• Dental Phobia Support

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Needle phobia



Junior member
Aug 29, 2023
United States
Hello, everyone. I’m not new to this forum, but it’s been a long time since I last posted a message. Okay, so here is my situation: I have a mild-to-moderate form of dental phobia. It’s not an irrational fear but more of anxiety & apprehension. If I may provide the backstory, I ask for your patience as I describe the narrative. It is long, so again, I humbly ask for your patience.

Between 1988-1991 (ages 6-8), I had dental work done at just about every appointment. After that, it was less frequent (1992: age 10; 1995: age 12). From 1995-2000 (ages 12-18), I had successful check-ups with no cavities, until my senior year in high school (2000). Following that, another visit required minor restoration (2003: age 20). From that time onward, a 13-year period (2003-2016: ages 20-34) thankfully saw no dental work done. That changed only a few times (2016: age 34; 2020-21: ages 38-39). Since 2021, I haven’t had any additional dental work done yet.

The dental work I described over the years consisted of fillings, crowns, & teeth extractions, but never any root canals. The main problem I experienced each time was based on a single instrument: the syringe. Not only did it look scary, but the needle always hurt each time the dentist injected it, especially on the lower teeth (multiple times) & palate (only 1x). For some reason, the numbing gel didn’t seem to work as well; so I felt every shot I was given. In my early childhood years, I cried during the injection procedures. Although my dentist was patient to put up with me and never scolded me or told me to shut up, he seemed to remain quiet & stoic to my cries. I really wish he’d explained the anesthetic procedure beforehand in terms I could understand, but maybe he didn’t want to do that. Perhaps he thought that the numbing gel was sufficient and that I wouldn’t even feel the needle go in, but obviously that wasn’t the case. Over the years, I developed a fear of dental needles or needle phobia. From age 10 onward, I didn’t cry when the injections were given, but I still winced in pain and always hated receiving them.

Eventually, I decided to do something about it to overcome my fears. In the mid-2000s, I began researching the subject of local anesthesia in dentistry by visiting various websites and asking questions to dental professionals. My plan was to educate & inform myself, thanks to the Internet, which wasn’t around in the 1980s. I hoped that the information would be helpful to ease my fears and correct my misperceptions. However, it has the opposite effect: the more I read & studied the subject (including viewing pics & watching vids of dental injections), the more it fueled the anxiety.

Finally, in 2016, I sat down with my dentist & explained all my fears & concerns regarding needles, especially the lower nerve blocks. He was sympathetic and said he’d help me through it and try to go as easy as he could. I was very nervous but went ahead with the procedure. While the lower injection in my jaw was initially moderately painful for a few secs., it subsided rather quickly, and the numbing took effect shortly within a few mins.; so overall I’d rate the pain as somewhere between 1-2 on a 5-point scale. After the appointment, I felt like I’d finally achieved victory over my phobia. Unfortunately, it resurfaced 4 years later (2020) when I began reading more about it online, which I probably shouldn't have done.

Now I’m more scared than ever, and I’ve regressed or gone backward instead of maintaining progress by moving forward. The 2 injections that terrify me the most are the nasopalatine & IANB. The 1st one is very painful because of the nerves in a sensitive area of firm tissue in the front roof of the mouth; and the 2nd one runs the risk of entering blood vessels or accidentally damaging nearby nerves to the tongue, lips, & chin. What can I do now? I’ve been seeing a new dentist but haven’t told him about my fears & concerns yet because I tried to toughen it out like a man. I’ve also been seeing a counselor or therapist who assists clients with psychological & mental issues. Yet the fear more-or-less remains, despite my best efforts to battle it, and I’m afraid I’m going to have to live with it for the rest of my life. I’ve lost all my self-confidence & optimism. Can anyone help me out here? Please, I need comfort and reassurance that I can overcome this fear!
I'm sorry I don't have any real answers for you, but as there's been no replies yet I just wanted to express my best hopes and thoughts for you and tell you that you are not alone. Lots of people are just like you, and every day lots of people just like you are having procedures.

I have an appointment myself next week that I'm nervous about. I never had much dental phobia before, but I seem to have developed some now, especially if I'm having some pain and am waiting for an appointment. I always fear the worst possible scenario. I think I fear the examination and diagnosis more than any procedure itself.

My goal currently is not to focus on hoping that things will be okay, but on trying to develop my personal mental strength and ability to handle difficult things. I know the key is having your mind and thoughts in the right place. I know, it's not so easy to do, but it's a project I'm working on. My goal is to become bored and uninterested with the whole thing, like it's happening to someone else.

One thing I do know is harmful, is overthinking. I try to let the dentist do the thinking for me (I have a dentist I like and trust). Sounds like you are struggling with overthinking, and looking up info online is a big mistake, but you already know that. (I know, it's hard to resist sometimes).

Anyhow, instead of researching the dentistry end of things online, you might spend your time researching things about your fears. Our fears can be our biggest enemy, not needles. If you don't fear it, if you don't care about it, if you can calm down your sensitivity to it all, then it won't be a problem.

Anyhow, all the best to you. I'm pulling for you.
Hello, oneby. Thank you for your kind & thoughtful response. Yes, I wish more dentists & patients from this large online community had replied on here; I don't know why they ignored my post since it was in the Support section. (I know it was long, and I'm sorry to everyone else that didn't have the patience to read it. I wasn't rambling, but I needed to describe the details. If I'd been too succinct, I wouldn't have sufficiently covered the subject.) I can't believe there were 69 views and only 1 reply! Apparently, no one else can relate to my fear, or perhaps they just don't care, maybe hoping I'll "snap out of it." It really hurts :( that I didn't find much "support" on here besides from you, again for which I'm very grateful.

I'm sorry you battle dental anxiety too, but it's good you're working on it. You had some good suggestions & coping strategies. I appreciate your sympathy, encouragement, & support.

Again, if anyone on here has any helpful advice, I beg you, *please* post it on here. You may not be going thru the exact same situation as me; but if you can tolerate dental injections and do well w/ them (maybe even finding them painless or only mildly uncomfortable), I'd appreciate your thoughts & advice. Hopefully you can share some tips that would help me out. My fear may seem irrational, but that's exactly why I'm here: to get the factual & emotional support & reassurance I need to face future appts. w/ confidence.
I have some needle anxiety too. The only thing that seems to help is getting a needle. Avoiding it made my anxiety worse.

I’ve had quite a few needles lately because I put off dental issues because of anxiety. The first thing I would do is make sure you’re comfortable with your current dentist. Then tell them about your phobia and ask questions. If they react badly, don’t go there, find a different dentist. They should be able to answer all your questions.

You can ask them about the concerns you have about damage from needles and how often they’ve seen that in their practice.

I understand where you’re coming from. I find dental injections painful. Some more than others (had one through the top palate and my palate is apparently quite thick according to my dentist. I’d rather not have that done again but I survived and getting numbed up is preferable to not being numb and at least the needles aren’t painful for long.)

Plan something nice for yourself after any appointment that requires a needle so that you have something to look forward to when the appointment is over — and it will be over and done with eventually. Living with anxiety for a long period of time and avoiding getting stuff done is worse than just getting a needle/drilling. I left a broken tooth for almost a year because of anxiety and I wouldn’t recommend that.

Getting a needle will take seconds where as stressing about it and researching worst-case scenarios can take up hours of your time — even weeks or months.
Hello, shinyone. Thank you for your thoughtful & detailed reply. I appreciate you being honest in sharing your experiences and relating to my fear about dental needles. I'm sorry you find dental injections to be painful. I don't think they're very painful (w/ the possible exception of the palate); most I'd rate as 1-2 on a 5-point scale. Others have said that it's a quick pinch that lasts for a few secs., but it's tolerable, and numbness quickly sets in. I go to a compassionate & understanding dentist who gives comfortable injections. I guess I'm just more anxious emotionally than anything else. It's tempting to build up the fear inside; one book explained that the expectation is worse than the reality. Dentists use numbing gel, thin needles, and (most importantly) slow injections. I've actually made great strides toward overcoming my fear, but for some reason, it resurfaces from time to time. I think that being in the dental office environment and sitting in the chair brings up bad memories and causes me to feel nervous. That's why I take Ativan; it helps calm me down. Again, I really appreciate your reply, and hopefully others will offer their insights too. Good luck to you, and God bless you, my friend.