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The past never goes away



Junior member
Jun 8, 2023
CW: long history of bad experiences

I'm nearer 60 than 3, but my past still shapes how I feel about the dentist. And my reactions feel very out of kilter to what they should be.

My mum had all her teeth out before she was 20 (as was almost common in the late 40s/1950s).

As a child I had massive buck teeth, I couldn't get my bottom jaw to meet my front teeth no matter how hard I tried to thrust my jaw forward. I had dire experiences at the dental clinic near where I lived pre-age 7, with the only good thing to come of surviving the visits the books I got as a reward for getting through it (lots of screams - me, temper - from the staff: indeed, after I left the area we found out there had been complaints about how the staff were with patients, including primary school kids like me).

I then avoided the dentist for several years, but then had to have a lot of work done as I headed to senior school: orthodontist brace, multiple teeth removed (as normal number of teeth was too many for my mouth and they grew at right angles), bad reaction to gas and air (hallucinating), and struggles with needles. I did get my jaw to finally allow my teeth to get together but then I found out my dentist was the father of a friend and that weirded me out so much there was a long stretch of avoiding dentist visits again because I was too scared to see them.

When I next went to one it was nearly 18 years later (as I was in high pain and partner dragged me), I needed root canal work and a filling between my front teeth which nearly instantly failed to secure/protect, leaving me with a very discoloured /dead front tooth. Plus I ended up having two lots of local anaesthetic because I was screaming after the first dose and the dentist couldn't get his equipment into my mouth without me shaking. Of course once the work was done, my mouth was very numb leaving me drooling and unable to talk or consume water / food for several hours.

It was another long stretch again before I faced the dentist, needing another removal and multiple fillings. Whilst I found the hygienists I then started to brave seeing absolutely lovely, and always going an extra mile to deal with my shaking anxiety, the dentists were a trial: dismissive, frustrated that my reactions meant I took longer than their schedule allowed to process me. It's been hard.

I often have flashbacks when I get the message to make an appointment and delay as long as I can before booking (the pandemic gave me a break) and although I struggle with the hygienist (I can't breathe well through my nose so gag very quickly, plus I'm rigid in the chair, eyes closed) knowing how lovely they are and that I can see the hygienist once I've had a dental check up - helps me get through the dentist appointment.

This is the first time I've really acknowledged the extent of my anxiety and the feelings of stress booking, attending and getting through appointments invokes. The tension and anxiety are horrid.
Hi @AmySantiago10 and welcome

So sorry to read about your past bad experiences with dentists, they sound truly awful :(. I'm not surprised that you dread your visits. It's a great testament to your strength and courage that you've been persevering with making and attending appointments, despite the horrible feelings of anxiety - kudos to you :respect:.

Would things be any different if your dentist was understanding and supportive, just like the hygienists you've been seeing in recent years? Because of the thread title ("The past never goes away"), I wasn't 100% sure if your current dentist is any better, or if you're still stuck in the same situation with dentists not being caring and supportive?
The last dentist I saw, not my regular, was MUCH nicer. But it tends to be a revolving door of practitioners apart from the ones I've usually seen, so it may depend if the latest sticks around.... 🤞🤞🤞🤞
So sorry for your trauma I have similar. I cant face any dental procedure now so opted for sedation it's the only way I can cope
@Jackieallen having such bad reactions even needle sedation is awful for me.... Hope sedation helps you...
The last dentist I saw, not my regular, was MUCH nicer. But it tends to be a revolving door of practitioners apart from the ones I've usually seen, so it may depend if the latest sticks around.... 🤞🤞🤞🤞

Is this an NHS dental practice, where dentists are moving on into private practice after a couple of years? Just trying to understand why you can’t stay with one dentist. That would make it really difficult :(. Building trust and having a dentist you like and who is supportive is so important.
It's a biggish practice near teaching hospital so 🤷‍♀️
Do you think you could request the nice dentist again?