• Welcome! This is a forum for anyone who is affected by a fear of the dentist, dental phobia, or specific dental fears.

    We are lucky to count a number of dentists among our members and moderators. Look out for the "Verified dentist" badges. If you are a dental professional who likes to help, please join our community!

    Register now to access many more features and forums!

Hit the panic button and there's still a week to go

Sevena

Sevena

Super Moderator
Joined
Jun 24, 2012
Messages
833
Location
UK
The pictures do look very alarming! But yeah, I highly doubt a phobic-friendly dentist would do something like that, like you said. Take it easy. It's normal for a phobic person to get worried like this beforehand. Hang in there :)
 
The1701

The1701

Well-known member
Joined
May 19, 2015
Messages
263
Location
Edinburgh
Thank you Sevena, managed a peaceful night of sleep last night but still tired today. I think I am more worried that I will do my usual "sit down and shut up" when I get there and that won't be helpful. I was quite good last time in that I managed to have a conversation before treatment started but once in the chair I clammed up again, then when the treatment was over and I was sitting up again - I was able to ask about fixing the broken tooth and was pretty forthright about it too. It seems like I just lose my voice when in the chair.

I need to try to be more assertive, I just don't know how. :(
 
Sevena

Sevena

Super Moderator
Joined
Jun 24, 2012
Messages
833
Location
UK
Well sitting in horrible dental chairs kind of makes it harder. They're tilted back, putting you in patient-mode. It always makes me feel way more vulnerable. Can you get all your questions out before you actually lie back in the chair?
 
T

Tink

Well-known member
Joined
May 14, 2013
Messages
755
Location
UK
Could you email the dentist before you go and ask him about the dental dam (and any other questions you might have)?

Tell him what you are worried about by email, before you even turn up. If they are phobia-friendly then I'm sure it won't be a problem at all, and it gets around the problem of not being able to speak up when you get there.
 
The1701

The1701

Well-known member
Joined
May 19, 2015
Messages
263
Location
Edinburgh
Thank you Sevena, Thank you Tink,

I do usually manage to get out any pertinent info before treatment starts as I am standing up (literally) and feel a bit bolder to speak up. I had been emailing in advance of appointments but I have a funny feeling the emails are checked and replied to by the reception staff (even though the email is the dentists name as opposed to a generic address) as the replies are always instantaneous so I am a bit wary about that now in case messages don't get passed on. I also prefer to try to engage face to face as it builds my confidence if I can speak up about any issues in person.

The problem comes when I get in the chair and regress to being meek again. At my last appointment my mouth got really dry and I wanted really badly to stop and ask for a sip of water but I just couldn't move so I just sat it out and went thirsty. Even when he stopped for me to take a breather I still couldn't find the words to ask for water.

Now if I can't even manage to ask for water what on earth will I be like if I take a dislike to something eg this damned dental dam (did you like my attempt at humour there, think I've been to too many Fringe shows) during the filling, I will probably cry inwardly like an idiot and say nothing. I think I need to find a crash course in assertiveness before next week's appointment.
 
T

Tink

Well-known member
Joined
May 14, 2013
Messages
755
Location
UK
Ok, I can relate to that!

I think I mentioned before (was it to you?) that I have my dentist primed to ask me if there's anything bothering me or anything I don't feel able to tell him. As the dentist gets to know you better they should start to be able to tell for themselves.

Meanwhile, a couple of other ideas to consider, don't know if any of them might suit:

- You could write down what's bothering you and any questions you have on a bit of paper before you go in...then all you need to do is hand them the bit of paper, silently if necessary! Be sure explain how you freeze up in the chair, and include things that are likely to crop up where you will feel unable to ask, like wanting a drink of water.

- Or, if that doesn't suit but you're worried emails are not getting to them, you could ask for the dentist to give you a call so that you can talk over your concerns on the phone, well away from the chair. Not in person, but at least you'll know it's reached him.

- Could you prearrange a "there a thing, but I'm feeling too timid to say anything!" signal with your dentist? Can be as simple as just raising a hand. Something small, to give you more chance of being able to do it. If they know that's an issue for you then then dentist himself can probably help you get past it, and given that he stopped to let you take a breather I think he's already well on the way to understanding it. If necessary, he could sit you back up and wait for your voice to return.


As far as I can tell, the issue here is finding the ability to communicate - so instead of trying to force yourself to speak in a situation where you consistently can't, look for ways around that - other ways of communicating, and ways of changing the situation into one where you can speak up.

Oh, and re wanting a drink of water - is there water in the waiting room? I've taken to just filling a cup in the waiting room and bringing it in to the dentist's room with me, he doesn't mind at all.
 
The1701

The1701

Well-known member
Joined
May 19, 2015
Messages
263
Location
Edinburgh
Thanks Tink, you are right I need to find some way to communicate when I'm not comfortable. It is very typical of me to say "everything is fine" when it's not fine and I do it all the time, not just in the dental chair.

I had thought of phoning the dental nurse ahead of the appointment but two things put me off that - I hate speaking on the phone as I prefer to see who I am speaking to (paranoia I know but I prefer seeing their face then I know I'm being understood) and I'm not sure who I would ask for as there have been 3 different nurses over the course of my appointmentments and I have no idea how they plan the rota. I have picked up the phone a few times this week and thought i should just ask for the nurse working with the dentist on the day of my appointment but I panic and put the phone down. I am going to try again next week though as I think it could help but goodness me I'm almost as nervous about talking to a nurse over the phone as I am about turning up for the appointment!

You are also right that I need to find a way to signal that it's time for a break. The dentist keeps telling me to raise my hand anytime but I literally am paralysed when in that chair. I thought back to what I did with my old dentist as he picked up on when I needed a break without me saying anything but I think he picked up the cues from my Grandad who came with me for the first few appointments and he knew instinctively when I'd had enough. By the time I was going on my own the dentist had learned all those wee signs himself and was obviously watching for them. I guess I need to do as you have suggested and front up with telling him that sometimes I will say I'm fine and I'm not so maybe ask twice to give me a second chance to say something or keep asking until I say something other than "fine".

How did you first bring it up? Any ideas would be gratefully received in the event that I fail with my planned phone call.
 
Last edited:
T

Tink

Well-known member
Joined
May 14, 2013
Messages
755
Location
UK
How did you first bring it up? Any ideas would be gratefully received in the event that I fail with my planned phone call.
I think it was in an email - my dentist does read his own emails…eventually!

Basically, I froze up during a routine checkup, until I eventually managed to blurt out at the end of the appointment "I'm not OK!!" I was in such a state I didn't really manage to explain what the problem was at the time, so I ended up following up with a long email explaining the problem. After that I arranged to see him again, we discussed it, and decided to call in a phobia expert for extra help. That was what prompted us to start actively treating my phobia.


Other idea: maybe when you talk to him at the start, before you even get in the chair, you could prearrange that he will stop at certain intervals (e.g. every 5 minutes, depending on the length of the appointment) to check in and see if you need a break - whether he thinks you need it or not. That could help you get started and get over the hump until he knows you better and you're more comfortable with him.

Re phoning, could you ask to talk to the dentist himself? That saves any chinese whispers effect from you telling the nurse, and the nurse passing it on to him second-hand…especially if the nurses change around but the dentist is always the same person. It would also help with building trust with the dentist himself.


If you're having difficulty picking up the phone, here are a couple of tricks to try that I've had some success with:

- Rehearse it a few times to yourself first. I don't mean rehearse you're going to say (although you may want to do that too), but the actual act of picking up, dialling, and saying "hello". Visualise yourself doing it, and succeeding. Start doing this even the night before you're planning to call!

- When it comes to actually doing it, count down from 3, and on 1, just pick up, dial, and say "hello". That's it. That's all you're aiming to do, just pick up, dial, and say hello - focus on that. The rest will follow once you're over the initial hurdle.

Don't know if that will help, but these are things that have worked for me :)

Tink
 
The1701

The1701

Well-known member
Joined
May 19, 2015
Messages
263
Location
Edinburgh
Thanks Tink, that's a fair point re phoning the dentist instead of the nurse as knowing my luck I could get there and find out she called in sick. I just thought she would be easier to get hold of.

Not entirely sure what I want to say though, I tried to write some stuff down this morning (woke up at 5am and couldn't get back to sleep so tried to do something useful) but can't really come up with anything that makes any sense. I think I'm basically getting myself into a muddle with the jumble of emotions attached to this particular tooth and can't see the wood for the trees right now.

The appt is Thursday so I only have 4 days to go. I'm thinking of trying to write stuff down as it comes up and take it with me as an aide memoire to discuss beforehand when I arrive. Don't think I've got the guts to phone and I would just babble anyway.

One thought I did have was to get him to ask twice before starting again, usually he pauses for a break and then asks if I'm ready, stupid me usually says yes whether or not I am, so maybe if he asks a second time I will have a second chance to say something.

What do you think?
 
T

Tink

Well-known member
Joined
May 14, 2013
Messages
755
Location
UK
One thought I did have was to get him to ask twice before starting again, usually he pauses for a break and then asks if I'm ready, stupid me usually says yes whether or not I am, so maybe if he asks a second time I will have a second chance to say something.

What do you think?
Yep, I think that's a great idea! It'll also help with the process of getting across that you don't always feel able to speak up.

Try not to worry too much if you have a big jumble of thoughts at the moment, or if it doesn't make sense - just write down everything you have, some you will find useful later and some you won't, that's ok. if nobody else is going to see it then it doesn't matter if it's a bit of a mess, just as long as it's useful to you. 4 days is enough time to look at it fresh a couple of times and pick out what you need.

It's clear that getting this tooth fixed really means a lot to you, so it will stir up a lot of strong emotions. It's ok if it's a bit rough and confusing, go easy on yourself and ride it out as best you can. Nobody expects you to be able to just suddenly cope with it. Always hold in mind that you will come out the end of it with a shiny new tooth though, and you will be able to feel so proud of yourself whenever you look in a mirror :XXLhug:
 
The1701

The1701

Well-known member
Joined
May 19, 2015
Messages
263
Location
Edinburgh
It's ok if it's a bit rough and confusing, go easy on yourself and ride it out as best you can. Nobody expects you to be able to just suddenly cope with it. Always hold in mind that you will come out the end of it with a shiny new tooth though, and you will be able to feel so proud of yourself whenever you look in a mirror :XXLhug:
Thank you Tink, yes it does mean a lot to me and I think a lot of the anxiety is coming from all the mixed emotions being stirred up as well as the minor (ok more major than minor) freak out over the idea of a dental dam which is still bothering me a bit but I think if it is made of something other than latex it might be ok.

I did confide in a friend that I was nervous about getting the filling redone and was going to ask her to come with me but she laughed at the idea that I was scared of a filling and said I was being daft so I dropped that idea. I just wanted there to be someone to remind me that it will be ok, as daft as it seems just having someone tell you that you are safe can make a huge difference to the anxiety levels. Do you think I could ask the dentist to do that every now and again? I don't want him to think I'm silly but I think it would help with the nerves.

I am genuinely excited by the thought of how different it will look though and I want everything to go as smoothly as possible which is probably why I keep thinking of all the things that could go wrong.
 
carole

carole

Super Moderator
Joined
Jan 5, 2012
Messages
7,904
Location
UK
My dentist is very encouraging and tells me I am doing well all the time. She lets me know what she is going to do before she does it and takes things nice and steady, I am sure your dentist would be happy to help you if you explain how you feel and say what could help you.

Nice friend you have there but it is very hard for people to understand dental fear if it doesn't bother them. I used to point out that everyone is afraid of something and no matter how big or small others think it is, it is a valid fear just the same as someone being afraid of snakes or spiders etc...

Good luck for your appointment :butterfly:
 
T

Tink

Well-known member
Joined
May 14, 2013
Messages
755
Location
UK
I just wanted there to be someone to remind me that it will be ok, as daft as it seems just having someone tell you that you are safe can make a huge difference to the anxiety levels. Do you think I could ask the dentist to do that every now and again? I don't want him to think I'm silly but I think it would help with the nerves.
Yes! Do this!

You know you're actually pretty good at thinking of what you need - pretty much in any case, if your question is "do you think I could ask for…?" then the answer is "yes"!



Would it make you feel any better to know that lots of us go through this? For what it's worth, I know I might sound like I have it all together, but yesterday I had what I thought was an appointment to chat to my dentist in his office, away from the surgery (long story) - when I got there, it turned out to be in the surgery after all and I found myself confronted with The Chair and nowhere else to sit. So like an idiot I said "no, no, it's fine" and sat in the chair and proceeded to go through the script, all meek and compliant just like you do. Turns out I have a much more convincing fake "I'm fine" front than I think I do. Feels like sitting in that chair when I wasn't expecting to regressed me back about 2 years' progress. I'll get it sorted out and I've moved on past that point before so I know I can do it again, but yeah, it's hard.

So it's not just you. There will be ups and downs, but there are people here who are going through it with you and the overall path will be "up" - you're doing it right, really you are.
 
The1701

The1701

Well-known member
Joined
May 19, 2015
Messages
263
Location
Edinburgh
Thank you Carole, Thank you Tink

My dentist is very encouraging and tells me I am doing well all the time. She lets me know what she is going to do before she does it and takes things nice and steady, I am sure your dentist would be happy to help you if you explain how you feel and say what could help you.
Part of the problem is I struggle with actually saying, "I need you to do this." I go in thinking I will ask for X and Y and then I get there and think no that's too diva-like let's just see how we get on without saying anything and then I regret it.

Nice Friend you have there but it is very hard for people to understand dental fear if it doesn't bother them.
In fairness to my friend I think it was more incredulity on her part that I am scared. I think she genuinely thought I was kidding her on as she has been really good with another friend that has a very bad dental phobia - attending the initial appointment and holding her hand throughout. She sent me a message last night asking if I had been serious or just joking as she regards me as being the last person she would think of as having a dental phobia. I guess I am that good at hiding things.

You know you're actually pretty good at thinking of what you need - pretty much in any case, if your question is "do you think I could ask for…?"then the answer is "yes"!
You are right in that I have been able to figure out what my fear triggers are but I am making very little progress with actually saying something about it. I've always been brought up to keep quiet and not let on about things which I know has not helped any over the years (and often has led to much bigger problems) but it is such a hard habit to break. I am getting better at it as I get older but it is still difficult and I usually simmer away for ages before finally speaking up.

Would it make you feel any better to know that lots of us go through this? For what it's worth, I know I might sound like I have it all together, but yesterday I had what I thought was an appointment to chat to my dentist in his office, away from the surgery (long story) - when I got there, it turned out to be in the surgery after all and I found myself confronted with The Chair and nowhere else to sit. So like an idiot I said "no, no, it's fine" and sat in the chair and proceeded to go through the script, all meek and compliant just like you do. Turns out I have a much more convincing fake "I'm fine" front than I think I do. Feels like sitting in that chair when I wasn't expecting to regressed me back about 2 years' progress. I'll get it sorted out and I've moved on past that point before so I know I can do it again, but yeah, it's hard.
It really does make me feel better to know I'm not the only one and it is helpful to hear how others get through it, I know it's not plain sailing and there will be bumps on the way but it is so good to hear other people do exactly as I do and say, "its fine" when it's totally not. My partner always jokingly refers to"fine" as being "the F-word" as it usually means "Not ok". I maybe ought to tell the dentist that if I say "fine" it means "not fine" and he should stop until I say something else but I think that would leave him totally confused as I generally revert to, "no, really I'm fine. Go on" and I think the poor man wouldn't know what to do. I think the dentist is slowly getting used to me, the first few times I went he kept opening the door for me when leaving and would then follow me out to reception to wish me well etc which is very pleasant but I can't stand people walking right behind me so I would keep stopping to let him pass me and get him to lead the way out instead. The last time I was there I think he finally picked up on the fact I didn't like it as he wedged the door open and went out first with me following. It is such a silly wee thing but I think one of the barriers that makes it difficult to say that something like that puts me on edge is that whenever I have mentioned it before people look confused and ask me to explain so I usually say that I find it unnerving but I can see them putting two and two together and thinking I am an oddball and I hate that.
 
T

Tink

Well-known member
Joined
May 14, 2013
Messages
755
Location
UK
I maybe ought to tell the dentist that if I say "fine" it means "not fine" and he should stop until I say something else but I think that would leave him totally confused as I generally revert to, "no, really I'm fine. Go on" and I think the poor man wouldn't know what to do.
Think mine's having that problem too! :grin:


PS - Nothing wrong with being an oddball, most of my friends are oddballs and I wouldn't have it any other way!
 
carole

carole

Super Moderator
Joined
Jan 5, 2012
Messages
7,904
Location
UK
I was the same and brought up the same too, you didn't complain you just dealt with things quietly and got on with it. I found that writing it down and posting it to my dentist worked for me. The first dentist I wrote to thanked me for my letter and also thanked me for letting him know as it helped him help me. He also talked to me for a full half hour when I had gone for some treatment and that really cemented my trust. I didn't have the treatment that day but when we made another appointment I had it then.

I had to change dentists and I now have a lady, I sent here an email and she also thanked me and said it helped her understand and she could help me. As I stated before she talks to me all through the appointment sometimes I can't hear what she is saying if the drill is going but I know she is aware that I am a person with feelings behind the teeth she is working on and that really helps. She also allows me rest periods as I have a very achy and clicky jaw.

Get your pen and paper out or email, I am sure your dentist will be only too happy to help you :butterfly:
 
The1701

The1701

Well-known member
Joined
May 19, 2015
Messages
263
Location
Edinburgh
Think mine's having that problem too!
PS - Nothing wrong with being an oddball, most of my friends are oddballs and I wouldn't have it any other way!
Yes Tink, sometimes I just presume that because they know I have a phobia that they will instantly know that certain things scare me but it doesn’t necessarily occur to them that something seemingly innocuous can terrify the living daylights out of me.

Pleased to say that all my friends are oddballs just like me and they are the best, I love them all – we need variety in life!

I found that writing it down and posting it to my dentist worked for me. The first dentist I wrote to thanked me for my letter and also thanked me for letting him know as it helped him help me. Get your pen and paper out or email, I am sure your dentist will be only too happy to help you
Thanks Carole, I did write an email to my dentist following my initial patient appointment during which I hardly said a word. I went to see my GP about getting an anti-anxiety tablet ahead of the first treatment appointment and he suggested that I should make the dentist aware of the assault as it would help him if he understood why I was so petrified of treatment. I wrote an email explaining that I had stayed away after finding treatment following the attack too stressful and had only gone back when one of the damaged teeth had abscessed I explained that my Grandad had accompanied me to each visit until I had established trust with the dentist and everything went well for quite some time until I was heavily set back by suffering a panic attack at the hygienist after something triggered a flashback of the attack and I never returned again due to the shame and embarrassment. That is when paranoia got me - I had sent in a couple of emails before this with very general queries etc and always got an almost instant reply. After I sent the “here’s what the problem really is” email there was silence for about 3 hours during which I started to think I had done something wrong. I did eventually get a short reply thanking me for the information and when I turned up to the appointment he thanked me again and said it was useful for him to know so I felt a bit better about it but ever since then I’ve been a bit afraid of emailing again as I can’t help but wonder if the reason he took so long to reply was because he didn’t know what to say or if it was because someone else had been “fielding” emails for him and they didn’t know what to say so had to wait for him to reply. Either way it’s put me off writing anything else down now but that is not too bad as I am pushing myself to speak up instead – at the second appointment I managed to tell him that I have a hearing problem and I feel a bit more jittery when people are on my “deaf side”.

So there is very slow, but so far steady, progress being made. Not sure what to say tomorrow, I would like to just put a heap of stuff in an email but I would spend the next few hours fretting about it so I will try to say something when I get there.
 
T

Tink

Well-known member
Joined
May 14, 2013
Messages
755
Location
UK
Re the email thing: sometime when you're talking to the dentist and feeling able to speak, you could ask who fields incoming emails and what their system is there. Should be easy enough to clear up exactly who's reading it so you know what to expect.

The delay in replying that time could have been something as simple as wanting to get this one right since it was a big deal, rather than dashing off a quick simple reply between patients.
 
carole

carole

Super Moderator
Joined
Jan 5, 2012
Messages
7,904
Location
UK
You could make a list or write it down on paper and hand it to him when you get there. I wouldn't worry about the email thing if it hadn't been answered I would have been worried.

He had taken enough notice to remember it when he saw you, thanked you and said it had helped him to help you. I think that was good. Once an email has been replied to you just hope that they remember it when you see them and the way your dentist did it was good as he did remember and let you know that he did too.

I think we expect a lot of our dentists really because we expect so much, it is almost impossible for them when you think about it,

We expect them to know what we fear - sometimes even we don't know.

We expect them to know what will put us at ease - and again we don't always know.

We expect them to be comforting and understanding and say the right things - the right thing for one person is very wrong for the next person.

We want them to just get on and do the job with a scared and often shaking patient - this must be very hard and off putting for them.

We expect a nice friendly smile and welcome greeting - we can't alway manage this in our everyday life.

We have good and bad days when visiting the dentist - but we don't expect them to have an off day.

On top of all that we want pain free treatment that is perfect and doesn't need any follow up, and fillings that don't give us jip afterwards.

I think the nice good ones deserve a medal really as it must be pretty depressing to know that the majority of the people you see don't want to be coming to see you. I know they choose the job, but they do get a lot more than they bargained for when they started training.

I would like to bet that they don't get many thank you's either.

Makes you think doesn't it. I make sure I thank mine and she knows I appreciate all that she does for me. I think the good guys deserve to know how much they are valued.

So I think the more we can help them to help us is good, and makes their job much easier for them :butterfly:
 
T

Tink

Well-known member
Joined
May 14, 2013
Messages
755
Location
UK
it is so good to hear other people do exactly as I do and say, "its fine" when it's totally not. My partner always jokingly refers to"fine" as being "the F-word" as it usually means "Not ok". I maybe ought to tell the dentist that if I say "fine" it means "not fine" and he should stop until I say something else but I think that would leave him totally confused as I generally revert to, "no, really I'm fine. Go on" and I think the poor man wouldn't know what to do. I think the dentist is slowly getting used to me, the first few times I went he kept opening the door for me when leaving and would then follow me out to reception to wish me well etc which is very pleasant but I can't stand people walking right behind me so I would keep stopping to let him pass me and get him to lead the way out instead. The last time I was there I think he finally picked up on the fact I didn't like it as he wedged the door open and went out first with me following. It is such a silly wee thing but I think one of the barriers that makes it difficult to say that something like that puts me on edge is that whenever I have mentioned it before people look confused and ask me to explain so I usually say that I find it unnerving but I can see them putting two and two together and thinking I am an oddball and I hate that.
Here, I was just watching a TV programme and totally thought of you ;)

If you want to blow off steam before tomorrow's appointment, the first 10 minutes or so of this sums up exactly what we were talking about! http://www.channel4.com/programmes/very-british-problems/on-demand/61138-003



Two health warnings for those who follow the link to watch the video:

- There's a very brief burst of dentistry about 25 minutes in so don't get caught unawares by that

- If you're british then there's a risk the horrifying familiarity of it all will make you snort tea all over the keyboard. Which would be Undignified.
 
Top