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Panic attack at the dentist



Junior member
Jun 1, 2017
Hey! I'm glad I found this forum!
I'm 17, and I'm a girl.
I have severe anxiety and depression problems, so going to doctors has always been stressful for me. Even doing a simple CT can make my anxiety sky rocket.
So when I was 15, I had this bad tooth infection, that needed a root canal. I went to the dentist, and she took an x-ray​, and didn't even explain what was wrong. I was in a lot of pain. She gave me anesthesia, but didn't even wait for it to work (I'm a bit tolerant to anesthesia in general; I've had surgeries under general anesthesia and sometimes it took longer to work than the doctors expected). She started drilling, and at some point I heard her saying she touched the nerve and how could it ever be so badly infected. I was on there for 1 hour, in such an excruciating pain ( and I've been trough worse) , And as dentists say, " raise your left hand if it's hurting" while she was working on my tooth, I raised my hand multiple times and she didn't care. I tore my pants because I was grabbing them to try not to scream. She didn't even remove the nerve or anything. She put some sort of material there (not those tiny rubber pink files, she just put some white stuff on top of the tooth) and left it like that, and told me to go home, with just a painkiller. It was a traumatic experience because only when I exited the dentist, only then, the anesthesia worked. So I felt everything.
No pain for 2 years, except for lots of sensitivity to cold and hot. She supposedly performed a root canal, but I'm sure she didn't use those tiny files they use to take off the nerves. I was okay, until a week ago. A throbbing intense pain came in suddenly, and this time it was so intense my entire jaw would hurt and feel like it was being stabbed and shot at the same time. Needless to say, no painkiller worked, and I spent a night crying in agony and not even 1 hour of sleep.
My dad took me to a new clinic, as an emergency because the pain was so sooo bad I would do nothing but cry.
They are so so so nice, and caring, and Soo friendly. And that helped me a lot, and made me calm down immediately. Took an x-ray, I have a huge infection. My dentist took a look, and explained everything to me. He said it was badly done.He explained step by step what he was going to do, and that again helped so much, also he tested each tooth. Went to the (damn) chair, my heart was beating do fast I could see that attached light jumping as my heart was beating so fast. My brain was screaming " DONT OPEN YOUR MOUTH" And as he said to open it, I only opened it a bit later...
My dentist is an amazing guy, he is really understanding​, caring and friendly!
But still, I couldn't help but almost cry. He gave me one anesthesia, and waited... I still felt pain I asked him to stop several times and he did. Gave me another, still felt pain. Before the 3rd, when he reached the nerve I felt a shooting pain on my jaw, , really strong one. At this point I had a huge panic attack. He told me not to move as he was working with sharp tools, but my reflex was to immediately get up and sit down ( I was laying down) and I was hyperventilating a lot, I couldn't control it and my chest started to hurt, I had the sensation I was gonna die... And my dad, the assistant and the dentist all worked to calm me down. After a bit of talking to me softly, the dentist said that he was going to give me to the strongest anesthesia he had and so I would feel anything else. I didn't believe at first, I was just sitting there hyperventilating, clenching my hands on my jaw... Until eventually he convinced me to lay down and he gave me the anesthesia. The assistant was so nice she even gave me her hand!
After all, I didn't feel a thing, and it was pretty Easy. I felt so embarrassed in the end :( I apologized, but they said it was totally fine. Today I was supposed to go again, but my heart started racing again. Really bad. Couldn't even control. I was in the Chair, once again, same dentist and assistant​, but still I started breathing fast again... Until he told me we had to wait a bit more for the infection to go away. I felt so good in that moment, and I only wanted to run away.
I wasn't so scared of dentists before! But when I had the first root canal, I got traumatized... Although this new clinic I go to is really nice, and everyone is so welcoming, nice, friendly and caring, I can't help but feel a lot of fear...
Next time I'll be going I already know I'll be having extreme fear. Do you guys have any techniques? Breathing techniques or any others? I wanted some to help me through!
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Former Member
Good for you. I'm so sorry your first experience was that awful. I take medicine to calm me down but if it's bad I workout a few days before. I'm not much of a workout person but that helps so much. Good luck. I know you can do it and will be fine.
Anxious Kitty

Anxious Kitty

Jul 28, 2016
I'm so sorry to hear about your bad experience. Panic attacks are scary but it's important to remember that they can't hurt you.

It sounds like you've found a kind, compassionate dentist which is a great first step to overcoming the trauma you've been through.
I'm sorry to hear you had trouble getting numb but it's good that they can keep this in mind in the future. Infected teeth can often be more difficult to numb, but you might also just be one of those people who is more resistant to anesthetic.

I would really recommend talking to your dentist or general practitioner about this and requesting a prescription for something that can calm you down before and during your appointment. I take Xanax before all my dental visits and it helps tremendously! There are various medications they can prescribe depending on your situation.

Alternatively, you could ask about being sedated if you think that'll help you. There's nitrous (aka "laughing gas") or IV sedation. If you're like me and prefer to be awake and conscious, however, medication is your best option.

Another thing that really helps me is to bring earbuds and listen to some music on my phone to keep myself distracted (and drown out the noises a bit). It's kind of silly, but I also carry a "comfort object" in my hoodie - something soft that I can squeeze if I feel like I need to.

I hope you have a better experience with your next visit! Good luck!


Well-known member
Verified dentist
Jul 19, 2009
Miami, Fl
It seems to me that the Big problem is not your anxiety or panic attacks but your lack of profound anesthesia.
My experience is that a major component of patient anxiety is previous bad experiences. You have shared some very painful experiences. So you are worried about fear but fear is there to protect us. You must have an experience where you have no pain only then can you relax.


Junior member
Jun 4, 2017
I would look into that first dentist. She should have waited until the area was numb. It is my understanding that antibiotics are usually the first step unless a big infection is present.

I had bad anxiety and panic attacks. I avoided the dentist until I just had 22 teeth extracted without any anxiety meds nor sedation. Please ask your GP for anxiety medication and do not let that experience ruin your oral health.

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