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What can be done if I am terrified of dental instruments (metal) touching my teeth during the exam?



Junior member
Jan 20, 2022

I had an EXTREMELY TRAUMATIZING experience with an old dentist, about 10 years ago. Unfortunately, the fear, anxiety and trauma caused by the experience cause me to neglect seeing a dentist for over 10 years. considering, my teeth are in fair shape, no broken/missing teeth, and nothing more than just a few cavities that will need to be filled. I'm scheduled for my dental appt in 2 weeks, and I am terrified and I mean TERRIFIED of the dentist using his explorer on my teeth or in my cavities. I have sensitive teeth due to having braces for 4 years, and while thats managed well at home with sensodyne, just the THOUGHT of metal picks touching my teeth makes me want to curl up in a ball, cry and cancel this appointment. Then I try not to think about it and start feeling better and say im goingto keep my appointment.

Im completely fine with the dentist using his fingers, looking with a mirror, doing xrays, etc. i literally just cannot even think about metal on my teeth. is this even a reasonable thing to bring up to him? Is he going to think im crazy and refuse me as a patient? I'm also completely fine with him using those tools IF i am numb and wont feel it in my teeth. I was planning on explaining my prior experience to him before the exam starts and asking him if there are any alternate ways to complete the exam. Is this even a remote possibility? has anyone had this same fear of metal on their teeth, especially if the teeth are sensitive?

Is it possible that he could create a treatment plan for me based on looking and using xrays alone? and I know I'm due for a deep cleaning, so maybe he can further investigate any areas of concern then, when I am numb?

Help! because i am literally losing sleep over this every night. I kinda wish my appointment was sooner to get it over with but this was the soonest they had for a new patient. any advice is appreciated!
Hi smeyers1991,

you are not alone with this - many many people have had awful experiences with the explorer and can’t cope even with the sight of it, so nobody will think you’re crazy. Your new dentist is probably used to people being scared of it and if they have been treating nervous patients, even more so.

It is perfectly possible to do an exam with the mirror and x-rays only, so just feel free to let your dental team know. If you struggle even with “the presence” of it, letting them know beforehand may be a good idea so they make sure it stays away. Thinking of my last few years in dentistry, my dentist hasn’t used it even once - neither for treatment nor for exams. :)

All the best wishes

As @Enarete said, it shouldn't be a problem at all - just explain and ask them not to use it during an exam. Usually, you can detect cavities using x-rays or, for early decay, magnifying loupes and a good light. But sometimes, it may be necessary to double-check by gently using an explorer (*not* stabbing at your teeth). There's a good thread here that explains things:

If your dentist was unsure and they desperately needed to double-check, I suppose they could numb the tooth before touching it with a probe ? (it sounds as if you have no problem with this as long as you're numb?).

is this even a reasonable thing to bring up to him? Is he going to think im crazy and refuse me as a patient?

Although it's a few years back now, I'm pretty sure I requested the same thing (not to use the poker) - I presume it's a fairly common request? Of course it's reasonable to bring it up. If he thinks you're crazy and refuses you as a patient, you're in luck, because it would be a surefire way of knowing that he's not at all suited to helping anxious patients. Better yet, why not contact him beforehand and find out?

There are some downloads on this page which you can use to let your dentist know about your fears:

Seeing how your appointment isn't for another 2 weeks, maybe you could make email contact with them and hopefully get some reassurance ?
Last edited:
Thank you so much for the support and comments on my post, just to keep you both updated (and anyone else that happens to read this) all went GREAT today at my appointment! They did both my exam and cleaning without the use of any metal instruments! Also my mouth wasnt as bad as I thought, i just need 3 fillings and my dentist said he doesnt think i even need a deep cleaning at this time. He said for not going to the dentist in so long, my teeth are actually in GOOD shape! I'm so relieved and glad the initial appointment is over, now moving forward to getting my fillings done, appts are already scheduled and for once in my life I am not scared or nervous about going to the dentist anymore!
@smeyers1991 glad it’s not just me. I’m fine with the dentist using the mirror and putting their gloved hand inside my mouth too to look around. But I really don’t enjoy they use the explorer to poke. Or they’re like “ looks like a cavity” and they grab the explorer to take a closer look. Or they’re found a cavity ask if it hurts and continue to poke. It’s better if I can’t hear the explorer/ metal tools. I also never understand the numbers they call out. I might ask at this appointment if they can avoid using the pick or be gentle.