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Wanting to Fix Years of Neglect - Too Afraid to Start



Feb 8, 2011
I've neglected my teeth for a greater part of my life. I've never really had a fear of the pain that came with going to the dentist, but there were several factors that seemed to be working against me. I have a very strong reactions to the smells in medical and dental offices, the texture of toothpaste creeps me out, I'm petrified that they're going to rip out all my teeth at twenty-three because there's nothing they can do and I won't be even in my thirties and I'll be toothless. I grew up with an abusive mother who didn't think I was worth the money to send to the dentist and recently I found out that I went through almost all of my life thus far with an undiagnosed mental illness. I've been talking with my case manager and she thinks that going to the dentist will not only get rid of the pain I've been experiencing, but would also give me a huge boost in the self-esteem department.

I really want to get the problem fixed, but I'm afraid that either the dentist is going to turn me away because my insurance doesn't cover dental care and because of that it will just be more cost effective for them to pull my teeth than help me fix them.

I'm pretty sure that one of my back molars is going to have to be pulled. A huge chip of it fell out three-four years ago and it's gotten so bad now that the gum is puffing up through that spot and hurting really bad. I'm pretty sure that I have more than a couple cavities, and my wisdom teeth need to come out, and just last week I chipped one of my lower canines. I really want to get these problems fixed before they get any worse/spread, but I have pretty bad anxiety issues over normal things and simply cannot afford it. I've looked into my area, and most of the people who I've talked to say that they won't treat unless you can either pay or have insurance so I feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place.


Mar 30, 2009
omaha, nebraska
Hi Annafran,

:welcome: to you!! Let me first say you have come to the right place for anxiety over dentists! I think its safe to say everyine here understands that anxiety really well.
There are many fascinating and amazing stories of courageous people traveling their iwn dental journeys. I invite you to read them as you will see you are not alone and they will give you hope for what is possible.

When my own dental journey started 2 years ago, I was so terrified of the dentist that even the mention of it was enough to give me an anxiety attack. It took several months of persistent persuasian from my husband to get me to see his nice lady dentist. At that point, it had been 15+ years since I had dared venture into a dentists office. Like you, I knew I had teeth that were not in great shape. I had a back molar that had broken 2-3 years before. I also had a molar on top right that had broken in half years ago too. My teeth are badly crooked especially on the bottom and my gums would frequently bleed when I brushed my teeth. But curiously enough, my teeth did not hurt so I let myself believe that they were still okay. Like you, I was just too terrified to start. When my husband and I got married and he found out I had broken teeth that had been that way for a long tIme, he insisted I go. It was a disaster. I was so hysterical the dentist could do nothing with me. Fortunately, she recognized what was happening--an acute phobic reaction---and referred me to another female dentist who specializes in working with dental phobia.
My husband has no fear of the dentist and the experience frightened him because he did not truly understand what I really meant when I told him I was afraid of the dentist. He has learned a lot in 2 years.
My story in detail but I want you to know that you do not have to live your life in fear. Today, I go to my wonderful dentist with no fear, something I would have never imagined I could ever do. You can too!

Paying for dental work can be challenging to be sure. I do not know where you live but where I live we have a wonderful clinic that houses both meducal and dental services under one roof and for people of limited income or those without insurance, they offer dental care on a sliding scale basis which means fees are based on your income which, in most cases, greatly reduces the cost.


Feb 7, 2011
Ohio, US
I agree with your case manager, I think that your self-esteem will benefit greatly. Not only because you'll look/feel better, but you'll be able to feel proud to have gotten through it (trust me on this!) Also bear in mind that having teeth in poor shape can affect your health, and by extension your mood, and treatment could put you in a more positive place. You don't seem to have mentioned whether you're in pain--or I'm just missing that part--but if you're not, count yourself lucky that you may be able to do something about it before it gets to that. That "rock and a hard place" feeling gets pretty hopeless when you toss a little agony into the mix.
I recognize that I'm the last person to give advice in this area, but my suggestion would be to talk to people, everyone if necessary, get opinions from friends and family about their own dentists. Ask if they like them, if they are willing to work with them financially, if there is anything they dislike about their experiences, etc. There is definitely a dentist out there that is right for you, you just need to find him/her.