• Dental Phobia Support

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I'm 27 and TERRIFIED...never really been to the dentist



Junior member
Mar 18, 2010
I'm gonna try to post this time. A couple months ago I found this site and worked up the nerve to write half a message but never even posted it.

Basically I am 27 years old and don't really have a dental history. I went to the dentist once when I was 5 for my kindergarten exam. I barely remember it...I only remember sitting in the chair and that's it.

I used to beg my parents to see the dentist all while I was in school. When periodic school physicals would pop up, our family doctor always waived the required dental part. My teeth were straight and white but the bottom teeth were so close together I couldn't floss them.

My parents never took me to the dentist. My own mother hadn't seen a dentist since before I was born. In fact, she just went to the dentist about 6 months ago for the first time in 30 YEARS and she just needed a routine cleaning and a small filling. That's it. My father couldn't have cared less about my dental needs or just about anything else. Anyway, long way of saying I went without dental care.

During my college years, I desperately wanted to see a dentist but I couldn't afford it. My mom's insurance coverage didn't include dental and the part time job I had only paid for tuition. I just wanted to see a dentist more or less because I knew I was supposed to. I didn't really have any big problems besides my bottom teeth being so close together I couldn't floss. There was a little pain, but nothing I couldn't deal with.

While, I graduated college and waited for a full time job that offered benefits. The job came but the insurance never did. My husband's job doesn't offer insurance either, despite the fact we BOTH work full time. I looked into Medicaid but we make just above the maximum allowed so that's also been a lost cause.

It's funny how my dental phobia has developed. I went from BEGGING my parents to PLEASE take me to the dentist all while I was growing up to being completely paralyzed by fear. I turn into a shaking, sobbing mess with just the thought of going to the dentist. No one I know understands that phobia and they all say everyone is afraid of the dentist and basically blow it off. They don't get why I shake and sob uncontrollably at the thought of going, they don't understand how I get physically sick when I think of it.

Over the last four or five years, my dental problems have seemed to explode. My wisdom teeth just started coming in, and going out, and coming in, etc starting about 4 years ago at the age of 23. There is simply no room in my mouth for them.

The most painful time took place about 3 years ago. The most painful wisdom tooth is the lower right hand side. I had a fever, constant headache, and my right side of my face actually swelled up. Despite my financial situation and my INTENSE phobia of the dentist, I sucked it up and found a dentist that uses a sliding fee scale and went the next day.

I could barely walk, let alone drive myself, because I was so terrified to go. My husband had to take the day off work to drive me. I had a panic attack in the car before we got there and another one right before I walked into the building. Everyone in the office was very nice but I couldn't stop crying. After waiting about 3 hours (it was a walk in), they called my name and I acted like it wasn't me. I was the only person at the office so I"m sure it looked funny. I finally got up, went into the room and sat in the chair, just waiting.

Then, I had a panic attack so severe, it brought on an asthma attack. I couldn't stop crying but managed to use my inhaler just in time for one of the dental assistants to come in. She kinda gave me an odd look but ignored it. She told me to sit back and they were going to do x-rays as she held that mouth looking thing in front of me. I started panicking again. Know why? Because I didn't know what to do. Keep in mind I basically had never had an xray before and always avoided watching dental scenes from TV and movies. I told her I had never been to the dentist before and she kinda rolled her eyes but told me to open my mouth and clamp down.

Ok, x-ray over and the dentist walked in and I just start sobbing. He was such a kind older man that I swear I knew as a kid or something. It was weird. I felt at ease with him but so incredibly embarassed so I kept crying. I told him I was ashamed I had never been to the dentist. I didn't have insurance growing up and I had developed such a crippling fear. I didn't have the money to afford dental care. He said it was more common that I'd think and that's why he choose to work at that particular clinic.

He looked at my x-rays and told me I had horse teeth they were so big. Surprisingly, it made me laugh. He said the problem was that my teeth were all so big that there was no room for my wisdom teeth and all FOUR WERE IMPACTED. He said he felt bad but there was nothing he could do for me there. If it were a simple extraction, yes, but I'd need to see an oral surgeon. I explained the financial situation and he said I had two options: try to get on Medicaid then be put on the oral surgeon's waiting list or work out some kind of payment plan with the ONLY oral surgeon in Illinois that works on a sliding scale. He thought it'd run me around $3-$4k. He may as well have said it'd be a trillion.

He took a look at my teeth for just a few seconds and said I really need to do a root scaling and planing. I asked if they did that there and he said yeah, but I should go to the dental school down the street instead because it'd be cheaper. I told him I'd feel more comfortable at his office and didn't care if it'd be a little more (since it was on a sliding scale) but he again referred me to the dental school. I wasn't about to argue with him and I was surprised I had said something to begin with. It's hard to explain but I felt so incredibly hurt, disappointed and rejected. I know in my head it's not the case, but I felt like he was disgusted by my teeth that he wanted to get rid of me.

Honestly, it seemed to all intensify for my fear. I did manage to gain the courage to call the dental school once and someone had a real attitude with me because they said they couldn't hear me and told me to get off the damn phone. I hung up and sobbed. A couple months went by and my husband called for me only to find out the had just finished that semester with root scaling and planing and I'd have to wait another 9 months for it. As much as I hated hearing that, I also felt it was my saving grace and I was hugely relieved.

Since then, I have become incredibly OBSESSED with my teeth. They are all I think about, which shouldn't be much of a surprise because I'm in so much constant pain. I'm even more terrified of the dentist and even the mention of teeth.

Overall, my top teeth seem to be doing ok (aside from the back top wisdome teeth)...I never really experience any pain, but every so often I think one of my top teeth gets infected. It's the same one every time and it bleeds for a while. Sometimes the gum around it gets swollen and there is intense pain. It's happened about three times in the last few years and goes away on its own after about a week.

My bottom teeth are a mess though. I am in CONSTANT PAIN 24/7 in my bottom teeth for years now. My gums have drastically receded from the front 6 teeth and I have so much plaque buildup it's ridiculous. Those teeth are super sensitive and my only relief is Advil and brushing my teeth.

The funny thing is that I've always tried to take great care of my teeth at home. I've always brushed about 4 or 5 times A DAY and I've always flossed all the teeth I was able to (basically, the top teeth). My husband has been as supportive as he can be but he doesn't understand why I'm so scared. So many others around me just dismiss it and add it to my list of phobias. I have always had issues with anxiety and crippling phobias...so much so that I've never flown in an airplane, drive over bridges, been on a boat, or had a real dentist appointment.

I'm incredibly paranoid about my teeth now and every morning I run my tongue along the inside of my mouth to make sure none have fallen out in my sleep. I continue to brush 4 or 5 times a DAY, floss where I can, and use Listerine. I have one of those vibrating toothbrushes and I LOVE it because it massages my gums and gets rid of the pain for a while.

My bottom 6 teeth are just a block of plaque in the front and back. I can't stand looking at them, but I also can't stop. They hurt so much and I think they are loose but the plaque prevents the looseness.

I have become incredibly self concious about my teeth now so I don't talk much in front of people and I feel horrible, but I don't even like kissing my husband I am so self concious. I also know that's somewhat in my head because my top teeth look fine and when I talk and smile, you can't really see the bottom teeth.

I do now have private insurance and dental just kicked in 3 months ago. We have our tax refund saved up for my dental expenses (hopefully it'll cover it) but I hid the check because even the check causes me great anxiety now.

I know I desperately NEED to see a dentist but I am overwhelmed by fear. The funny thing is that I'm NOT afraid of any pain or needles. However, I'm terrified I'll go and the dentist will say it's a lost cause. Or he can't do anything for me. And I don't want a stranger looking at my teeth. And I'm scared of the expense. And I don't want to be at the mercy of a stranger in the chair or under sedation. I was assaulted a few years ago and I think that has something to do with it. I know it won't happen again when I'm in the dentist office, but I'm scared it will even though I know that's irrational. I'm scared of panicking and sobbing the way I did before. I am so ashamed, so humiliated. I've never heard of someone my age never being to the dentist and I'm scared of the dentist yelling at me. I don't even know how to describe the other fears that go along with it.

I know this is a super long post, and I'm sure not many have read it. If you have, I really do appreciate it greatly. I feel so alone in this and am just looking for some kind of understanding.

Welcome to the forum. :welcome:

Thank you for sharing your story. To begin, you have nothing to be ashamed of. Your life experiences provided the climate for starting and nurturing your phobia. You did the best with the situation you were in.

I imagine you feel that the situation is hopeless and you are helpless. This is not true, that is the fear talking. Dental anxiety is very common. Almost 20% of the population in the USA has it to the extent they will never seek dental care. That is 30+ million people.

The terror you feel is real. It has controlled your life for way too long. I can promise you that the pain and shame you have endured is far more painful than any dental treatment.

I work with dental anxiety in a dental office in California and with people across the USA via web cam. You situation is common. The details are different but the fear and embarrassment is the same.

It is a supreme act of courage to decide to face your fear. Bravery is not the absence of fear but moving forward despite being afraid.

Dentists do not judge based on the state of your teeth. They have seen everything you can imagine, nothing is surprising. You are choosing to improve your dental health, be very proud of yourself.

There are many options for treatment. If your anxiety is high you can be given an anti-anxiety medication to take the edge off of the fear. You will still be in control.

If you would like some specific tools and techniques to help with the fear and in making the appointment, PM me.

You have made the best choice of your life. This forum is filled with people that have been exactly where you are today, in pain and scared to death. They are a fantastic group that will provide, encouragement, support and a listening ear.

If I can help, please let me know.

Blessings :)
It is absolutely not too late. We always fear the worst case scenario but many of us have been positively surprised by the news.

While I did see a dentist as a small child, my parents fear came through and they simply stopped taking me. I went years without seeing a dentist until I was also in my 20s. I was forced into an emergency appointment due severe wisdom teeth pain but after that was dealt with, I moved and was once again without a dentist.

That did thankfully push me to schedule a cleaning. Like you, I was completely embarrassed for someone to look in my mouth despite things looking ok from the front. I feared the worst case but just a few fillings and a good cleaning put me right back in working order.
Welcome to you! From what I am reading it looks like you are in Illinois. If so, so am I. We may be neighbors!

Your post really hit home. I had not been to the dentist in 12 years and went last March for the first time. The way you describe your obsession is identical to how I was. The way you describe your 6 front teeth is the way mine were in the same exact spot. The way you describe the plaque build-up is EXACTLY how mine was.

There really is a light at the end of the tunnel. Taking that initial step is so huge. I was terrified and I mean terrified of going to the dentist and yes I cried and had severe anxiety but I made it through it. I know you can do this!! There are quite a few dentists who are willing to work out payment plans for you. Feel free to PM me and maybe I can see if you are near me or know of any dentists you can go to in the area in which you live.
I have a journal here as well. Feel free to read the LONG postings...LOL
I, too want to chime in and:welcome: a fellow Illinoisan to this wonderful forum. You could also PM me and maybe between the two of us, (Olivacs and me) there might be a dentist that you might be comfortable with.
All the best,
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Hi Anna83,

You're not alone, believe me! I was going to tell you the same thing olivacs told you. I have the same bottom 6 teeth and I can't remember a day that I haven't obsessed about the state of my teeth.

I had my first dental appointment in 25 years last Monday. I cried when I made the appointment, I cried when I got called into the room and I cried when the wonderfully nice dentist and dental assistant told me they wanted to help me. I haven't had anything done but x-rays yet, but I have my next appointment in a couple of weeks. I was very proud of myself when the assistant asked if it was okay to take x-rays, I opened my mouth for her and we did the x-rays, then (and I'm not sure how I did it) I let the dentist look in my mouth and use a mirror (no poking things, he promised). I'm going on 40 and have lived with this phobia all my life. You took a big step by sharing your story, you'll be pleasantly surprised with the level of support you receive here.

Thank you for sharing your story. Continue posting, it helps.

Huge hugs to you :XXLhug:

Well done for sharing your story here......first step complete!:) You will get lots of support here from people who understand how you are feeling and who will support you every step of the way!

I went to the dentist last year for the first time in about 12, worked up, full of embarracement and thinking the worse only to find all I needed was a little cleaning! Amazing how our imagination can run away!
I wrote to the dentist before I went for my appointment explaining everything as I knew I wouldn't be able to say anything when I walked into the surgery........best thing I did! Lots of people here have done the same thing.

Your next step is to find a dentist in your area......take up the offers from fellow posters in your area or look in the finding a dentist section on this forum for reccomendations, that way you will know they will be more likely to understand how you are feeling. Maybe then write to the practice explaining everything if you think it will help.

I wish you luck in making the next step and remember we are all here to support you;)
Hi Anna, from a neighbor in Iowa. :) Trust me, it's never too late..and it's perfectly natural to always think the worst. I think we all do that.
That first appointment is the hardest and then it seems to get a little easier each time. At least you start to lose that dread of opening your mouth and being judged by the dentist.
I know how it is to not go for years and then worry about the financial aspect of it all. My insurance only covers $1500 a year..which was nothing compared to all the work I faced. It's a shame dental insurance isn't a higher priority in the USA. No wonder so many people don't go...can't afford it!
Best of luck in your journey! :XXLhug:
Totally agree with you TW ;). I think the first visit is the hardest because basically you have a stranger poking around in your mouth.
I've recently changed dentists, but I felt so comfortable there, that I actually let the dentist fill a couple of my cavities (on the first visit). But this is really thanks to my former dentist who got me used to being in that dental chair.
You'll do fine. We have all been there, and we'll be there for you.
Keep us posted!!

I am of a similiar age to you and had only been to a dentist once in my life until recently. I was extremely nervous about it but finally built up the courage to find a dentist who I felt understood my fear.

For me, embarrassment was a huge factor and I still struggle a bit but I am so relieved at having taken that first step - yes I felt in a state, I felt physically ill, I was terrified but it has worked out well in the end.

The simple fact that you shared your story shows that you are very brave and determined to get through this - so you will. Find a dentist who is sympathetic, understanding, kind and who you trust.

I know what he feeling of being terrified of dentist is like - but it does get better, once the first step is over you will find it a little easier.
All the very best. :jump:
I want to thank you all for kindly welcoming me and for your friendly words. I've been re-reading your posts to try to motivate myself to do something to find a dentist but I'm paralyzed by fear. My heart is pounding and pulse is racing just writing this reply as crazy as that sounds.

It's just so hard to think of this situation as anything but hopeless. It was so hard to muster up the courage to even post my previous message, and as you can see, it took a day for me to respond. Sometimes I do wonder if I'm psyching myself out and it's not as bad as I think. But if that were the case, I don't understand why my bottom gums look the way they do...I don't understand why I'd have such a trobbing, constant, intense pain in my bottom teeth. I'm trying to look at my post like a tiny step forward, but I feel so much like I need a giant push and I don't know how to get there.

There's such a major part of me that just wants to get it over with already and go to the dentist to stop the pain, but the fearful part of me is too overpowering. That fear helps me to come up with a million excuses not to go and just continue this downward spiral.

I'm really nervous about how much it'll all cost. My max dental benefits is $1800/yr but I don't even know how to read the policy to understand what is covered, the waiting period for various kinds of coverage, etc. I'm scared I'll misunderstand something and not have coverage for something I thought I had coverage for, costs will skyrocket more than I think they will already and I'll find out my situation really IS hopeless. I feel incredibly embarassed and uncomfortable asking anyone to explain the policy to me because it brings up the subject of me teeth.

I just feel like I'm going crazy with my dental issues and don't understand what's going on in my head with it. I wonder why can't I be like the people around me who are not scared to death to go see a dentist. I wonder why I couldn't have had normal dental visits growing up and that brings up a whole list of other emotional issues. I struggled with depression in my late teen years, but I got better...have been better for years...but sometimes I can feel the depression seeping back in through these dental issues I have.

Some major parts of my life have been put on hold as a result of my dental problems. My husband and I have been putting off getting pregnant because I know pregnant women can have complications caused by periodontal problems. Also, we've been having to save up for the cost of my dental problems instead of saving up for a family, a house, etc. Now maybe if my problems aren't as bad as I think, we can get an earlier start than we foresee now. And I know we won't know until I get to the dentist and get the ball rolling, but again, I'm paralyzed.

I have all this motivation and now some people to talk to who understand, but I can't seem to find how to take that first step. I just feel utterly crippled by anxiety and fear and don't know how to overcome that. I just don't know how to face my fear...or maybe it'll happen gradually and I've taken small steps to face it? I don't know...I guess I just feel lost right now :(
I feel for you Anna, I've been there and I'm sure all fellow forum members have been there.
First of all, your insurance will most likely cover a check-up and a set of X-rays.
Second of all, the first visit with a dentist is usually just X-rays and the dentist may (if you feel comfortable enough) look in your mouth. My dentist asked my permission to look in my mouth....but he also knew I was a fearful patient.
Third, ( I'm sure I'm telling something that you already know) your dental problems won't go away by themselves. Sure, they may quiet down a bit for awhile, but they'll just get worse.
You can take that first step just by looking up some dentists in your area that deal with fearful patients.......I googled that and came up with a few in my area...one of which became my former dentist. Even if you just do that, you will feel like you have taken a step in the right direction.
It took me a year to actually MAKE the appointment with the dentist after I found him. After I called, I was trembling, but INCREDIBLY proud of myself even if it did take a year.
Just take baby steps, and eventually you will get there!!!