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Severe phobia about dentists and medical stuff in general, how do i deal with the inevitable? (wisdom teeth)



Junior member
Mar 20, 2022
Hi! You can call me M... Sorry for the long message, but it's my first time in a long time posting to a forum and I'm in a pretty significant state of anxiety.

So in addition to having panic disorder and general anxiety disorder, I've been afraid of dentists, teeth, human anatomy in general, and medical stuff for basically my whole life. It's actually gotten worse as I've gotten older (25 currently) and it was a wonder I was even able to get vaccinated for covid. When someone mentions teeth even casually (even the tooth emoji scares me!) I start getting intrusive thoughts about dental procedures that I haven't even gone through and it often throws me into an anxiety attack.
My fear doesn't come from an especially bad experience as far as I can tell; I've only ever gone to have my teeth cleaned, my last visit was 10+ years ago, nothing went wrong and the doctor was friendly, but everything about the experience was still terrifying and the memory of it still makes me shudder.

I had meh dental hygiene for a while but have been brushing regularly for close to a decade (flossing is another story but i try to do it sometimes), my teeth don't look like they're in great condition but they're not causing me issues (no pain, no numbness, and i don't THINK anything's broken or loose), but now most relevantly I've been experiencing OCCASIONAL mild pain as my wisdom teeth try to grow in. When I say occasional, I mean like they'll hurt for maybe half an hour and then nothing for weeks.
After hearing from more people around my age regarding wisdom teeth stuff, I've been having panic spells daily for the latter half of the week looking up more info about it. To my understanding, I will probably have to have them removed if I don't want something really really bad to happen, but it would be best to check with a dentist, who I haven't seen in over ten years I think.

If I'm going to do that... I need to actually go to one's office... and endure a checkup... which is horrifying for a lot of reasons. Like I mentioned about my last visits, I was incredibly disturbed by everything regarding the experience (of simply getting my teeth cleaned!), and I recall being too panicked for the X-Rays to go smoothly (it took Way Too Many Tries and i was nauseous and nonverbal afterwards). It's unreasonable for me to ask them to drug me for a check up and/or cleaning (do they even do checkups without teeth cleaning?), even if I would prefer not be aware of anything at all. I will undergo that for wisdom teeth removal, but it's not like I can skip right to that without a checkup, right?

...But even then drugging is scary, not because I would lose control of myself or I worry about being intoxicated, but like the PROCESS of having a needle or iv or an oxygen tube or mask or whatever is aaaa!!!!! I don't want to see or feel even THAT happening. Even if I want it to knock me out. Medical equipment at all is too scary for me, and I'm also worried about reacting dangerously to it, like when I instinctively pushed some of my eye doctor's equipment away out of fear last year (she yelled at me, understandably. that stuff's expensive).
After the procedure is done, even if I forget everything (I'll probably remember SOMETHING which is enough to make me worry), I don't know how I'll handle recovery. Needing to have... gauze or cotton there or something, having a bad taste in my mouth, ... I even heard of someone needing to [content warning for severe procedure] have their JAW broken because there wasn't enough space to remove the wisdom teeth?? They treated it like it wasn't a big deal, pain aside... but does that mean stitches??? I've never had those either and that's extremely scary.... I also have no idea how I'm going to brush my teeth after the procedure even if it doesn't require anything serious... Clearly if I'm going to do this I'll need to clear my schedule for a month, to have time for mental preparation and recovery mentally and physically, which luckily is pretty doable because I don't have college in the summer.

All this said, I understand that if I don't take care of things, they will only get worse and require even worse treatments... I'm guessing people are going to suggest exposure therapy, but I've had years of trying to engage with it and it doesn't help at all. My phobias are also inconsistent sometimes, for some reason, so I might be handling something well for a while and then suddenly I become very afraid of it again.
It's also important to me to have these things done while my parents aren't too old to take care of me, because I'm unfortunately still very dependent on them to feed me and drive me around... I worry about the cost of everything on top of this too, we're lower income and I don't understand enough about insurance to know if this stuff would be covered or not. Probably not something this forum can help with, but I'll mention it anyways because it contributes to my anxiety, sorry.

I guess TL;DR I'm really really really really scared of teeth and medical stuff and dentists and I don't know how to handle a checkup, let alone wisdom teeth removal. I got my teeth cleaned 10+ years ago and it went fine in general but it was still incredibly disturbing to me and my brain still registers it as a bad time. Now that I'm 25 I should probably look into getting my wisdom teeth removed, but that is a scary proposition.
I would appreciate some tips for coping, reassurance, and advice on what to expect (for the process of getting a checkup -> maybe teeth cleaning if necessary? -> getting wisdom teeth removed -> recovering) that ideally does not go into much detail of what they'll do to me or what'll happen to my mouth, if possible. Just like... how it might feel. What to do in preparation. I've also been told that it's usually not great to have all 4 removed at once, but for someone with such a severe fear, would it be better to be one-and-done like that? If not, should I do one at a time or two?

Thanks, and apologies. I'm glad to have found a place where people like me can get some support.

Start with the check up and go from there. They wont do any work immediatley .
I am exactly the same as you with regards anything medical. It’s completely irrational but I cannot overcome it. To the point even picking up the phone to make an appointment is a big battle on its own.

Like you I wanted to know nothing of what would be done or what it would be like so I have so far done my best not to think about things at all, certainly no thinking ahead to what is next and absolutely definitely no googling!!! This saved me from the constant feeling of dread dwelling on what I will have to face but comes with its own problems as arriving at an appointment and sitting in the waiting room causes the anxiety to explode and it needs confronting and overcoming there and then on the spot. So I think mental preparation and trying to confront as much as is possible before the fact is probably a better approach, so you don’t get into the chair and have all these what’s, why’s and how’s drowning your mind all at once.

To allay your immediate concern, I am a couple of years older than you and around 24-25 I had significant pain in one wisdom tooth, I have recently found out after an x-ray it had turned inward almost 90 degrees and started pushing on the molar next to it, hence the pain it caused me back then. I reckon had I gone to see a dentist at that time they would have pulled it but it has since settled and never caused a problem so the dentist said it would now be left in place. From what she said to me, they don’t routinely remove wisdom teeth to avoid potential future issues only as a last resort when they are actively causing real problems. So it may well not be necessary at all.

But it is certainly worthwhile getting in to a dentist and getting on top of it all before you find yourself in my position. I thought my dental hygiene was ok but there were problems that continue to deteriorate without proper intervention, I now find myself needing quite a lot of work that had I been going to regular check ups probably would never have got to this stage.

It’s also a bit like rolling down a hill I think the longer you avoid going to a dentist the more daunting it becomes. Regular exposure just to the every day sights, sounds and smells of a dental practice will desensitise you to it all making merely attending less of an issue and leaving your phobia less to run wild with.

Don’t worry we are not alone and dentists and medical professionals are used to dealing with us. I started having real problems back in February last year and it took until September before I managed to pick up the phone and get the ball rolling. Have had quite a setback and am back at square one and just starting the process again. It feels good once you start doing something about it knowing there will eventually, somehow, be an end and this will all be a thing of the past. But the longer you leave it the harder it gets and the more it plays on your mind. So I would definitely recommend just getting in there as soon as you feel you are able. For me that first hurdle picking up the phone and making an appointment is probably the hardest (although I say that having not got down to the nitty gritty yet) and from there you can just follow the script and do as you’re told rather than need to be proactive about anything.

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