suction, and air again, leaving me in more discomfort. The desensitizer finally started to work about four hours after I left the dental office.

I walked to my car after the visit and sat in the parking lot trying to calm myself before driving. I was so upset in that moment that I didn't want to think about going back in there for even a cleaning. I was upset enough to consider just contacting a sedation dentist and having my teeth removed while asleep and getting dentures so I never have to feel pain again or go through the fear every three months.

Over the past days, having had time to calm down more, I'm feeling like I should/could go to my next scheduled cleaning in September, but if there is ever a crown needed (new or replaced) that I should request numbing for the crown placement, and if refused, ask for my records to be sent to a sedation dentist to have that work done there. I'm also concerned that in the eyes of my dentist I'm now one of those patients she spoke of during my visits that "fusses and complains", like I'm somehow a troublemaker for something I had no control of. If I'm in pain, I'm going to fuss and complain. I think that's only natural.
I don't want this one experience to scare me away from another dentist, but I really feel like I need to set limits on what I will tolerate, and if having future crown work done by a sedation dentist is what I need, I will have to demand it or find a new dentist practice that understands. I just know that I cannot take the chance of feeling like this again. I have spent far too many years going through the mental anguish of 'should I go back or should I not?' after these not-so-good appointments.

I know this is long, and if you read this far, I thank you very much for that. For those that can relate, how do you work through the fear and/or embarrassment of going back to your dentist's office after an uncomfortable experience?
Hi @mspat, whoa - what a nightmare!!

For those that can relate, how do you work through the fear and/or embarrassment of going back to your dentist's office after an uncomfortable experience?

Honestly? I don't think you should go back to that dentist's office, she sounds terribly condescending and just plain horrible all around... had the tooth that was getting the permanent crown previously been root-canalled? If not, I can't even begin to imagine how painful that must have been if you have sensitive teeth :(. I don't think any dentist who has an interest in patient comfort would do that, unless perhaps the patient was very needle phobic and begged them to...

In short, you're not making a fuss, and you deserve so much better than this dental office is able to give you.

Hopefully, you'll be able to find someone who truly cares for their patients and their comfort, and who is aware that shaming (even if it's subtle) is never a good idea. We have quite a lot of tips for finding a dentist on our main website, if you want to have a nosey around...

Thanks so much for joining and welcome to the forum :welcome:
Thank you so much for your reply and your support. I am in agreement with you. The more I think about it, I feel that I need a new dentist. Maybe one that advertises as accepting patients with dental fears/anxiety. My current dentist advertises as being 'family-friendly' but her website does not mention anxiety or fear. My molars that were crowned were not root-canalled, so it was so incredibly sensitive, more than any crowns I have ever had done by her or any other dentist for some reason.

I will check out the tips on finding a new dentist, and again, I thank you so much for your support. It feels good to know that someone understands.
Yeah, even her praise sounds strange. You should be considered a good patient, the kind of patient she likes to work on, no matter how you act. She shouldn't be talking like you're one of the few "good ones". As you said yourself, it's implied that, if you don't continue to meet her standards, you go back to being someone she doesn't want to work on. But she is working WITH you. You hired her to fix your mouth and she's getting paid to do it. Her only concern should be what will solve your problems and make you feel the least pain/distress, not how easy you make the work for her. Being called brave feels good but the way she framed it seems unprofessional. Sounds like you should look for a new dentist because she sees her patients as an inconvenience.
I agree. I will be looking for a new dentist. My husband said I should have sat up during treatment and demanded to be numbed and not let her continue, but I told him that while I was moaning, vocalizing, telling her it hurt, writhing around in the seat trying to deal with the pain, she kept pushing on, saying she had to do it more, so she was well aware of the pain I was in. I know it will be awkward since the rest of the family goes to her also, and they like her because they don't have have teeth like mine or my fear, but I have to make this move for myself. The main downside of moving is that her office offers imaging options that I have never seen at any other dentist. Thank you for your reply and your support. :)

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