• Dental Phobia Support

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today was the day, but i cancelled.



May 4, 2023
united states
i feel like such a failure because this afternoon was supposed to be my first dental appointment in 15 years and i called this morning and cancelled. i did reschedule but still feel like i failed somehow. last night i tossed and turned for hours. i maybe got five hours of sleep according to my apple watch. and i know when i start to lose sleep that things aren't going to be good for me anxiety wise. we have workers coming to our house tomorrow and next week to do a bunch of things, and i feel like my anxiety would be more at bay with just one thing at a time to deal with.

so today and tomorrow i'll handle the house stuff. this weekend i will handle resting and prepping for the workers again next week. and next week i'll handle the workers being here all day again. on the 13th, i have an appointment with a dentist that was supposed to be my second opinion and to see which one i liked better - and the appointment i had this afternoon was rescheduled for the 20th of this month. so i am grateful that i didn't outright cancel - i genuinely called in with the notion thati was still going to face my fears head on......just not today.

i just feel horrible because of the wave of relief i had when i called and said, "i am going to have to cancel and reschedule for the next two weeks if possible" - HUGE relief. so i would be lying if i said i couldn't have made it today to the appointment. i could have made it. but i also know how my anxiety is and life happens.

has anyone else gone to face their fears after years and years of neglecting seeing the dentist only to cancel?
Hi!! First, you're not a failure. When it comes to tackling phobias (like dentists), a common first step is a very limited exposure, like calling the dentist's office or for some people even just driving by. For a lot of people even making that appointment would have been very hard. You making that appointment shows that you are contemplating change, which is great. For the longest time I couldn't even talk about anything involving dentists without crying and panicking, so as you can well imagine it took me forever to make an appointment and keep it. This'll be a pretty long comment, only because I feel for you and want to share anything that I think might help.

I've done the same thing before. I remember how good that sudden rush of relief used to feel, but it never lasted, and if anything it prolonged the time I had to spend dreading the upcoming appointment, usually to the point that I was in so much pain I physically couldn't take it anymore. Very recently I went to a dentist for an emergency extraction, and this time I had taken it PAST that threshold. It's super inadvisable to wait until the pain is too intense to stand to see a dentist, but I waited until the pain interfered with literally every area of my life to the point it was hard to function at all. Everything between my most recent visit and the last one before it was just an ongoing internal debate as to whether it would be more painful to get the work done or to continue on the way things were. This tooth was rotting in my head for upwards of five years and when it came to a head, I continued to keep the pain to myself, and if I couldn't, lie about what I suspected was causing the massive headaches and changes in vital signs (couldn't possibly be this enormous cavity, must be general stress, right?). The last time I had made a dentist appointment the anxiety was too much for me to stand and I cancelled and never looked back, until years later when I got to this point. You mention other stresses you're dealing with, like having work done on your house. If you're in significant pain from dental problems, that pain is probably making it that much harder for you to deal with having a lot on your plate. Pain is super demanding and unlike scheduled tasks it can't just be put off to get to later--- it stays in place and disrupts everything else.

My best advice to you is to look inside yourself and be honest with yourself about what kinds of support you'll need in order to get this done. For me this involved having to be real with my family about the fact that my dental anxiety is TRULY as severe as it is, and that everyone in this world has things they are simply unable to do and for me one of those things is getting dental work without some form of sedative. Having my dad with me was important too--- it can be hard to face a fear alone because when you're afraid it's hard to focus on anything but the fear, let alone the reasoning that handling the problem is something that needs to be done. Someone else in your corner to hold you accountable and go with you for moral support might be beneficial for you. If sedation is something you need, someone to drive you to the appointment might help you to worry less and let whatever medication do its job. I don't know the exact background of your situation, but if you really think about what you need vs what is missing, you might find that someone can help you more easily than you expected. While you take inventory of these things remember that it's okay to rely on others once in a while.

I have no way of knowing for sure the extent of the work that you need, but I can say that it's quite possible the work you need is a lot less extensive than you're anticipating. Tooth pain has a way of affecting entire regions of the mouth and making local problems seem more general. I was SURE that after getting my X-rays done the dentist would tell me that I need multiple extractions, multiple root canals, etc. . . and as it turned out all I really need done was this one extraction, filling two small cavities, to have an old temporary crown replaced with a permanent one, and to start coming back for bi-annual cleanings. I can't promise you that your situation will turn out the same way, but if your dentist is accepting and non-judgmental they'll tell you matter-of-factly what it is you need and it might be less than you think, especially if apart from avoiding dentists you reduce harm by taking every independent action possible to maintain your dental health at home.

I know getting there can be really, really hard. But once you're there and you get the work done you're putting the problem to a stop and it is very satisfying in the end, especially if you have extra support to help the visit go well. Because I was scared, because I didn't have the right support resources mobilized, because I was overwhelmed by the possibility of getting bad news before even getting a first opinion, I caused myself a lot of needless suffering. I was in constant pain for years, and it took a dentist seconds to end that pain. Now, 4 days after, the pain went away and my mind is quiet and at peace. I'm working 8-hour shifts again instead of tapping out after 6, and I'm better able to deal with the little stresses in life. I can say with 100% certainty that taking steps to go back to the dentist improved my life in every way. I don't know what your dentist will tell you once you get there, but I believe in you that you will be able to keep your appointments soon and that your life will be better for it once you do.

You're on the right track--- best of luck and keep on keeping on! :XXLhug:
You're most definitely not a failure! You didn't cancel, you rebooked, which says a lot for you IMHO.

Cut yourself some slack because you have a lot going on at the moment, and when you suffer from anxiety, added pressure is the last thing you need.

Good luck with all that you've got going on, I'm sure you'll make it to the next appointment (I did last time!) x
@BunnySPN will do. Next week is the (first) big day.
Hi fearfulteefies,

your reasoning (having only one thing going on) sounds good to me and so does the rescheduling. It's not like you cancelled and feel like you won't be able to do that again, it's just that you have an idea about what level of anxiety you're able to cope with and what factors make it worse.

Dental fear is a lot about loss of control for most people and it can be very healing to have the experience of having a choice, being free to reschedule and the world being okay despite rescheduling. It's a balancing act between pushing into discomfort and taking control as much as you can. Give yourself a pat on the back for rescheduling straight away, some people just cancel and only try again years later ;)

i just feel horrible because of the wave of relief i had when i called and said, "i am going to have to cancel and reschedule for the next two weeks if possible" - HUGE relief. so i would be lying if i said i couldn't have made it today to the appointment. i could have made it. but i also know how my anxiety is and life happens.
Could you share more about this? What is it about the feeling of relief that is making you feel horrible? Also, I am not sure I got the part with failure. What is it about rescheduling an appointment that would make you a failure? What makes a person being a failure in the first place?

All the best wishes
Well I totally get the cancellation . I had to have a tooth removed a year ago and the latest appointment was my choice mad heh ....but the later made me feel in control . Will y too as sooner could have been better . We all so what is right for us at that moment so dont stress x
@Enarete im not sure how else to put it. I just felt relief knowing I didn’t have to go that day when I rescheduled. Appointment is set for the 20th and 26th of next month for the other dentist. I don’t think I’ll be going to the one on the 26th of next month because it doesn’t feel right.
Okay, the relief makes sense. What was supposed to get done on the 26th? Was that the second opinion that you were getting?