• Dental Phobia Support

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When the fear of not going equals the fear of going...



Well-known member
Aug 17, 2012
Let me first start off my saying I'm a super phobic... like I can't even watch toothpaste commercials without squeeming. Even watching Finding Nemo or the start of the Hangover II is enough to make me panic.

When anybody brings it up, I'm like, "Oh, man, look at the time." The other day my boss was leaving early and was like, "Got to go, dentist appointment," and I felt like he was going to his own funeral, but alas, he came back alive the next day.

My fears started as a mid-teen. The dentist we had was horrible... not kid-friendly at all. He was also incompentent and once gave me fillings and the teeth became sensitive to cold. My sister went to another dentist after him, and he was like, "By, golly, gee, who was your other dentist?!" Awesome, right?

But, I guess, overall, it's the chair, that light, the rubber gloves, the proddy thing, the sound of the drill, and the thought of somebody inside my mouth.

Well, I haven't gone in quite some time. I brush 2-3 times a day and use flouride most of the time, but I can't bring myself to go back.

However, last week, I lost a filling. I wanted to make an appointment this week, but I couldn't bring myself to do it (I put the number in my phone and everything!). It's not just the lost filling... there are a couple of teeth that I know need to be filled as well. They don't really hurt, well, one is kind of like a bit like, "yeah, you kind of do, but I don't want to admit it." I just hope fillings are all I need; however, I hear words like extraction, root canals, and abcesses a lot around here, and that terrifies me! I also had one wisdom tooth come in last year sometime. I'm worried, he's going to want to have them pulled, even though they aren't causing me trouble.

So, I've been very stressed... just thinking about making an appointment. How sad is that? I've decided that I just can't do it. I feel like I wasted a week just dreading it; however, I like to think that telling the world all of this is my "progress" for the week. My new plan is to talk it over with my mom on Sunday night and see if she can make it for me. Why Sunday? Well, the office is closed until Monday, so in order to avoid the topic of discussion this weekend (when there's nothing either of us can do), I think it's best I wait. The thought of even telling my mom scares me, but I know it's the first step. She and the rest of my family go to the same guy (I'd rather say guy than dentist... it humanizes him for me), and they say he's great. Even people online say he's great. One guy even said that he "hates the dentist," but this guy makes it hard because he's just not scary.

The problem is the fear of not going is becoming just as great as the fear of going. The stress at work is bad enough, and when I think about this every second of every day, it wears on me. I feel like I can't win. The fear of going and not going is eating me alive.

In the light of day, my fear seems stupid. I mean, everyone does this. Children do this. Heck, I've jumped out of a plane, but I can't do this. What is wrong with me?

What helps is knowing my dad is the same as me... except he faced his 7-8 year drought about a year ago.
He, of course, came out with like no troubles. :scared: That's encouraging to me because he went to the same guy I plan on going to (eventually...). I know I have more problems than he did, but it's great to know that the dentist wasn't cruel about it. :jump:

But, yeah, I'd seriously rather die. I know that's horrible, but it's how I feel.

Hopefully, I have enough courage to talk it over with my mom Sunday night. I already know how I'm going to bring it up. In the meantime, I'm going to try to relax and not think about it for a couple days. It could always be worse, I tell myself... like I could actually be dying, and although sometimes I wish I was, I know that this situation to be in is a bazillion times better than actually dying... it just doesn't feel that way. :cry:

Somebody help me!
Hi, thisisme and :welcome:.
I think you doing the right thing by "humanizing" the dentist. After all, they are people too and I think if we view them as people instead of the "demon with sharp pointy things that he wants to put in my mouth", it might help us be less afraid of them.
Usually the first appointment is an exam (don't worry, they just look, they won't do anything) possibly X-Rays (don't worry about those either, they won't hurt, although they can be a mite uncomfortable). Then he/she will tell you what they have found and their recommended treatment.
Since you had family members go to him, give him a try. You might find that you also like and trust this guy. Maybe your dad could come along.......that might help. But if YOU don't like or trust this "guy", don't go any further with him........don't begin treatment unless you're sure you like and trust this guy.
I hope that you do tell your mom and she makes an appointment for you.
You can do it, and going to the RIGHT dentist won't be the horrible experience you're expecting.
Much :clover::clover: and many :XXLhug:'s.
I just wanted to say, I get what you mean about reading about extractions, abscesses and such... it trips me out too, but that's not some sort of... man, words are really failing me tonight. Not everyone gets that kind of news, and you don't have to have a long list of problems to fix, to be phobic. I'm one of those whose phobia is much bigger than the list of physical problems. Just the way it happens sometimes, I guess.

I've got an appointment tomorrow because of some of the same feelings like you talked about. My one troublesome tooth is acting odd, and I'm scared out of my mind to go, but I'm fixing to spend seven weeks away from home, so... you know. I'm a tiny bit more afraid of having to find an emergency dentist in Miami, than I am of going tomorrow to see the guy who did a good job with me when this tooth acted up last time. I agree with.. who was that posting before me.. chickenjen (I love that name!). You sound pretty confident that this guy will be a great match but if you meet him and there's a clash of personality or whatever, go ahead and look around and see if somebody else would be a better match. I'm speaking from experience there; I've already made that mistake, and if you wanted, I could tell you all about it -- no need to discover that for yourself! :) Anyway... I hope I've been encouraging. That's what I'm trying for, but I'm all wound up about my thing tomorrow, so I don't know if I'm coming across quite as I intend.

(Oh, and I have to giggle now that I just now saw that you feel odd because you've jumped out of a plane, but struggle so much with this fear. You're soooo not alone in that! It's still okay to be phobic!)

You have made a good start by joining this forum. The title of your thread leads me to think you are going to do okay! You recognise that not going to the dentist is eating away at you and impacting on your life in a big way.
You cannot alter what your teeth are actually like now. That is fact. We always magnify in our minds the state of our teeth, imagining all sorts of worst case scenarios. You are aware you may need a filling, maybe a couple more, but you could very well be surprised at how little treatment you need. (I had not been for 20 years, and after 9 weeks or so of treatment, all was repaired and my teeth haunted me no more). Okay, I didn't exactly skip and sing on the way to the dentist, but was pleasantly (in a guarded kind of way) surprised at how I became "used to" going. The good feeling from getting the work done is the best!

The only way to stop this fear growing and feeding on itself is to visit your dentist, let him have a gentle look, he will suggest treatment, then it is up to you how you proceed. The very best of luck. I hope you will be able to explain your fears to the dentist (some do this by email before they go, I did) and that you are able to get the treatment you need. You will gain freedom from all the stress and worry.

By the way, I don't think my dentist has ever used a proddy thing. They seem to be able to diagnose quite well without them, if that is what you wish.
Hi Thisisme, and welcome to the forum. I really hope you get as much out of it as I have. After three years of lurking, I finally acted on addressing my phobia, and started by contacting a dentist whose name had come up on here. (I didn't have a dentist that family members went to who looked like they would be sympathetic or rather I couldn't talk to any family about it). I had been to a dentist only rarely in 40 years and had gone through all that time avoiding conversations about dentists, not looking at adverts on TV, not taking my daughter to the dentist but getting someone else to do it etc etc. It got to the point where I was dreaming about teeth falling out and other dental horrors, and the huge black cloud hanging over me was getting ever larger and was having an effect on my whole wellbeing.

I guess it doesn't matter what is the one impetus to get you to a dentist but the thing that finally made me go was not wanting to be an embarrassment to my granddaughter (as my phobic mother had been to my daughter). Sorry rambling about my phobic life story! Anyway, the first contact I made with the dental practice was by email, as suggested above by Toucan - it was great being able to "speak" about all my problems without having to do it face to face. When I finally made an appointment to see a very nice chap I took along another copy of my email for him to read on the spot in case my previous one hadn't been put in the file. He took a good few minutes to re-read it and I am so glad I did that. I don't think I could have poured out everything verbally without a box full of tissues and a very long appointment!

As so many people have said, in my case I didn't need anywhere near as much treatment as I had built it up to be in my imagination and I am coming to the end ot the treatment needed after a few months. I am still not comfortable with going to the dentist but can do it:jump:. I still can't talk to people (even close family) about it but for me that doesn't matter as long as I can keep this going and not drop back to my old ways and start finding more important things to do rather than go to the dentist! But I am happy to say that the black cloud has now gone and no longer impacts on my whole life. No more bad dreams either.

Good luck and let us know how things are going.
I just I don't know. I'm freaking out. I feel like the pain is getting worse... everywhere!

This one tooth I'm convinced will need like a root canal now. And, it's funny because all these problems started after I lost a filling (which convinced me I needed to go), and that tooth is the least of my concerns now.

And, yes, I did something horrible and googled stuff. :shame:

I bow down to all of you brave people. Your stories really do help, but my phobia is still stronger than ever.

I don't even think I could let them put the "bib" around me. My heart is racing. I can't enjoy anything in life. How am I supposed to enjoy my life ever? I'm stressed beyond belief. I feel so sick all the time. I have like this pit in my stomach, like part of my wants to cry, the other part wants to die. How are these visits part of everyday life?

Last night, I had a dream somebody was suffocating me in my bed, and for the last couple seconds of that dream, I was okay with it.

Maybe I'll feel better when I tell my mom, but like I said, even the thought of doing that is eating me alive.
Nobody knows about this... except you guys... and maybe that's part of the problem. Maybe, opening up and asking my mom for help will be like lifting part of this load off my shoulder? Then again, maybe it will seem like a larger load is being added... consisting of an appointment and all. :scared:

This really shouldn't be that hard. I know what I need to do, and I'll let you know when I do, but man, if
I could die right now, I think I would choose that. I'm always stressed about something- interviews, work, my future, but this... this is by far the biggest stressor in my life right now, and it really shouldn't be. I guess the main thing that worries me is how much they are going to find. I don't even want to know... just do it and I'll find out later when the bill comes in. Then, the whole going every six months thing again makes me sick. Let's just say I survive this... it doesn't end. It goes on forever... That too makes me sick.

Some people are lucky. They never have to face their fears. God, seriously, why couldn't I have been afraid of heights or something?! Lucky souls all over the world are saying, "No, thanks, I'll watch you ride the rollercoaster" while I don't even have a choice. :mad:What kind of world do we live in?

ETA: jen78 - How did your appointment go? Success?! :jump:
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Keep posting, keep talking, you are with people who have gone through this.
Some of us who have now had our treatment may come across as a bit hey ho about it all, and sound as if we have got it all sussed. I doubt if any of us will ever forget the dark time when we were terrified of anyone finding out about our awful secret "other life". The one that tormented us and ruined our lives. At the same time, a lot of us were putting on another personna which was the one the world saw. Talking things out on here helps you see that you are by no means alone.

The reason we may seem to come across as a bit too happy sometimes, is because years of hiding teeth and putting up with pain (20 in my case) ARE OVER. I have an appointment at the end of the month with a hygienist. This is the first time I have seen one of these people in all my 63 years. i can talk about it now. But I can also guarantee that I will go into a trance-like stress state from about a week before the appointment. I know it will be fine, but I will put myself through hell before I go. And I will go, because I will never let my teeth ruin 20 years of my life again. I WILL be in control of them. My dentist has been wonderful, I'm sure my hygienist will be as well, I will quake on the way in because I can't help it, but boy will I feel good on the way out. That's why there are so many :jump: posts afterwards.

Helpful people on here can explain much better than I can about sedatives, various methods of sedation and interaction with your person who will look after your teeth for you. (I avoided the "D" word for you). I just know that "going" is definitely better than not going. It may take you a while to get to that visit, but ask for any help you need. You deserve to have yourself looked after. You deserve freedom from the worries and pain that are haunting you. :XXLhug:
Yeaaaah.. don't google if you're only scaring yourself. Great way to find information, but great way to really, really ratchet up the worry too. Sometimes it's better to ask friends, family... a forum full of fellow phobics... and get less-than-complete information, if it means you're not scaring yourself silly.

I'm really glad it's helpful to you to read all the stories here... one day I hope to be able to contribute more to helping the new folks feel like that, too. The stories help me, also. One thing I've learned in the week I've been lurking is that people more afraid than me, have had more in-depth problems fixed than I have, and lived to tell the story. That gives me courage... not much in comparison to how much fear is inside, but you have to start somewhere, right?

Some people are lucky. They never have to face their fears. God, seriously, why couldn't I have been afraid of heights or something?! Lucky souls all over the world are saying, "No, thanks, I'll watch you ride the rollercoaster" while I don't even have a choice. :mad:What kind of world do we live in?

ETA: jen78 - How did your appointment go? Success?! :jump:

I'd just like to say, some people afraid of heights are NOT that lucky! I'm flat-out terrified. Like, breathing into a bag in an airplane, before we even close the door, terrified. So naturally, I'm going into aviation. Why? Because something within me demands it of me... and to be everything that I want in this life, I have to get over that, and grab the stupid controls (I swear, this week is going to be THE week!) and become this person that my heart demands. And the dental phobia, honestly, has a lot of parallels. I could walk away and forget about it... learn to live with whatever aches come along. It IS possible... I think so, anyway. But if I do that, I can't have the life that I want. This week was the week that I decided I want that life, more than I want to avoid working through the fear.

How did the appointment go... I did post an update on my own "support" thread, but I... it went. It was supportive and good, and productive, and everything's just fine in there. But I couldn't lean back, he had to stand up and lean over. My feet parked themselves where my knees belonged, so I was all scrunched up.. I couldn't let go of my teddy bear. But the appointment itself was very safe-feeling, nothing that crossed my emotional-safety boundaries, which is something that's really important to me. It was just really, really hard for me to allow the guy to get that close to those boundaries, you know? It's like letting the dog sit with his nose touching my plate, and trusting him not to snarf my steak in one gulp. It's a lot of fear and so much anger pouring out all of a sudden, and honestly? I don't know how to get through it either. But... this is a lot of improvement from where I started, so I guess it's not hopeless... at least that's what my logical side is telling me. I'm not quite sure I believe it yet. But I survived the appointment, well enough that I'll probably be jumping out of airplanes again in another few days (because I still haven't gotten the hang of landing the fool thing... :innocent:)
thisisme :welcome: and :thankyou: for coming on and sharing how you feel and what you are afraid of. I was where you are with the feeling sick and the whole dental thing taking over my life. I was in pain and convinced that every tooth in my head needed something major doing.

I did go to the dentist shaking, feeling sick and just wishing I could go to sleep and not wake up, but even sleep didn't give my mind any rest because then the dreams start as you have stated.

I found a different dentist and things changed, he was very calm and he listened, he didn't use the probe (prody stick) he made sure that before he did anything I felt okay with it, he explained without too much detail what was needed and when I said that I was afraid of jumping when the drill was used, he was not fazed by this and said he could work around that, and that it would be fine.
I got a real trust with this dentist, and although I was still nervous I ended up having a tooth out and two root canal treatments by him, something I was never going to do, ever.

The point of this information is to let you know that there are nice considerate dentists out there and quite a lot of them as well, it is a few rouge :devilish: dentists that cause us to be phobic. You just need to start to have a look, there are dentists on here in the recommendations, and there may be one on there that you could think about trying. Or else if you would like to give an area there are some people on here Kim and coolin that are very good at having a look around and finding dentists that look as if they are worth having a look at. Letsconnect is also a mine of information and has a lot of knowledge of practices and individuals that are good with phobics too. I have mentioned these three because they are just the first names that come to mind, but there are loads of people on here that may be able to help you.

Dentistry has come such a long way as well in the last few years, and there isn't really anything that can't be done pain free and with you made to feel comfortable. Having said that although I have had treatment pain free I am still nervous but I am not constantly letting my teeth control my life totally, and I don't have the nightmares all the time now. Things do come back to haunt me occasionally, I have just come to accept that I am always going to be worried and stressed at times, but not all the time.

If you liked the look of a dental practice and felt you could maybe give it a try, you could try and e mail them, explaining how you feel. See what feed back you get, then decide what to do from there. The first visit need only be a meet and greet, you don't need to have anything done. At the most they do like, if possible, to have a look and maybe an x ray, but if you felt that was too much you just make another appointment and take it from there.

I wish you strength to be able to start and have alook :clover::clover::clover: :butterfly:
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Heck, I've jumped out of a plane, but I can't do this. What is wrong with me?

:welcome: Thisisme, you may be interested in my DFC journal, "Unexpected Gratitude," specifically the post dated 15 June 2012 titled "Prepping for the Crown Prep: Remembering Blue Skies." I've had a few skydiving and other aviation adventures, which I definitely consider life-changing (and am also more comfortable than most when it comes to public speaking and medical surgery!), but avoided dentists for 16 years. With the caveat that different things work for different people, I prepared for my first BIG dental appointment this summer the same way I had prepared for trips to drop zones and airstrips, and it actually (sort of) worked!:cloud9:

As debilitating as dental phobia can be (and certainly appears to be in your case), you have two resources not available to all phobics: first, your family has a good relationship with a "tooth guy" they trust. This does not definitely mean he is the right one for you, but his office is a good place to start. If you see him and the trust/chemistry doesn't feel right, you can always look elsewhere. Secondly, you write that your father is a dental phobic who seems to have adjusted to the problem. If so, he should be a source of support for you, and may be willing to accompany you to appointments.

Many on the DFC forum write that a big part of overcoming dental phobia is finding the right dentist, and this is correct. Due to what I believe are multiple factors (including that his training included an extra residency year learning "special needs" dentistry), my dentist somehow knows how to work with me, and he's the first one in my life about whom I can honestly write this.

For years, "not going" was much easier for me than "going," because I practiced aggressive preventive oral hygiene and wasn't having obvious problems. I started experiencing symptoms of minor problems in autumn 2011, and developed a major problem (a lost filling in a long-broken molar) in spring 2012. Once I had a major problem, "not going" was no longer an option.

When you are ready, I hope you are able to make an appointment. Please keep us posted!
:welcome: Thisisme, you may be interested in my DFC journal, "Unexpected Gratitude," specifically the post dated 15 June 2012 titled "Prepping for the Crown Prep: Remembering Blue Skies." I've had a few skydiving and other aviation adventures, which I definitely consider life-changing (and am also more comfortable than most when it comes to public speaking and medical surgery!), but avoided dentists for 16 years. With the caveat that different things work for different people, I prepared for my first BIG dental appointment this summer the same way I had prepared for trips to drop zones and airstrips, and it actually (sort of) worked!:cloud9:

iDent – I love the fact that you are such the adventurer, but share the same fear as me. I do things people wouldn't normally do (zip line, skydive, bungee jump), but you know, something that people normally do freaks me out. I too am more comfortable with public speaking (I get such a rush from it!). I actually really like medical stuff too (those "real" trauma shows are the best!)

Your story sounds somewhat similar to mine. I swore I was never going back either – a stupid promise I made to myself at like 15, but it made me get through that visit. The next time my mom scheduled me an appointment, I locked my bedroom door, locked myself up in the closet, and didn’t come out. I cried for hours, took a bike ride around the neighborhood just balling my eyes out. If I didn’t do that, and if I just went, I think things would be a lot different now. Since then, they found a good “guy” that works for them.

I can’t change the past. I wish I could, but I can’t. I like your eyes closed thing. I wonder if I can bring in ear plugs? See no evil… hear no evil..,. obviously, no evil then, right? It’s not the pain… it’s the thought… that light… even I don’t get that close to my teeth! It’s what they are going to say, what they say they need to do. I hate when people say “fix” teeth… I prefer “treat” them.

I was inspired by a Grey’s Anatomy quote the other day that I want to share with you all:

“There was a moment when I thought I can't do this, I can't do this alone. I close my eyes and imagine myself doing it, and I did, I blocked out the fear, and I did it.”

Sometimes, I feel like I have moments of strength… like “God, this is so easy!” And, then, like right now, I feel like I can no longer live on this planet.

Thanks everyone for the support. I’ve been reading your responses and your stories, and they make me feel better. I wish this wasn’t so scary for me, but I feel like you guys understand it… It seems so stupid at times that I can’t focus because of this. I’m a mess at work now… so unmotivated and depressed. Work can be naturally depressing, but this fear is making it a billion times worse. I never thought I’d let this ruin my life, but I have. I got like 3 hours of sleep last night. :cry: The best thing is to really just go in and do it… but that is so much easier in theory.

I love that nobody forces anybody to do anything on here because honestly, I think the less forcing and more supporting is what gets people to go in. :jump:

I'll keep you updated!
In the light of day, my fear seems stupid. I mean, everyone does this. Children do this.. . .Somebody help me!

I know exactly what you mean. I have watched numerous videos on YouTube of children going to the dentist, even getting injections, and they don't seem bothered at all by it. Some of them even seem happy, or at least proud of themselves for being so brave.

(I also have no idea why parents videotape their children at the dentist, but that's another story.)

I have said exactly this same thing to myself whenever I need to go, things like "Four year olds can do this! You should be able to as well!"

I voiced this frustration to my fiance, and he pointed out that these kids haven't had a fear building up for twenty years. A fear building up for decades is obviously much more difficult than the fear those kids might have had building up for a hours/days/weeks/etc. Any fear is going to be exacerbated by the length of time it's been present.

I really envy those children actually because they already seem to be comfortable with the whole idea, and I'm not sure I ever will be.