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Just the thought of brushing makes me anxious



Junior member
Mar 13, 2019
Dudley, UK
Hi everyone, i was looking around to see if it’s just me, or if anyone else suffers from this problem, then I stumbled on this site.

Here’s my story;

I’ve always had issues with my teeth, as soon as my adult teeth came through they were much bigger than all my friends, and also I suffered from fluorosis, meaning my teeth were stained regardless how much I brushed them. This caused endless bullying through school and hence my low self esteem regarding to my teeth.

However, this didn’t stop me brushing twice daily, although my teeth were discoloured they were still very healthy and strong, and I rarely needed any work doing by a dentist.

I practised good oral hygiene right up until I was in my mid 20’s, and then something changed, I don’t know what exactly but all of a sudden I began missing one or two brushes, then one or two brushes turned into missing a day or two, and before I know it, im going weeks/months between brushing. (Disgusting I know, I can’t begin to explain how embarrassed I am by this either)

I hate bad breath so I’m constantly chewing gum, and I use a wet paper towel to wipe the plaque from my teeth, I know this isn’t the answer, but even the thought of brushing now fills me with so much anxiety! I stare at the mirror for half an hour telling myself just brush your teeth, how hard can it be? But in the end I give up and just walk away.

I’ve had this problem for around 5 years, so now obviously my once strong and healthy teeth now require some treatment, I know I need at least 7 fillings, and now I’m dreading going to the dentist because of shame of how bad my teeth have become.

I have had some unpleasant dentistry experiences in the past, the most recent was around a year ago when my tooth broke and the dentist recommended extraction, as he tried to pull it out, it shattered like a piece of glass, shooting across the room and leaving me picking broken tooth out of my gums for weeks.

The worst thing about this whole situation I’ve got my self into, Now, I really don’t look forward to dentist appointments but will force myself to go if I’m in agony, but because my brushing has stopped I will now need to visit the dentist more to fix the damage I’ve caused.

I just want to regain some confidence and be able to brush my teeth like everyone else, so I don’t lose all my teeth before my 35th!

Any advice is greatly appreciated!!
Hello! No judgment here, and it takes a lot of courage to tell your story and ask for support. So well done already.

I am just beginning my dental journey and I don't have a ton to offer, but here's one thought: cognitive behavior therapy. I had never heard of this until a few years ago. I had to learn how to give someone else (not me) insulin shots. It was my responsibility and I had to do it but I just couldn't. I would force myself but it would take 2-3 hours twice a day to muster up the ability. It interfered horribly with my life and, ashamed to say, the other person's even worse. After a week of that, something had to change. I did a bunch of research and found a cognitive behavior therapist who, upon hearing the severity of my situation, adjusted her fees and agreed to work with me. I worked with her a few times a week for two weeks. Within two weeks, I was able to give the shots easily. But within a month I actually looked FORWARD to giving them and enjoyed it, and so did the person receiving them. The therapist first exposed me to giving them super slowly, so I felt safe and comfortable and like there was no pressure, and then we built a routine around it that made me and the other person feel great. With the help of this trained expert, I learned that I had two main triggers that made me HATE the process, feel terrified of it, and dread it. Once we worked around those, suddenly it was all ok. So strange to explain but now I would recommend it to anyone, as I had that life-changing experience with it. For you, for example, they might take the idea that you can chew gum or wipe your teeth off and build upon that first, but you'd feel safe and comfortable until poof, you're practicing awesome oral hygiene.

I have a friend in a remote part of the world who found someone to do cognitive behavior therapy with him by video on his smart phone, too!

Good luck.
Hi procrastinator :welcome:,

CourageAndBraveryASAP has given some really excellent advice there and going the cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) route sounds like it would be the very best choice :).

In the meantime, you could also have a look at some of the tips we've collected on this page (some of them might be useful): https://www.dentalfearcentral.org/fears/toothpaste-phobia/

Best of luck :clover:!!
Dear Procrastinator,

thank you for sharing your story with us, I can only aplaud the courage it must have taken to do so.. shame is sadly one of the most powerful things when it comes to seeking help and of course seeing a dentist.

I can see how uncomfortable your situation makes you feel, but it is important to remember to be kind to yourself (my dentist told me once, by the way). I was touched to read that you use a towel to clean your teeth and this only shows how hard you are trying. Sharing your story here is only another sign of you working towards changing your situation.

As CourageAndBraveryASAP and letsconnect say, finding a therapist to get help with the brushing might be the best idea, however I can only encourage you to start to look for a kind caring dentist in the mean time as well (if you feel being able to so of course). I know this might be the difficult part, but maybe you can start looking around to see whether there is a practice that you believe might be understanding and good with nervous patients? Good dentists who work with nervous patients will understand that you haven't done anything wrong and will be happy to support you along your way.

All the best wishes and keep us posted

The first thing that hit me was having your most recent experience of that tooth pull, which must have been so scary both when it was pulled and finding pieces for sometime and having those afteraffects. I would think that would cause me to freeze a bit in returning.

I also agree with the rest that the cbt therapy is amazing.. I have done this in other areas and use it in life alot and is so very helpful for processing thoughts . Therapy in general has hugely changed my anxiety and outlook in life so I couldn't encourage you enough on that.

It does seem that you are doing a really great job as much as you can and you know, we are all human and imperfect so the fact you stopped even for a bit or feel so frozen, well you have written about it and reached out so you are on your way.. babysteps and give yourself grace!

Do you have a dentist you can think of going to that is kind ? or are you starting the process to look for someone? I have notice in my search when my previous dentist left that there are many kind dentists out there that just want to care and show you they will not shame and blame and give you pain but will help and care for you.. I hope you find someone like this! they are out there!

You are absolutely brave!
Hi procrastinator,

I believe what you need is some information about the condition of your teeth, just a check-up, from a conservative dentist- one who does not aiming to change your mouth completely. Due to the Flourosis story, I believe your situation might not be so bad. Did a dentist tell you you need 7 cavities? Since you don't have an urgent problem (please correct me if I'm wrong).

You are invited to look two of my video which I believe you relate to:"The uncertainty factor" and "fear of embarrassment".

Hi all, thanks for your kind words and support, I thought i’d give a bit of an update,

So I’ve managed to brush my teeth a whole 3 times since posting this message, I know it doesn’t seem a lot but in reality that’s more than I’ve done in months!

Also I’ve taken the advise and booked in to see a dentist, my dental surgery consists of mostly students, but it has around 25-30 dental practitioners in the building, I explained my fears and anxieties to the receptionist and managed to see the main dentist who runs the surgery, who’s name is on the building!

Anyways, after having a check up, I’ve been told that my teeth aren’t as bad as they were expecting considering the lack of care I’ve given them recently.

however I do require 10, yes 10 not 6-7 fillings :(

After my bad tooth extraction I had last year I’ve asked to be sedated as the procedure is going to take around 2 hours to complete, they were fine with this and they also gave me some generic advise at the end of the appointment about reducing sugar intake and quitting smoking.

I feel this might be the first step, to a long journey, I know my teeth have been abused lately but it’s not too late to save them.

In regards to the CBT, I know it may be the answer, but I’m really sceptical about any sort of therapy, I was advised to have CBT when I suffered with depression 2-3 years ago, but I declined and tried to figure out the issues on my own. I know this seems a foolish way to go about things, but I genuinely feel that the only person that can bring about change in my life is myself. I know CBT works for many people and I applaud your commitment to seek help from a therapist, however it’s just not for me I’m affraid.

I’ll post another update next week once I’ve had the fillings done. :)

Thankyou all again for your support
Oh my gosh, how wonderful. Good for you. Hope you’ll keep sharing your news here as it may well help others with similar situations who could be reading. Congratulations on your milestones and hope it all continues to get better and better!

So glad to hear that you got in and got through this sounds like rather well :) !

"I explained my fears and anxieties to the receptionist and managed to see the main dentist who runs the surgery, who’s name is on the building! "

This took alot of courage to do so really awesome, it pays off to, to put your fears out there and let them know so they know how to best care for you. Not easy... but very well done!

"Anyways, after having a check up, I’ve been told that my teeth aren’t as bad as they were expecting "

This is great too! Always relieving :)

And sounds you have a good plan you feel comfortable with! You have to do whats right for you and the more you do that and find good safe care , you will only progress from there.

Wish the best for you!
Update 2...
Okay, so I’ve started brushing once a day now, I’ve started a new job and to be honest I forced myself to brush for the first few days, because I didn’t want to make a bad impression, but after 3-4 days of forcing myself to brush, it very quickly became part of my morning routine! (still lacking on the night brushes though) I can feel the confidence boost already working...

However... as you might remember I had to have 10 fillings at the dentist, well....

I had the fillings done, I was under anaesthetic during the procedure so I didn’t feel a thing, and all the cavities in my teeth have been filled.
But after the procedure I’ve been left in extreme pain! (I wasn’t in any pain at all before, sure I had cavities but they never caused any problems) I’m taking pain killers all day now, and I’m even waking in the middle of the night with a severe clamping pain, it feels like I’ve been biting my teeth together all night. Not to mention the sensitivity to hot, cold, gum and sugary foods! (Again I had no problems before!)

And the really lousy problem with this, because my teeth are in so much pain, I find myself scared to brush again because they tend to hurt straight sfter brushing :(!

Honestly it’s making me wish I’d never gone to the dentist
As you were sedated it could be that the bite needs to be adjusted on the fillings - that should be a quick and painless process so do go back for some aftercare.
Going forward could you motivate yourself to keep brushing (once a day is better than not at all) by buying yourself a cool electric toothbrush (rotary brushhead) in a pretty colour.
Good luck.
Thank you for the update, I have been wondering how you got on. Glad you kept on brushing!
When did you get the fillings? It is not unusual for teeth to need a bit of time to settle after a filling, as brit suggests, just give your practice a call and get it checked.
And please absolutely go on brushing, you are doing amazingly! You could brush the filled teeth a bit more gently or carefully, but just keep on going.

All the best wishes and keep us posted
I don't have any advice/recommendations, but I do congratulate you on demonstrating such courage.

You have come a long way, further than you realize.

You're doing great.