going backwards...why is it still so hard?

starryblu

starryblu

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May 19, 2010
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north carolina
i feel like i'm going backwards. i have a great dentist that i've been seeing for almost three years. many sucessful visits. but EVERY TIME i am still so scared beforehand. why? it doesn't make sense. i do a lot of positive self talk, and still i have problems.

i'm curious if anyone finds themselves in the same situation as me. how do you cope? can you get yourself in the right frame of mind?

i have to go tomorrow for some work to be done prior to crowning a tooth i recently had a root canal on. i don't like the work a bit, but it doesn't scare me near as much as having the impressions done, which i'm sure will take place tomorrow. this will be the third time i've done them. i hate that i get so scared, i know it's really simple. but i am having a hard time getting myself to bed tonight, because it puts me that much closer to the dreaded appt.

any words of advice? does anyone else hate the impressions as much as me? how do you cope with them?

thanks for listening...
 
kitkat

kitkat

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I've never had impressions so I can't speak for that but after being with a good dentist who I trust VERY much I'm still scared after 9 years of many successful appointments. Not sure if that helps you any to hear that but you are not alone in the way you feel. The anticipatory anxiety is definitely less severe than it was 9 years ago and I'm able to calm myself down in the chair much quicker than in past appointments but I've realized that with me, the fear may just always be there and I just have to always work at managing it. For me, my goal is more of a maintenance plan instead of a cure (although a cure would be nice!). I have good days and bad days...some appointments I'm pretty at ease and others I'm a nervous wreck, it just depends. It is not a step backwards though, you aren't cancelling or avoiding your appointments. You are pressing forward despite the fear and that's what really counts! I once read somewhere that fear may become a conditioned response to certain triggers and it may be more of a hardwired response. I think your body is just trying to protect itself on some subconscious level and is sending out warnings to you in the form of anxiety symptoms. Then we have to evaluate those warning signs from a rational standpoint and decide whether they are warranted and if we should listen to them...it's easier said than done. I thought it was an interesting theory because sometimes even when I'm not feeling particularly anxious for an appointment I still find myself physically shaking like a leaf. I try to tell myself that I'm in control and focus on past positive experiences and try to keep in mind that is not forever, it's maybe an hour of my day and then it's over and no matter what happens, I can deal with it and it won't be any worse than any other appointment I've had. Putting my emotions down in a journal really helps to...just writing down how I'm feeling and what I'm worried about...it's a way to just let it all out and let it go.

Do you fear some appointments more than others? I know a lot of people have expressed increased anxiety associated with impressions. Have you had a bad experience with impressions before? Do you find the anticipatory anxiety is worse or do you stay pretty stressed throughout the appointment? I find the anticipatory is pretty bad still (but improved) but the big difference is that once my dentist starts to work I can feel all of the anxiety, stress, and tension drain from me pretty quickly and I can relax and that's been the real difference for me. Just focus on the improvements you have made and how far you have come! I'm not sure if it ever goes away but it does get drastically better...it's just slow and takes a lot of time and TLC! Hang in there and good luck with your appointment tomorrow!
Kitkat
 
starryblu

starryblu

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north carolina
kitkat, that was an awesome post!

right up front i will tell you that what you had to say helped me to get in the right frame of mind for my appointment. it IS the anticipatory anxiety that's the worst, although i do have some while i am actually at the appointment. so you helped me very much with my thought processes before the appointment, and i sincerely thank you for that!

your point about the fear may always be there was what struck me in particular. it probably will be for me, but i can manage it, to a certain level. also about our bodies response...makes very good sense! i just told myself of course i am scared. i don't think i have had a visit to the dentist without being scared. i did a lot of self talk this morning, and looking at my fear a bit objectively really made a difference for me this time. i can be very good (at times!) convincing myself that i am ok, and that i am choosing to be scared, i have power over my own thoughts. i can just as well choose to be ok with the appointment. that doesn't always work to actually feel completely anxiety-free, but just making such affirmations heads my thoughts in the right direction. the anxiety is so much less when i can get control of my thoughts. sure i'm still afraid. but not as bad. i was just temporarily stuck in panic mode, and needed to get on track with the positive self talk.

i think it is awesome how you have been able to handle your fears and continue your dental treatment. what a great accomplishment! you should be very proud of what you've achieved.

and by the way, my appointment went really well! it was uncomfortable, but nothing hurt. i was having a build up done on a molar, and a temporary crown made. the anxiety was tolerable. my dentist and his staff are really good to me. i have a support person that goes with me, and that helps a lot. i actually did have a bad experience when i had an impression done in the past. the dental assistant had a hard time getting the stuff out of my mouth, and it was very scary. i am also extremely claustrophobic. i think that is more my issue...the actual anxiety about the work to be done is much less. i too feel my anxiety lessen when the work is started. not completely gone, but i feel like i am controlling it well.

i am hoping that i will soon get to the point that i can go without my friend. it's uncomfortable for her, and i think it bothers my dentist, though he doesn't say so. i've had emergency treatments when she couldn't go, and i had to go alone. i did ok. that's my next goal.

many many thanks to you for your help. you did help me very much today, and for that i am so grateful!!:)
 
kitkat

kitkat

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I'm soo glad that I could help Starryblu! I'm also happy to hear that you went through with your appointment and that it went well (as "well" as dentist appointments can go anyway). This site helped me a lot when I first decided to explore my anxiety and I find it therapeutic to support others on their journey now. I never became a true "dental phobic" (I'm more dentally anxious borderline "high risk" dental phobic) but I did step over the line where I began cancelling appointments due to fear at one point in time. I'm quite young (23) and was about 15 when I started avoiding appointments but I've always been pretty scared of appointments (even cleanings) ever since I can remember. I think I just got lucky...my mother who is a strict "every 6 month" person didn't get the whole fear thing and resorted to forcing me to go...fortunately the dentist I was forced to go to turned out to be a really gentle and understanding lady...she doesn't advertise to specialize in fearful people she just has really good chairside manner. She's still my dentist today except now I go on my own volition! :) For me, it's major control and trust issues (so forcing me was a nightmare come true). Although I don't have any particularly traumatic memories (fortunately), I've been told my 1st appointment as a child did not go well...and heard recently that the pediatric dentist I went to is known for creating phobic patients so one can speculate.

It's great that you have a supportive person to go with you. I have always been a loner with facing stressful situations....my mother would force me to go and then offer to go back to the treatment room with me when I was obviously freaked out and I'd tell her no I wanted to go by myself. I think this confused her! lol Bringing someone along would make the whole situation more stressful for me though. I also do a lot of self-talk, I think it's very effective when used constructively! In fact, I think some days, it's the only thing that gets me through the door! It also keeps me calm during work to tell myself I'm okay and in control. I have searched high and low on the internet for tips for getting through dental appointments and have only found a few that work for me. Another thing that helps that I only learned about a few years ago is paying close attention to my posture...normally, I sit down, cross my legs at my ankles, cross my arms or clasp my hands or grip the arm rests. This naturally generates a lot of tension making it harder to relax so if you uncross your ankles and let your hands rest at your sides, it's amazing how much easier it is to wind down. The rationale is that your mind can't be mentally stressed at the same time that your body is physically relaxed, it really provides a lot of immediate benefits. I try not to beat myself up for feeling anxious...it's a physical response so I figure it's technically not my fault...my fear switch is just a little more sensitive than others. I spent a long time trying to hide it which made my symptoms much worse, than I just decided to let it happen and tolerate it and see what happened (and that helped alot because my dentist was more aware of my fear and I wasn't stressing about trying to keep it a secret), and now I just pretty much own it. I even gave her a nice handwritten thank you note about a year ago explaining how she has helped me over the years which was hard for me because I felt like it was in some ways a written confession of my fears and it made me feel vulnerable but she was very appreciative and I'm glad I did it! I figure it is what it is...people are plagued by all sorts of irrational fears ...and of all of the irrational fears in the world, I think dental fear is more rational than some fears for obvious reasons (just look at how many members are on this site!).

I could sense from your first post that you had a previous bad experience with those impressions. Many people here have reported trouble with them and gagging or feeling out of control and claustrophobic. It's amazing how 1 bad experience can really ruin things...I am not typically fearful of dental injections as I've never really had bad experiences with them but I did have one unexpectedly painful local injection before that really caught me off-guard. It took me awhile to come around again after that and really trust that the next experience would be like the other hundred good experiences I've had and not like the single bad one. I think I'm starting to ramble...anyway, so glad that you were VICTORIOUS today and that my post helped you! Take some time to celebrate your most recent accomplishment!
Kitkat
 
Dr. Daniel

Dr. Daniel

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Hey 47starryblu and kitkat

It has been so interesting and inspiring to read this thread.

As you both said, the positive dental experiences have helped in a limited way with the anxiety.
I would like to add an idea on how to make the most of a positive visit to the dental chair: it really helps to document this experience so that later on, before the next dental appointment, it would be possible to recall the last positive dental visit.
Good ways to document are videoing, writing a personal diary or starting a thread in this forum.

There is no real need for documenting and later recalling the hall dental appointment. There are two kinds of moments which are important and significant: the first kind is during a difficult stimulus. For 47starryblu it is the impressions, for many others it is the anesthesia, extraction, drilling... The second important moment is when leaving the dental chair.

To conclude: Another way for managing the fear is by recalling positive significant moments (meeting the difficult stimulus and the general feeling when ending the treatment).

As you guys said, the anxiety can be more manageable, but it usually does not go completely away. It is also needed to accept this part of ourselves.
 
G

Geraint

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Mar 26, 2006
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As some one who is a recovering dental phobic I have been regularly visiting the dentist now for 21 years. Although over those 21 years I have had three wonderful dentist's who have helped me tremendously, I still feel nervous when I need trearment - perhaps partially because as I have healthy teeth I rarely need treatment usually just six monthly check ups and scale and polish. I find it best to be honest with the dentist, I always inform them if there is something that I am worried about - eg I am afraid of the drill, I am afraid of the drilling hurting/ being painful. I am lucky in that my dentists have always been sympathetic and receptive to my concers - they have never made me feel silly. I feel more confident if I feel my dentist understands my concerns - this is why I have always written to a new demtist explaining my past history and my concerns, and how I would like them to help.
 
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