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How to fight feeling ashamed



Junior member
Jan 25, 2023
Hi all

After about 8 years of not visiting the dentist due to phobia, and quite poor oral hygiene, this year I made it a resolution to get back on top of things. My first couple of check ups were very nerve ranking but were all okay (4 fillings in the first one which was way less than expected, and then nothing in the second which was so exciting!!), and I was really proud of the progress I had made getting through my fears. I have also really paid more attention to my oral hygiene and was hoping problems would be more or less behind me.

However, after a couple of days toothache I went back to the dentist and have now been told I need a root canal. My dentist is very matter of fact and supportive (being lectured or "told off" was one of my major fears going into this). While I was with the dentist I felt okay about all this, as it seems the best course of action going forward. However in the hours since the appointment I have started to feel really ashamed about this.

I have 8 fillings already (aged 26), and now will have one root canal and a crown, and in can't help but feel disgusted at myself about getting into this state. I'm worried this shame is going to lead me into my old cycle of not getting checked up on again for fear of embarrassment.

I'm basically looking for any tips from people going through the same thing - how do you fight the shame/regret enough to make sure you can keep going back and make sure you keep on top of things?
@scalingquestions My feelings on this are that phobia and avoiding the dentist are natural things to do, that are caused by instinct. It is only natural that we avoid situations that seem like they might be dangerous, harmful, painful etc, especially if we have bad experiences in these situations. Instincts are important for survial, and natural selection is what makes us this way, our ancestors were selected for these traits, long before they became humans. Lots of people are driven to do all kinds of different things by instinct, and "monkey brain" type behavior. This is part of life, not something to be ashamed of, and nobody can help this, it is part of human nature. Instead I would focus on all the times I fought and overcame these instincts, which, though natural, are not helpful in modern life situations like seeing the dentist. I also try and focus on action to take now and living in the present, not the past. Hope this helps, sorry if it is not super clear!
Here is a short video I once made, might be helpful:
Self blaming, shame and guilt in light of dental problems
@Dr. Daniel You mention a video but it doesn't seem like one is included in your post?
The video is underneath the text - what sort of device and operating system are you using @NervousUSA? Just trying to replicate the problem and figure out what’s happening!
@letsconnect I am using a Macbook running High Sierra. Yes, I don't see the video at all, just text.
You can search on YouTube : treat your dental fear self-blaming shame and guilt in light of dental problems
I hadn't been to the dentist in over 30 years, and went recently because of a cracked molar. Currently the plan is to get that upper molar out plus another on the bottom on the other side that cracked in 2008, plus deep cleaning and I believe seven fillings (and likely implants for the molars, though I'm not decided yet). I might also get 2 or 3 wisdom teeth out. I wouldn't be surprised if more bad stuff is discovered in the deep cleaning such that root canals or worse might be necessary. I'm absolutely full of a ton of regret and shame. Even back in 2008 when that molar cracked, I could have turned things around. When it cracked, I knew in my mind that I absolutely needed to go, but I just procrastinated and let year after year coast by. I have only myself to blame. I have a ton of regret in life for other things, so this is just one more thing, but quite serious because this could affect quality of life in a negative way, and that's both physically and mentally because I have what I call "OCD things" that bump up against this whole thing.

As far as the dentist, when I called up to make an appointment, I told them that I hadn't been to the dentist in quite a long time, but didn't say how long. The dental assistant brought me back and was getting ready for x-rays and brought it up, and I said how long it had been. She kind of stopped in her step, but didn't tell me off. The hygienist also seemed to take it in stride, as did the dentist when I mentioned it to both of them. However, I wouldn't be surprised if I was talked about behind the scenes in negative fashion. I probably should have asked them if they are okay with someone who hadn't been in a while, or if they could cater to such a person, but I didn't.
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