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From going through at least half the dentists in my vicinity to hopefully a happy ending

L

la_vie_en_rose

Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2020
Messages
20
Location
French/German border
I decided that I needed to write about everything that has happened up until now, because whenever I have a dental problem/need to go to the dentist it all comes back to me (in the mean time, I manage to push it away and it's almost like I forgot about it). I don't know if anyone will ever read this but if someone does and thinks "oh wow, me too" that's something and I just feel like I should get it out of my system. I never really talked to anyone in real life about ALL of this.

Part 1--How I became a dental phobic

I started going to the dentist when I was three years old and for three years after that, I had no fear of the dentist. Dentist appointments meant having my teeth examined, polished and getting topical fluoride. I don't even remember having an x-ray and definitely no real "work" done. Then I got a crappy toy that would break or get lost the same day and was good for six months. The only time I was remotely upset about the dentist was when I had to miss part of school for it.

One could say that things were pretty good. Until the event that set off my phobia when I was six years old. I was at the food store with my mother and randomly said "My tooth hurts" (which it did). The next thing I remember was being at the dentist (though I am sure that we went home and my mother asked when she could bring me in etc). I'm sure that there was some kind of discussion, probably x-rays, but I don't remember any of it. What I do remember is being in the chair and the dentists saying that she will give me a shot. Up until that point I wasn't scared. I never had any reason to be. I offered her my arm, thinking "That's where you get shots". They wanted me to open my mouth and close my eyes, which freaked me out. I did not respond to any of their coaxing and finally the dentist lost her patience, said "All that bazar because of a shot" to the assistant, then told me that I would not be getting a shot. She proceeded to put torture devices that I now know are a bite block and a rubber dam in my mouth and started drilling.

You can imagine how well that went. I was in a lot of pain and started crying...meanwhile my mother was outside smoking. I blamed my mother for not protecting me for a long time, but thinking of it now as an adult, I cannot (especially since she feels absolutely awful now that she knows). She went to this dentist herself for years, before I was even born and had work done by her and took me there since I was three years old without there ever being a problem. This dentist is still practicing. I was looking at dentists online, saw her name and almost vomited when reading the mostly positive reviews.

When the "treatment" was finished the assistant tried to comfort me and get me to calm down while the dentist talked to my mother. Two of my six year molars (partially erupted at that point) had enamel hypoplasia. They were yellow-brown stained, very sensitive and got cavities very easily. They already had them when only partially erupted. The dentist wanted to have me come back to cement the other one and monitor them. More work on them in the future was to be expected.

My plan, however, was to never see any dentist again for the rest of my life. I was "allowed" to pick a cheap toy, which was thrown out of the car window while driving home.

That's how it began.

Sometimes I still wonder what my life would have been like if the dentist would have just realised that she was in over her head, stopped, and referred me to someone who was better with anxious children rather than cause what happened next.
 
L

la_vie_en_rose

Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2020
Messages
20
Location
French/German border
Part 2--Life as a dental phobic child

The next time I was taken back to the dentist, I screamed, cried and refused to let her go near my mouth. If I had grown up in America, they would have probably tied me into a straight jacket like board, but thankfully at least that wasn't done here.

Over the course of the next few years, I was taken to all kinds of dentists. The end result was always the same. I was already in full tantrum mode by the time I got there and often even did not make it into the treatment room. None of the dentists were willing to see me more than a few times because I would scream the place down, not talk to anyone etc. etc. I don't clearly remember most of these dentists but some might have been sympathetic. I do remember one who, as I sat sobbing in the chair, said "You can do that at home with your parents or at school with your teachers but I am NOT tolerating this". I probably remember him not just because of his unkind words but because his son later was in my year at my lyceum. I avoided him just by virtue of who his father was.

When my permanent teeth grew in, there was a very big gap between my front teeth. As I grew older and all of my baby teeth were replaced, it shrunk to a level where I wouldn't want to bother "doing" anything about it because I'm not really concerned with having that perfect cookie cutter smile and hence not willing to go through the lifelong commitment changing your smile really is because beauty standards say I should. But when I was little and in mixed dentition, it was quite extreme. I remember my grandmother saying "I wish I could just push those teeth together" once and it hurt me so much. I though even my grandma doesn't like me the way I am, with my horrible teeth.

I hated my rotten molars as well as my gapped front teeth with a passion. Thankfully, I do not recall being bullied for my teeth much if at all. But I do recall praying to God to fix my molars and move my front teeth together so I wouldn't be dragged to the dentists or have to hear about possibly being dragged to the orthodontist as well ever again. But God did not help me, so I decided to help myself.

The two molars started deteriorating at an alarming rate. They hurt at times, but it always went away again. I never said anything because I know that the adult response would involve taking me to a dentist again and I wasn't going to let a dentist touch me anyway.

I started falling into a pattern of avoiding "dental" type situations outside of the dentist. This started in CE1 (which is the school year after the one I was in when the initial event that set it off happened) and started getting worse as time went on. I even once told my teacher that I was feeling sick when we were reading this story that involved going to the dentist in one of our school books.

One summer someone who had a child with baby bottle told my mother to take me to a certain hospital where her much younger child was put to sleep to have dental work done. They required that you first went to a dentist to have confirmed what work needs to be done and then consulted with them and one of their anaesthesiologists.

By that time, I also started finding ways to get out of appointments. Mostly they would be during school hours or right after school, so I would leave school early, walk home following ways my mother could not drive down with a car to find me and go home. We lived in this apartment complex with a basement area where there was this space under the stairs. Often, I would prepare by making a snack and taking my little walkman (dating myself here!) and tapes to listen to. Then, I'd just stay there long enough to avoid the appointment and either walk back to school or wait for my mother to show up from wherever she was looking for me. There must have been a bunch of skilled consultation fees and I probably got banned from places for being a no-show.

One day I did not find out about the appointment ahead of time and was picked up from school and told that in about an hour, we are leaving to go see a local dentist.

This dentist was not great. He sat me in the chair, told me to open my mouth and then started rattling off numbers. I felt very uncomfortable and humiliated throughout, like a teacher was listing all of my faults to an assistant who was taking note of them. When he was done, he criticised my dental hygiene and diet and listen off the damage in plain French. The two molars had to be pulled and I had a cavity on a front teeth. I don't know if there was more. X-rays were done and the dentist wrote out something so I could go to the hospital to have the work done.

The dentist there tried to look into my mouth but I did not allow more than a very quick look with his hands behind his back. I had blood drawn for the first time by a nurse who explained everything and said that one day I would be just as brave at the dentists. My answer to that was a firm no.

By the time the work was done, I was ten years old and I reverted to screaming and crying like when I was younger to try and get out of it. My parents were divorced at the time but both went to the appointment with me. I sat in front of my father's house holding my dog shaped pillow while crying my eyes out. There was some disagreement regarding whether I should get the treatment done in this way, but they both agreed that I was "acting out" so it wouldn't be done that day.

I was given some sort of strong medication that made me forget anything that happened after. Next thing I knew, I woke up and was told that it was done. I felt betrayed. I was told that I wouldn't ever be in pain again once the teeth were taken out (by the hospital dentist), but the extraction sights hurt. I was required to stay at the hospital over night and for a good part of the next day, which I saw as punishment for having bad teeth.

When it was time to leave, they wanted to take me to see a dentist to check my mouth before leaving. I completely refused. Two nurses tried telling me that the dentist wouldn't do anything but look, to not be scared etc. I remember saying something...rather unkind and unfortunate which you can't quite translate properly. She kind of looked chocked and gasped out loud. Even at a very young age, I seemed to already become a completely different person who did not resemble the "normal" me at all when it came to dental anything. I would have never dared saying anything of that sort of a teacher at school, for example.

I was told that I couldn't go home if I didn't go see the dentist, but I still refused. I won, because they did let me go home after all.
 
J

JaySee19

Member
Joined
Jun 17, 2020
Messages
86
Location
Germany
Wow, you really did have a tough time of it as a kid! No wonder you are phobic now. it sounds as if your previous dentists didn’t have a clue how to deal with children. And the current ones don’t know how to deal with phobic patients. I was pretty terrified of dentists for a very long time and a dental visit will still make me very nervous for days (weeks) in advance. But I have found a dentist I trust and takes the time to answer my questions. He also has the added advantage of being quite good (as far as I can judge) and his team is very friendly. I’m based in Germany (although I grew up in Britain) and I think in some ways we are a bit behind the Anglo-Saxon countries when it comes to dental phobia. My dentist knows I’m frightened of dental procedures, but we’ve never had a discussion about it, or agreed on any signals etc. Although I think he would if I forced it. On the other hand I can get appointments almost at will, he’s prepared to drop everything and squeeze me in, if necessary and I never get the feeling he’s rushing and dashing from one patient to the next. Plus he gives painless injections and makes beautiful crowns! The fact I trust him makes the phobia controllable.
It sounds as if you need to find a dentist you trust and like. And I really hope you do!
I look forward to the next installment of your journal.
 
L

la_vie_en_rose

Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2020
Messages
20
Location
French/German border
YES YES YES!! I fully agree. Germany and France, at least, seem very behind the curve. I had to "go English" to find a support forum like this. Reading through threats on French medical forums where parents ask for advice on their dental phobic children is downright scary because it echos 20 year old advice that was thrown at me and my parents...and probably hadn't been changed for god knows how many years even before my time.

It feels good to be able to write this down. Some of the things that happened me to I never said or wrote out loud to anyone. I will probably get to the part about my time at collège (not much happened dental wise) later today.

I MIGHT have found a dentist I could be able to work with and we shall get to him eventually (once I make it through the next 20 years. I did talk a bit about him in my support threat). I went to dentists claiming to specialise in anxious patients and was sorely disappointed by the approach. Before this latest dentist, who was an emergency dentist I ended up seeing, nobody wanted to know anything about my story/why I am so phobic. It feels like most dentists here have a script they follow for x and y and if someone doesn't respond to it, they throw in the towel and pass you along like a hot potato.

Scarily enough, my first dentist had at least one child that I know of. She was a bit older than me and played with me in the waiting room at least once prior to me becoming a dental phobic.
 
L

la_vie_en_rose

Member
Joined
Nov 2, 2020
Messages
20
Location
French/German border
Part 3--Collège

I did not go to the dentist even once for the four years I was at the collège. I pretty much started pretending that I was simply exempt from the bi-yearly dentist appointments.

This will sound like "what the heck" but when I woke up in the mornings, my mother would walk in with a bowl and a toothbrush with toothpaste on and force me to brush my teeth. I always wanted to just vomit, having to shove this into my mouth and taste that overpowering taste of mint toothpaste at 6:30 in the morning moments after waking up. She'd do the same at night.

You had to either eat at school or leave the school property to eat at home or elsewhere. I did not want to eat the school food so left school every day to "buy lunch" which was usually junk, sweet stuff, candy, soda etc. I was not the only one though, many of the dentist going children did this as well as some with braces who clearly weren't supposed to. In short, I didn't really take care of my teeth because I didn't like them anyway and wanted to think about them as little as possible.

Whenever someone talked about teeth or dentists, I'd change the subject or somehow leave the conversation. I didn't want my classmates to know that I didn't go to the dentist and possibly make fun of me.

At some point, I was taken to a child therapist. He immediately starting talking about the dentist and how important it was to go etc. The second time I went, he made me write a list of everything that scares me about the dentist (I wrote "I don't know. Everything".) and got into my mother having gone to Hungary without me and whether it bothered me. The whole thing was just unpleasant so when it was time for the next session, I refused to go. My mother went alone and it seems like he did or said something that turned her off him as she never tried to take me there again.

There was one dental-avoiding episode where a dentist came to school to check the student's teeth. We had the school doctors and possibly dentists when I was younger though I'm sure sure about the latter. My parents did not believe in this so I was usually sick or had a medical appointment at about the right time that day starting in nursery school. I don't know for sure if this dentist thing was known of ahead of time or if this was done more than once. Maybe I was absent the day it was announced. Either way, we were supposed to see the dentist just before a break so I managed to sneak out early and then go through the break as normal then walked back into the classroom we had the last lesson in to get my stuff. Well, busted! My maths teacher comes up to me and says "You haven't been with the dentist yet, go do it now before your next lesson". For a moment I stood there, frozen in terror. Then I got my things and just walked off to the next class, which did upset the teacher. A classmate who observed this told me that I was "so stupid" but after calling after me to stop and listen to him, the teacher actually let it go and never mentioned it again.
 
S

Spider

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 26, 2013
Messages
128
Location
Pacific Northwest, USA
thank you so much for sharing your story. You are a very good writer- I could visualize your story in my brain as I read it. I could imagine you tossing the cheap toy prize from the car window. I have always been fascinated with what triggers a phobia in childhood.

I can't wait to read more! I hope as an adult you have found a dentist who is extremely kind and accepting of your fears.
 
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