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Severe dental phobia, dropped by dentist



Junior member
Jul 27, 2023
Hello, I am hoping for advice. I have always been a little bit afraid of the dentist, but starting eight years ago it turned into a full-blown phobia. The short version is that eight years ago I tried to commit suicide and ended up in the hospital in a coma for several weeks, then afterward was placed in a mental hospital for a month. While I was in the mental hospital I was sexually assaulted. I now have a severe phobia about being touched by other people or having to hold still and let someone hurt me.

The trauma has ruined my life in a number of ways, from my hygiene (I'm afraid to remove my clothes or shower, I was assaulted during a forced shower) to my health because I have not been to a medical doctor or a dentist since it happened.

I am in therapy for these issues and have been for several years, but have not made much headway. But I can't go on as I am, because my teeth are cracking and chipping and are in terrible shape. My last dental visit was five years ago when I finally worked up the courage for a cleaning and I was not able to stop shaking and crying during it. I was so embarrassed and apologized repeatedly, but I could tell the dentist and hygienist were very put off by it. After the cleaning was done, the dentist came up to me at the front desk as I was paying my bill and told me that he did not feel capable of dealing with someone with my level of phobia and he would prefer if I did not return to him as a patient.

Now I am trying to find a new dentist, but I'm afraid the same thing will happen. I can make myself hold still, but I can't control the crying and shaking no matter how hard I try. I did warn the previous dentist before my visit that I was severely phobic and he said it was no problem, but once I got in the chair it clearly was a problem. I don't know what to do. I am going to lose my teeth if I don't get dental treatment soon, but I'm afraid I will just be told again that I am too much trouble and not to come back. I have had similar problems finding a doctor who is willing to deal with my fear.

Is there any hope for me? How can I find a dentist who has the patience and willingness to deal with extremely broken people? Is it even worth bothering to try? Thank you for any advice you can offer.
There is always hope. Are you working with a therapist and psychiatrist? If so I think for you the best thing would be to work with your mental health care team to help you find a trauma informed and trained dentist and dental office.
Hi Pollybird :welcome: ,

thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I am deeply saddened to read what has been done to you and it is heartbreaking that you have been harmed in settings that are meant to be protective and helpful. I can't even imagine how difficult it is to trust any professional now and how damaging it must have been to be rejected by a dentist that was privileged to have your trust. :( I am picturing how difficult things have been for you and how it would have been such a huge step if the dentist would have been willing to dedicate some trust and patience to you.

It is a known thing that there are many many things during dental visits that have parallels to sexual assault and are hugely triggering, making people who have experienced trauma feel helpless and unable to get treatment (we have a page about this here). Fortunately, there are also many dentists who are aware of this and are happy to help you find ways to keep your teeth healthy. The challenge, I believe, is the fact that helping someone who suffered this kind of trauma requires an approach that is a bit different from how usual dental visits look like. I would, for example, not expect you to set a foot into practice before you had a chance to connect to the dentist via email or phone and build some trust and some action plan on how to make you feel in control. If you then got into practice, it may be just to sit in the waiting room without anything else. There also would need to be a plan on how to make you feel safe if you ever step in the treatment room... and the list goes on and on and the steps are as small as you need to feel okay during each step. I could go on forever on this because it's such a huge thing and it can be such a healing experience once you found the dentist who can help you with this. And yes, they are out there and we have some of them here in the forum as well. If you feel comfortable sharing where in the US you are, we can see whether we've heard of anyone from your area, or you can take a look here in your recommendation section.

To put it short: yes, yes and yes, there is hope for you. And you are not broken. You are an extremely courageous beautiful soul who has suffered an insane lot and you are doing an amazing job just trying to move on. It's such a huge thing that you are in therapy and that you had the courage to share your story with us, thank you so much for your trust.

All the best wishes
Hello. I don’t have much to add to the brilliant post above but I just wanted to offer some virtual support. It’s completely understandable to have fears and anxieties around treatment given those past experiences. My advice would be to ask lots of question of a practice before attending an appointment. Many dentists claim to be “nervous friendly” but I think many have a tendency to overestimate their skills in that department. It’s frustrating to be told not to return to a practice having warned them of your phobia in advance. However, there are many many options available to you. It may seem annoying but I believe that dentist did you a favour by telling you that she/he didn’t have the skills to work with your fears - and that’s OK - not everyone does. Try not to take it as a comment on you. It is better that he/she admits this early than proceeds with further treatment in a way that is unhelpful to you. You don’t need to be sorry for crying or experiencing anxiety during treatment. In fact, you should be flippin’ proud of yourself for facing your fears and getting through treatment despite medical trauma. When you feel ready, the next step is to reach out and start looking for that better fit. I’m not a professional but I’m happy to be a listening ear if helpful. Best of luck ☺️
My dentist dropped me about a week ago, so I know the feeling.

I just called up another one.

Have you ever tried a female dentist? They're more sensitive you know.

Ask her about sedation dentistry. Or, under "dentistry" in the search engine, look under "sedation dentistry" and then find a female who does that.

Same thing with a doctor. Try to find a primary doctor who is a female. In your search engine on your computer, type in: "primary doctor in my area."

Write down a name or two and call one. Your health is way too important not to. If you don't treat health problems soon, they get worse. You're actually in good shape, you just don't know it. I've let some health problems go, and, you're right, they got worse.

Do you have a female therapist or psychiatrist? Same thing with that. In your search engine type in: "Psychiatrist in my area." Then write down the names of one or two females and give one a call.

Divide it into two parts. One part is getting the phone numbers. The next part is calling them for an appointment.

You say, "I am trying to find a new dentist, but I'm afraid the same thing will happen. I can make myself hold still, but I can't control the crying and shaking no matter how hard I try."

If you like that, you might need to be diagnosed and then be given some medicine by a psychiatrist. I'm bipolar and I take medicine and it really helps. I've had panic attacks, so I know about those. You don't need to keep having those.

It's hard to be the patient and the doctor, too. That is, it's hard to look up those phone numbers and make those calls. Especially when you're shaking so bad you can't dial the number, or think. I've been there. It is very difficult.

Can you let us know how this is going? You've got a lot of people pulling for you. You've made the right call. You've reached out for help.

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