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How to find a good, caring dentist who puts you at ease

Susanne

Susanne

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Aug 13, 2014
Messages
103
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USA
Due to a traumatic childhood dental experience, I have had a lifelong fear of the dentist and have found it very difficult to find a practitioner with whom I feel completely comfortable. My current dentist is set to retire at the end of the year and has scaled back his working hours to only two days per week while two young dentists begin taking over his practice. At my appointment a couple of weeks ago, I was told I needed several fillings, a crown on an old root-canal tooth and should have my wisdom teeth removed. Due to his reduced schedule and the fact that he is taking several vacations between now and the end of the year, my dentist may or may not be able to take care of these issues himself. I do not want to use the new dentists who are taking over his practice.

I have gone for a consult with another dentist, but did not care much for him and was told I needed thousands of dollars of work done -- more work than what my current dentist has said.

I have an appointment for a consult with yet another dentist this week -- she was recommended by a family friend -- but I am not getting my hopes up. I don't know what to do in order to find a dentist who is kind, caring and will work with me at a pace I am comfortable with. I've asked for recommendations, but they have all come from people who are not fearful about going to the dentist and have no idea how difficult it is for me. I can't keep going to consult after consult. What should I look for or what sort of questions should I ask to determine if a dentist is right for me?
 
C

comfortdentist

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2,883
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Miami, Fl
Sounds like you are in the states so I'll answer. It seems like you just need a nice honest competent dentist who is comfortable with treating apprehensive patients.
I would most likely rule out the very young dentist but I don't think you require a highly experienced one either.
Find a dentist who at least treats kids and offers nitrous oxide as that dentist would at least have some interest in patient's comfort. As to web searches they can be very misleading Angie's list is a paid to use site and it does verify all posts but most are just paid advertising disguised as a legitimate review
 
Susanne

Susanne

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Joined
Aug 13, 2014
Messages
103
Location
USA
Sounds like you are in the states so I'll answer. It seems like you just need a nice honest competent dentist who is comfortable with treating apprehensive patients.
I would most likely rule out the very young dentist but I don't think you require a highly experienced one either.
Find a dentist who at least treats kids and offers nitrous oxide as that dentist would at least have some interest in patient's comfort. As to web searches they can be very misleading Angie's list is a paid to use site and it does verify all posts but most are just paid advertising disguised as a legitimate review
Thank you, Dr. Kimsey. Yes, I am in the States. I am 37 now and had my first filling when I was 5 years old. Thirty-plus years later and I can remember it like it was yesterday. My pediatric dentist at that time was a stern, crotchety, intimidating older fellow who had very little patience for the children he was treating. Aside from not sufficiently numbing me for the filling, he used the hand-over-mouth technique on me when I became upset and began crying because of the pain and fear I felt. He had told me beforehand that if it hurt, I was to raise my hand and he would stop what he was doing. He did not do that and ignored me when I raised my hand. When I became upset, he clamped his hand down so tightly over my mouth and nose that it became very difficult for me to breathe, which only added to my anxiety/upset. He spoke in a very angry tone and threatened to pull my tooth out if I "did not shut up." He also would not go get my mom and allow her back in the room despite my pleading for her. Had he done so, I imagine I would have calmed down quickly and been spared some trauma. For many years, I did not know there was a name for it and was surprised to learn HOM was a real practice used by some dentists. In hindsight, what that dentist did to me was nothing short of abuse and I really believe it has scarred me for life.

Because I was so young, I was not able to properly explain/articulate to my mom what had happened that day and why I was so terrified of going to the dentist and felt physically ill even when we drove past his office building. My mom had to resort to trickery to get me there for subsequent visits. It wasn't until I was older that I was able to explain things better and we switched to a different dentist. I sought help from a counselor who specialized in hypnotherapy and that helped a little, but I've never been able to completely shake this phobia and feel comfortable.

Adding insult to injury is that when I became too old for my second pediatric dentist, I had a hard time finding a new one who was able to put me at ease. None of them seemed terribly sympathetic regarding my fears. I finally did find a great dentist and he was wonderfully patient and kind, but he had to retire early several years ago due to health problems and has since passed away. Now my current dentist is retiring early, leaving me in limbo yet again. The other dentists I have visited with so far seem not to care about my fear and have even made me feel ashamed/embarrassed for being so afraid at this age. They have only offered up sedation or even general anesthesia, which I am opposed to. As for the nitrous, I've had it and it does not do much for me other than make my legs feel heavy. What helps is a dentist who is willing to go at a slower pace, explain/talk me through everything and even distract me by making small talk as he or she is working on my teeth. Hard to find one of those, unfortunately.

Thanks for the advice. I am hopeful the dentist I am consulting with this week will be the one to help me. :rolleyes:
 
M

Mugz

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Hi Susanne,

If I didn't know better I'd think we had the same dentist at the same age....AND the same mother resorting to "trickery" as you so kindly put it. I'm very sorry that happened to you and YES it does scar you as a child as it would an adult were some strange uncaring mad forcefully cover your mouth and nose with his hand to get you to do anything much less stop crying. Mine did the same thing first ever dental visit months before my fifth birthday and I remember him yelling at me to "Sit still, stop making all that noise and quit being such a damn brat" of course in the absence of a parent (and assistant or hygienist in my case). How do you rally from that?

I am happy you were able to find two kinder dentists though so you know they do exist...but understand the stress of your situation now as I'm also in search of a new dentist. I have found one that seems to be more compassionate via email than any I've seen in person...yet. But he is insisting I try this self-hypnosis cd he has to give me before he'll treat me. Undoing the damage someone else inflicted is a hard thing to do.

I really hope you have fantastic luck with your consult this week and admire the strength you have pushing though your fear to do what you need to to help yourself. Please keep us posted. Sending good thoughts your way.
 
Z

zombiegroupie

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Mar 27, 2014
Messages
410
I googled "dentist for phobics" and looked at yelp reviews to see if any phobic people had commented.

it is hard to find a good dentist but they are out there. if you're not comfortable, keep looking.

i'm in the states too
 
Susanne

Susanne

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Joined
Aug 13, 2014
Messages
103
Location
USA
Hi Susanne,

If I didn't know better I'd think we had the same dentist at the same age....AND the same mother resorting to "trickery" as you so kindly put it. I'm very sorry that happened to you and YES it does scar you as a child as it would an adult were some strange uncaring mad forcefully cover your mouth and nose with his hand to get you to do anything much less stop crying. Mine did the same thing first ever dental visit months before my fifth birthday and I remember him yelling at me to "Sit still, stop making all that noise and quit being such a damn brat" of course in the absence of a parent (and assistant or hygienist in my case). How do you rally from that?

I am happy you were able to find two kinder dentists though so you know they do exist...but understand the stress of your situation now as I'm also in search of a new dentist. I have found one that seems to be more compassionate via email than any I've seen in person...yet. But he is insisting I try this self-hypnosis cd he has to give me before he'll treat me. Undoing the damage someone else inflicted is a hard thing to do.

I really hope you have fantastic luck with your consult this week and admire the strength you have pushing though your fear to do what you need to to help yourself. Please keep us posted. Sending good thoughts your way.
Thank you, Mugz. There was a hygienist/dental tech in the room assisting the pediatric dentist, but she did nothing to comfort me and did not even bat an eyelash at the way he was speaking to me and treating me. There also was a young hygienist-in-training who sat at the foot of the dental chair and sort of half-heartedly tried to tell me it would be OK, but she too did nothing to stop the dentist. Were I an adult in that situation, I would have spoken up and threatened to call the police or found some way to stop him.

As for my dentist now, he is pleasant, but does not even compare to the one I saw before him. Fear has kept me from going to him as often as I should have, hence the current need for several fillings. I also did not feel as comfortable at my recent appointment. Things have changed at his office. He seemed overly busy and kind of distracted -- almost as if he has already checked out of there even though he is not yet fully retired. Everything seemed more hurried/rushed and I was herded into a small, cramped dental room in the back instead of the usual area. Only a very small partition separated me from another patient in an equally cramped space. Also, I was seen by a different hygienist than the one who usually helps me. The new hygienist was OK, I guess, but she did some things that bothered me, especially when she touched multiple surfaces in the room -- computer keyboard, computer mouse, protective lead vest hanging on the wall between my room and the adjoining one, etc. without changing gloves. She did eventually change them, but acted a bit offended when I very politely asked if she would mind changing gloves. I honestly don't think those surfaces got wiped down beforehand even though I've been told the staff is supposed to do so between each patient, so not changing gloves until the patient asks bothers me. :confused:
 
L

Limelight83

Junior member
Joined
Jul 29, 2014
Messages
10
If I can offer you some of my own thoughts. I totally get finding the right dentist for you and one that you feel comfortable with. I also live in the U.S. and recently found a dentist I LOVE. This is what I did prior to looking her up:

- Ask your friends: They may not have a dental phobia, but NO ONE is going to put up with a masochist for a dentist. I did this via Facebook and the recommendations started pouring in.

- Make a list: What are you exactly looking for in a dentist? I personally was looking for a woman. (I think women tend to be more caring and nurturing to patients, so that's my preference for all my medical needs.) I was also looking for someone with a state-of-the-art practice and good education. I live in Florida, so looking up a license and any malpractices is pretty easy.

- Make an appointment: You won't know if you've found the right dentist unless you actually go visit the office. You might be able to schedule an appointment and ask them not to do anything on your first visit. This is a good time to ask questions and feel out the dentist.

- Speak up: Sometimes dentist will be more accommodating if you tell the you're scared.

- Ask questions: Yes, you are paying you're hard earn money so you can ask all the damn questions you want. If the dentist is offended or refuses to answer them, this is not the dentist for you. A dentist should never make you feel stupid for being nervous either. If they do, get out of that chair and leave.

The dentist I found is amazing. She is in her 30s, with a gorgeous office and high-tech tools. I'm 31 and last time I had been to a dentist I was 12. It amazed me how far along dentistry has come. The x-rays of my whole mouth were done in 30 seconds and uploaded to her computer a few seconds later.

The day I came in for the work to be done, I have a sheet of paper with like 20 questions and she answered them all and happily. When I told her I felt stupid asking her this, she said, "Look, you have the right to ask me all the questions you want, and it's my responsibility to answer them truthfully." That right there put me at ease and I finally knew I had found the right dentist for me.

I hope you find the right fit for you.
 
Susanne

Susanne

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 13, 2014
Messages
103
Location
USA
If I can offer you some of my own thoughts. I totally get finding the right dentist for you and one that you feel comfortable with. I also live in the U.S. and recently found a dentist I LOVE. This is what I did prior to looking her up:

- Ask your friends: They may not have a dental phobia, but NO ONE is going to put up with a masochist for a dentist. I did this via Facebook and the recommendations started pouring in.

- Make a list: What are you exactly looking for in a dentist? I personally was looking for a woman. (I think women tend to be more caring and nurturing to patients, so that's my preference for all my medical needs.) I was also looking for someone with a state-of-the-art practice and good education. I live in Florida, so looking up a license and any malpractices is pretty easy.

- Make an appointment: You won't know if you've found the right dentist unless you actually go visit the office. You might be able to schedule an appointment and ask them not to do anything on your first visit. This is a good time to ask questions and feel out the dentist.

- Speak up: Sometimes dentist will be more accommodating if you tell the you're scared.

- Ask questions: Yes, you are paying you're hard earn money so you can ask all the damn questions you want. If the dentist is offended or refuses to answer them, this is not the dentist for you. A dentist should never make you feel stupid for being nervous either. If they do, get out of that chair and leave.

The dentist I found is amazing. She is in her 30s, with a gorgeous office and high-tech tools. I'm 31 and last time I had been to a dentist I was 12. It amazed me how far along dentistry has come. The x-rays of my whole mouth were done in 30 seconds and uploaded to her computer a few seconds later.

The day I came in for the work to be done, I have a sheet of paper with like 20 questions and she answered them all and happily. When I told her I felt stupid asking her this, she said, "Look, you have the right to ask me all the questions you want, and it's my responsibility to answer them truthfully." That right there put me at ease and I finally knew I had found the right dentist for me.

I hope you find the right fit for you.
Thanks for the tips. I have asked around and the dentist I am visiting on Wednesday is a female in her early 50s. She was recommended by a trusted friend/co-worker of my dad. I am hopeful that she will be the dentist I am looking for, but I still worry that I'll end up having to keep on searching. I can't afford to pay for consult after consult -- am currently without dental insurance since switching providers last year -- and I do need to get the fillings and crown done soon. Hopefully I won't have to look much longer. :rolleyes:
 
M

Mugz

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Sounds like too much transition going on here and that's when good care falls through the cracks. Anyone that would have gloved hands all over everything then put them in your mouth is in violation of a bunch of health and safety precautions/laws/statutes/patient rights whatever they are called! Time to go!!!

I'm sorry that in the midst of your dental fear and apprehension with things being different you had to also find courage to speak up which can be so hard when you're in an overwhelming situation. Good for you for remaining so alert and aware and protecting yourself!!! I'm a believer that so often things will happen that can push you in a new direction or make change a little easier...not that finding a new dentist is easy at all but when you can look back at all the things you DONT like happening at your current practice it saves you the second guessing if leaving is the right thing. In this instance it sounds like it. I wish it wasn't that way BUT the "sort of" good news is that you may be on the verge of finding the most perfect place with a caring, gentle, empathetic dr and hygienic hygienists who are professional, reassuring and gentle too. I really do admire your strength!! For many people with a phobia it would be much easier to stay with "the devil that you know" and accept sub-par care because the alternative of searching for new practice is too overwhelming. I'm just curious if you sent any e-mails to this new dentist before setting up a consult? If so, what were they like? Did you get a good feeling? I'm anxious to hear how it goes for you. What day do you go? We have a little list of people from the board going in this week on the Lions and Tigers and Dentists thread if you'd like to join us!!! I've been so touched and humbled by the overwhelming support ive gotten here, and I've truly needed it. Sometimes it helps to know who is doing just what you are that day, to give and receive support like the buddy system! I hope you find that here as well. Please come back and share here or on the other link or both if you can so we know how you are.
 
M

Mugz

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Ok! Looks like its Wednesday?! Didnt see those two posts when I was working on my reply! Sounds promising!! Fingers crossed for you!! Good you don't have all week to worry!!
 
Susanne

Susanne

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Messages
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Location
USA
Ok! Looks like its Wednesday?! Didnt see those two posts when I was working on my reply! Sounds promising!! Fingers crossed for you!! Good you don't have all week to worry!!
As for the hygienist touching everything in the room with her gloved hands, I am a bit of a germaphobe when it comes to things like that, but more so now than ever. Last year, a local dentist/oral surgeon was forced to close his practice and since has surrendered his license due to sloppy/unsafe/unsanitary practices that potentially exposed hundreds, maybe even thousands, of patients to HIV and hepatitis. He and his staff were also cited for improper administration of anesthesia, I believe -- unqualified staffers doing the administering/monitoring. Thankfully, no one tested positive for HIV and only one person tested positive for hepatitis due to these practices. The story made national headlines and has stuck in my mind ever since.
 
Susanne

Susanne

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Messages
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USA
CalvinSWatts said:
The most vital things to consider when you pick a dental specialist is whether you feel good with that individual. Is it accurate to say that you can clarify indications and make inquiries? Do you feel like the dentist hears and comprehends your worries? Would you comfortable asking for ache prescription, expressing your fear or uneasiness, or making inquiries around a methodology?
So far, I have not felt like the dentists I have visited with have understood my fear or have been willing to work with me on that. My current dentist, while usually good, seemed hurried and distracted at my recent appointment. I suspect his distraction is due to several upcoming vacations and his soon-to-be retirement. Another dentist I saw was polite enough, but didn't have much of a chairside manner and seemed in a rush to do everything. I don't think I would feel comfortable going to him for my fillings and crown.

Searching for a new dentist now has made me appreciate even more how terrific my previous dentist was. He was very kind, calm, easygoing, thoroughly explained what he was doing and didn't dismiss my fears or make me feel like an idiot for being afraid. He often wore jeans and cowboy boots with his white dentist's coat, which helped personalize him a bit more, I think. He would talk to me about any old thing while he was working on my teeth -- his grandson and his love for fishing were two of his favorite topics -- and would let me bring a picture of my little nephew to tape on the wall so I'd have something pleasant to look at instead of the dental instruments coming at me.
 
S

Spike 1969

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Jun 16, 2014
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689
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Derbyshire UK
Hi Susanne

:welcome: To the forum!

As Mugz says, here is a great place to get a little much needed support as most of the folks here understand exactly what it's like facing that fear. It's certainly very real and a lot more common than most people think.

I can identify with you on trying to find a new dentist; your situation is exactly like mine was in that my old dentist retired a little while ago and he sold his practice to a group; it was okish to begin with then the rapid turnover of staff started, at that time the standard of service went downhill pretty rapidly. Whilst I was not particularly phobic up to then; I could sense that I was becoming "triggered" again and so I took the decision to fire this group of individuals and look for a new dentist.:confused:

I looked at various reviews, websites etc. but in the end I took recommendations from a number of different people; I contacted the dentist in question who replied to my email promptly and courteously so we arranged a meeting and I have to say it was the best decision I have ever made; from the moment we met and shook hands I knew this new chap would be a keeper. He has a calm, confident manner, involves me at every stage and is technically very competent even spotting things my previous practice failed to identify.

To say I am happy with my choice is an understatement plus his chair is sooo comfortable ;). His ethos is reflected in all of his staff, nothing is too much trouble.

I sincerely hope that you have a similar experience in seeking a new dentist, it's always good to meet and see if the whole office "feels" right and if you can click with your new dentist it will totally transform the whole experience.

good Luck with your journey, please feel free to keep us all posted.

kind Regards
 
M

Mugz

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We all covet Spike's dentist....:love:

Good luck tomorrow....hope this dentist turns out to be just what you need.
 
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Susanne

Susanne

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USA
Well, I canceled my consult appointment w/the new dentist for this morning. My appointment was for 9:30 a.m. That time is what the dentist's office manager told me when I phoned last week, that is what I wrote down in my notebook and that is what the office manager told me again when I phoned day before yesterday to confirm. This morning, just after 9 a.m., the new dentist's office manager called asking where I was. She said I was late and was supposed to have been there at 9. Sounded rather impatient. I didn't appreciate that. To an already nervous patient, that sort of thing does not sit well. A pleasant demeanor makes all the difference with someone like me who is so fearful and nervous. On top of that, I figured if this dentist's office can't keep their appointment times straight, then what else are they not keeping straight?

Anyway, I now have a consult with yet another dentist on Monday morning. A Dr. Good. I hope he lives up to his name! :D Dr. Good comes highly recommended by two dear friends/former work colleagues. They and their son all go to him and love him. They were referred by another former work colleague of mine who, like me, has a terrible dental phobia. And I spoke with Dr. Good's receptionist after I canceled with the other dentist and she could not have been more pleasant. Am hopeful and keeping my fingers crossed that he is the one for me! :rolleyes:
 
S

Spike 1969

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Derbyshire UK
We all covet Spike's dentist....:love:

Good luck tomorrow....hope this dentist turns out to be just what you need.

Lol, you are funny, yes I am enjoying my liberation from the awful experience(s) my last dentists office put me through :D

Susanne, here's hoping Dr Good is Dr Amazing for you :jump:

Kind Regards
 
M

Mugz

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Sorry to hear today was a bust BUT I'd have done exactly the same thing. Most of us would. Perhaps it was meant to be and Dr. Good will be Dr. Great to you....

Please let us know how it goes on Monday. If you have any helpful hints after your appointment, please share...I'm seeing a new one next Wed. but don't know anyone personally who has seen him....
I'm not even sure what to ask. I've never done this before. Usually go in with an emergency needing help asap.
 
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