• Dental Phobia Support

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Worried about my gums and my upcoming appointment



Jul 13, 2012
Hi everyone! :waves: I doubt anyone will remember me, but I posted a few times here about ten years ago, back when I was dealing with getting my wisdom teeth out. At the time of my last post, everything was good for me. Unfortunately, things didn’t stay so good, and now I’m back hoping for some more support. I’m sorry for not sticking around last time. I was dealing with a lot of other things at the time, but I hope I can do better this time as I’d like to support others as well. Thank you!

Background: So long story short-ish (I’m bad at keeping things short), I have always had a low pain tolerance and been an anxious person in general, and then I had a really bad experience with my childhood dentist removing a wisdom tooth, which caused me a lot of fear and anxiety. I eventually found a dentist I liked and trusted, who removed my other three wisdom teeth using IV sedation. I thought my dental fear issues were under control because I had a dentist I could trust, and I knew I could have IV sedation if I ever needed anything else major done. Great! And it was great for about a year or so, until two things happened in quick succession: 1. My dentist and his wife had a child, so they moved away to be closer to family (which is great, I was happy for them, just sad that I needed to find a new dentist) and 2. I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune endocrine condition called Addison’s disease/adrenal insufficiency (basically, my adrenal glands died, so I don’t make cortisol and a few other important hormones) which needs special management for any kind of procedure, and I read that it is a contraindication for IV sedation. So me being me, I freaked out and didn’t see a dentist again for years, because what if something ever needed done and I couldn’t have IV sedation? :rolleyes:

I finally got up the courage to go see a dentist again back in 2018?19?, but I didn’t get a good feeling about the place. There were a few things that just didn’t seem right to me. I don’t want to give too much detail, but I really didn’t want to go back there, and it kicked my dental anxieties up a few notches higher than they already were. Anyway, they told me I had mild gingivitis at that time, but that it should go away after my cleaning. It didn’t. Then there was COVID and everything was shut down, and then around the time when dentists’ offices started opening up again, my family moved to another state and I had to get established with all new doctors and was busy dealing with a lot of appointments, which was very stressful in its own right.

Gosh, this is getting so long. I’m sorry. I’m trying to keep it short but failing. I had chipped a tooth (or so I thought) early on during the lockdowns and was very worried about that. I was eventually able to go see an awesome, amazing dentist who specializes in anxious patients and those with special needs and medical conditions (like me) about 8 months ago about that tooth. It turned out to be nothing but a chipped sealant, thank goodness. He told me I have strong, healthy teeth, and did not even comment on my gums. His office is hours and hours away though (took the whole day to go there and back), and I don’t drive, so he recommended getting a cleaning at a dentist local to me. But after getting up the courage to see him, it seemed like I was all out of courage. The thought of having to face another new dentist, after worrying about that chipped spot for over a year, and just having to see so many new doctors (I like them all, especially my new endocrinologist, but still, it was a lot of medical stress), made me cry. I couldn’t take any more medical stress at the time, I just couldn’t. I never made an appointment, and I regret it so much.

Current: About three weeks ago, my gums in front of my bottom front teeth seemed to get a lot worse over night. I have good dental hygiene (brush twice a day and floss once a day), and always have, but it’s been a few years since my last professional cleaning. My gums have been red in that area for years now. They seem to have receded a little as well. Now they feel kind of swollen and sore, when they never hurt at all before. I don’t see any blood when I brush and floss, but sometimes I think I taste a little blood. I’m afraid it may have progressed to something much worse than just mild gingivitis, and I may need some kind of painful treatment done. I seriously regret letting fear control me for so long. If I had found a new dentist right away and kept going for regular cleanings, I would not be in this boat today. Or even if I had gone 8 months ago. ☹️ I worry about my gums constantly. I look at them obsessively and worry that I may be hurting them more by not brushing or flossing the right way. It makes it hard to do anything. 😭😭😭

Anyway, I kept telling myself that I could either go get checked out now, better late than never, or I could live with this miserable fear for years. I mentioned this thought to my mom, who talked me into letting her make me an appointment with a local dentist here who has good reviews. I love my mom so much! She always has my back and will make those hard calls for me and support me. ❤️ But she sure got me in quick! It’s next week, and I’m really freaking out now. I wish there was something I could do to make me feel better. I can’t even sleep sometimes because I’m so worried that they are going to do something painful to me. I just can’t handle pain and fear like this. I feel like I just can’t take it. I’m sorry for rambling on so much. It feels good just to get all of this written down. Thank you to anyone who read all of this! Sorry again for being such a chatterbox!
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That is a good sign that there is no bleeding as that is a sign of gingivitis/gum disease if your gums are bleeding all the time when brushing. Maybe your anxiety is getting the best of you and making you think something is wrong when they may not be
Thank you, Kml1998. I really hope that is the case. It’s so hard to keep dealing with these anxieties. The fear of the unknown is the worst. Thank you for your reassurance.
Wow, you sound lot a like me! Are we twins?

So I too have been obsessing over my teeth and gums, worrying that things are progressing and much worse than they probably are. I’ve been to a dentist, and I know what treatment I need, the problem is I currently can’t afford it. Blergh. Anyway, it’s always so scary when you‘re in this place of knowing you need some form of dental help, but not being able to just get it done (for whatever reason.) And that limbo really does create such a huge sense of fear. But look at you go! You let your mom make an appointment for you. That’s so amazing!

It’s also really great that you‘re continuing to look after your teeth. Again, I have been there. That’s what led to my teeth partially becoming as bad as they did in the first place. I was so scared of blood in my mouth and other things, that I stopped brushing and flossing for fear of making it worse. Believe me, it doesn’t make it worse, brushing and flossing is what’s preventing anything from getting worse. So continue to do that and pat yourself on the back every time you do. Even in a small way, you’re conquering fear by doing that.

As for your gums. You sound like me, when I brush occasionally I’ll get the odd smattering of blood, but mostly I get nothing. Absolutely nothing. And if you’re not getting blood every time you brush, that’s a really, really good sign. According to my dentist, there was nothing about periodontal disease on my file, so it sounds like you might just have a more severe form of gingivitis (if you’re anything like me.) Of course I can’t say for certain, but if you’re not in agony, and if you’re lacking that blood, and the fact you maintained an oral care routine? That’s really, really good for your chances.

Also something to remember: when we’re tense, or anxious, our muscles tend to lock up on us. Our body is also connected to itself in a lot of ways. For example, if you‘re anxious and your neck is tensing up, you might feel that in your jaw which in turn might make your teeth or gums feel sore because you have all this tension. You‘re essentially holding your body in a rigid form. I wish I had better advice than “take deep breaths” or “tense your muscles on purpose and then let them go slack” but really I find that’s what works for me. That and distracting myself with other things, or doing a little self massage.

Regret is such a strong thing for us to feel and when I was reading about yours, I felt like I was looking at myself. I too live in a lot of regret for my past actions and what I didn’t do. But here is the thing: it’s over now. You can’t go back to the past, as much as you’d like to. All you can do is focus on the future, what you can do here and now. You’ve posted on this forum which is a great start! You’ve got an appointment with a local dentist, you’ve got your mom, and you’re trying your hardest to conquer your fear. That’s really, really amazing. Don’t humble yourself at all for that accomplishment! Just think of this as the beginning of a new journey in your life, one that has the happiest of endings. Yeah, it’s going to take a bit to get there, and it won’t be easy, but you’re going to do it. You’re going to be okay. We’re all here rooting for you. You got this!
So, I had my appointment. Neither the hygienist nor the dentist were concerned by my gums. They said they were just a little bit irritated in that area from some tarter build up, which was removed during my visit (had quite a bit on my back teeth too). I got a good cleaning and was told to keep doing what I’ve been doing (brushing and flossing). My gums do feel way better, look less swollen and are looking a bit lighter in color. Everyone at the office was so nice, from the moment I walked in the front door, I felt welcome and cared about. They even had TVs on the ceiling that you can watch while in the chair. I have already made my next appointment for six months. I’m sure I’ll be nervous again then, but hopefully with time, some of that fear might fade. I can hope anyway!

I actually wasn’t even going to come back here and post a follow up because I was so ashamed of myself. Here I was wasting people’s time with what turned out to be basically nothing, when so many people on here are dealing with real issues. But when I came back to delete my post (which doesn’t seem possible?), I saw your reply. You’re so kind! It took me a while to process, but I couldn’t leave your incredibly thoughtful and comforting message sitting without a response. I guess the truth is, this is a dental fear site, and I definitely have that, even if I still kind of want to hide my head in the sand. It’s amazing what being scared can make you believe. It’s happened to me twice now, with the chip and my gums. It’s amazing how fear and anxiety can take over a person. I mean, yes, there were some tiny real things wrong (chipped sealant and irritated gums), but they were not nearly as bad I was convinced they were going to be. I believe you’re absolutely right about tension. It can have such a strong effect. Thank you for sharing your ideas and insights with me and others here on the board.

I truly hope that you will be able to get the dental care that you need soon. I’m sorry that you have to keep living in that place of fear and obsession with your teeth and gums because you can’t afford the care you need right now. It’s not fair or an easy place to be. Please keep doing your best to take care of yourself as you have been, and know that I am wishing you all the best. I hope one day you can rest easy knowing that your mouth is okay after your treatment is completed. Big Internet hugs to my dental fear twin! :hug4:
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@Saveme Forgive me for replying late, I was without power for quite a while thanks to a storm!

I’m so glad your appointment went well and that nothing that a little cleaning can’t fix is wrong! That’s great :grin: Each time you go to an appointment, you’re taking back control from your fear, remember that! And though none of us may ever be comfortable in a dentist’s office, I think we can all get to a point where we’re not paralyzed by our fears. They don’t control us, you know? (I need to take my own advice LOL)

I’m glad you didn’t delete your post! (And also I’m not sure you can either.) You never waste people’s time on here. No matter what your fear is, and even if your dental issues aren’t as extensive as others…it’s still a real fear. And it’s good you reached out to connect to those that might help ease that fear. None of us can do anything to help ourselves alone. This community is truly a building block in that regard!

Thank you so much for what you said though. I’m so glad my message was helpful in some way. Truth is, it helps me to help others too I think. But you’re right! It is amazing what anxiety and fear can do. Our brains are kind of amazing at the way they can shape our reality to match our fears (thinking they’re protecting us. Silly brains! A bit too overactive!)

Thank you so so much for wishing me the best, it really meant a lot when I read that, and hugs back! I hope you can continue to conquer your fear and show it who’s in control :hug4:
@APhobicQueen No worries! I’m sorry your power was out for a while. I hope the storm didn’t do too much damage, besides having to be without Internet for a while.

Thank you so much! I really appreciate what you said too. It would be wonderful if we all could reach a point where we no longer let fear rule us! Comfortable and cozy in the dentist’s chair? No. But okay and able to cope? Yes, maybe one day! We can hope and keep working towards that day. :)

Thank you for saying that too. It helps to feel validated for posting here. I was really feeling bad about it for a while there, but I know the connection between all of here is fear, not any kind of specific treatment needs or anything like that. It is indeed good to reach out and ask for help when you need it. Thank you again! :grin:

Oh, of course! Your message was very helpful and so very comforting. I could feel the warmth and sincerity in your words. It is so good that helping others helps you. I go back and forth between reading posts here and wanting to help and say something, and feeling a bit overwhelmed by worry when reading posts. But I really do want to stick around and help a bit if I can. Haha, yeah, our brains can sure do a number on us sometimes! *sigh*

Aww, no, thank you! I really do hope the best for you, that you will be able to get your treatment and conquer your fear one day as well! More hugs! Best wishes to you! :hug4:
@Saveme Luckily for us it did not. Nothing was down near where we were, so whew. Our power is back as well and I’ve never had a better shower I swear! :toofunny:

I certainly hope so! Personally, I’ve started working with a counsellor who I hope can help me lay the trauma I experienced that led to my phobia to rest. And of course, working with a dental office that understands is so paramount (I still can’t believe my new dentist asked me what had happened to me so they could avoid triggering me. I thought dentists didn’t know the word “trigger” with how I’d been treated in the past!)

You’re so welcome! And exactly. I do understand I think, the way in which it can be a little daunting when you see someone who needs more extensive treatment (like myself) versus someone who doesn’t need nearly as much. It feels like you’re just “being a baby” but nope! Fear is fear. Trauma is trauma. And it’s all the same in the end, no matter what it is you need done or what your story is too.

Oh, I get that! Sometimes you do have to step back a little bit (I did that in the beginning a lot) because it can be worrisome to read. You read all of these things you may not have even known about and you’re like “wait what if that’s me?” But I’ve found over the past few months, I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable. But still, my brain goes through the “what if” scenarios daily which is a bit exhausting after a while. Like, let me rest brain, please!

Thank you! I do have the money to get my major work done now which is great (unfortunately, not enough to get all of it done, but that’s okay…I think LOL) The only problem is how long it‘ll take since I‘ll be getting it done under general. My dental practice only does it every so often, so it’s a longer wait but on the flip side, I will be blissfully unconscious and never remember a thing about what’s happened. But thank you again as well. The support really is so comforting to have and I appreciate it so much.
@APhobicQueen Sorry for the late reply on my side now. I have company coming to visit soon (well, hopefully) and have been running myself ragged trying to get everything ready, do some shopping, get the house cleaned up, make fun plans, etc. It’s a good stress (I really need some fun and happiness in my life!), but wow, am I tired and worn out. I did read through some of your other posts last night, but I ended up falling asleep before I could finish or ever think of writing a coherent response. 😩 My presence here is probably going to be a bit spotty for now, so I hope you don’t mind if it takes me a while to respond again in the future. Sorry again!

I think that’s a wonderful idea and not one I had ever considered to help with dental phobia! It sounds like you have a conscientious dentist as well. Hopefully with the two of them working to help you, plus some support from the people here, you can make progress with both conquering your phobia and successfully getting the care you need. I’m definitely rooting for you!:cheer2:

Thank you again for saying that! It makes me feel a lot better. Trauma is trauma and not something we can really judge or try to say who belongs or doesn’t, but sometimes it’s hard not to compare.

Oh my gosh, yes! I’ve read some posts here and found myself starting to wonder if I could have this or what would happen if I got that in the future, and then I start worrying about all of these things that have nothing to do with me at all. I recognize that those thoughts are silly and not helpful at all, but it can be hard to stop myself from going through all of the what ifs sometimes. It reminds me of how my tooth with the chipped sealant actually hurt until the dentist told me nothing was wrong with it and there was no reason for it to hurt. As soon as he said that, it stopped hurting and hasn’t bothered me again since. I’m obviously very, very happy about that, but it still boggles my mind sometimes to know how open to suggestion our brains are, especially when it comes to the areas where fear and trauma reside. Ugh. It’s weird, neat, fascinating, and annoying all at once!

That’s awesome! I’m so happy for you! I think being under is the way to go if you can. I’ve had IV sedation once for my wisdom teeth, which were bony impactions, and had a great experience with it, but I have never had general. However, I would definitely consider it in the future if ever needed/possible, and I know it will be nice not to have to worry about remembering anything at all. I know the long wait might be hard to get thought (I believe you mentioned the possible date is in September?), but I know it will be so worth it when you come out the other side with many things taken care of and feeling proud of yourself! Gosh, you’re so welcome! I may not be here every day, but I will be here sometimes, and please know I am always wishing the best for you! :hug4:
@Saveme That’s really no problem! Honestly the fact that you’d still think to reply is lovely enough on its own :hug4:so thank you! I hope you have a good time with your company and get some much needed TLC! It sounds like it will be great.

I didn’t consider it either! I know all about having triggers, etc, etc but I never really thought about it in terms of the dental environment. Unfortunately, I was so scared I was a bit less coherent than I wish I had been but I’m sure I can tell them at a later time. They certainly picked up on how severe it was (I wouldn’t even sit in the chair properly!) but I didn’t really get any annoyed vibes from them or anything so I think you’re right about the conscientious nature of the dentist and the team. They definitely understand the range of fear even people without a phobia have, let alone someone like me.

Exactly! I myself feel awfully shy about opening up about my teeth because of the reason why they are the way they are. I didn’t have a health reason or anything, it was just neglect on my part :redface: But as you said, trauma is trauma, and what happened to me was no small feat or something easily gotten over. Just because I’m not one of the people who will have dentures due to health reasons doesn’t mean I should be ashamed either. Although I think it will take me a while to fully get that LOL

Oh, you’re just like I am then! We really are twins! In my case, the dentist (at first when she hadn’t seen a lot of my mouth, oops) asked me how I could possibly not be in pain and after that my tooth hurt for weeks! Until I realized I had no infection or anything, and in fact, my estimate included nothing about periodontal disease. Our brains really do like to make our lives hard sometimes! I’d like someone to suggest to me that I’m no longer afraid of the dentist or dental treatment please!

Mm, since I’ve had general before I know what to expert, which makes me feel a lot better. Also, they won’t have to numb the area at all, since general ensures I won’t be feeling pain already and I’m a huge fan of that idea :toofunny:

But yes not having to remember, and the idea of, if something happens, let’s say they’re doing an extraction and then a tooth breaks, I won’t know. They can just carry on and do what they need to, and that to me is really huge. I don’t know how I’d do if I had something sudden like that happen, you know? But yes, we’re looking at September, though I haven’t heard back from the treatment coordinator yet! I’m just hoping my problem tooth lasts that long as it’s gotten a bit worse and eep, really want to make sure I get to do the plan I want! (I do imagine by the way, I might end up having IV sedation for my fillings at a later date, since I doubt I’ll be at a place where I can just have the numbing and that be it. So we’ll see about that too!)

Thank you so so much for your support! It really is valuable to me and I’m so glad we’ve gotten to connect here. There’s something to be said, especially when it comes to mental health, about not feeling alone.
@APhobicQueen Thank you!

It’s such a good sign that they didn’t act annoyed by your fear. Nothing feels worse than having your phobia brushed off or not taken seriously, or worse, treated like it is some kind of joke. I know you were getting some hot and cold vibes from Carrie, but I hope most will be good from now on! :)

For sure! I know it’s not as easy as just saying it, but please try not to feel ashamed. Trauma is just as good and valid a reason as any other kind of health issue. It wasn’t your fault that you were traumatized and neither was how you responded, you know? Anyway, I am really glad that you aren’t letting that shame and shyness hold you back. Go you for working so hard to overcome so that you can get your mouth back to health!

Oh my gosh, we really are! It’s so weird how that works. Here, I can try, *clears throat*: You are no longer afraid of dentists or dental treatment. Did it work? 🤞

That’s a bonus! It’s good not to have to deal with the fear of the unknown at the same time as everything else. You’ve got to make the best choice for yourself, and I think you have. It’s most important that you are comfortable and confident in your plan.

I totally get that. I hope your tooth will hang in there and your plan will go just as expected and planned. And if you ever do have IV in the future, I hope you will have a good experience like I did.

Of course! :hug4:I’m glad we have connected here too! I hope you don’t ever feel alone here. Oh, also, I was thinking maybe we should switch to your thread in the future because my issue has been addressed, if you think that’s okay?
@Saveme You’re welcome!

Oh definitely! To a degree, I understand it‘s hard to have patients like us, we don’t make things easy (although it’s not on purpose of course), so it’s natural that sometimes the dental professionals might feel the stress of that. But brushing off a patient or judging them or making them feel bad is the wrong way to handle it. Honestly, I think it’s pretty good. It’s hard to say because I have to look at all my interactions with dental professions through the lens of my own trauma. So I’m naturally biased, and normally I’m really good at reading people but when emotional damage interferes, I just become completely distrustful. Almost looking for a reason to not trust them.

Thank you for saying that! You’re right. It really wasn’t my fault. I had no idea what would happen to me that day, and my brain was just trying its best to protect me, even it led to this mess unfortunately :( but the good news is, I have the time to get it fixed. You know there’s solutions to my issues which is great!

Well I did phone Carrie today about my treatment plan and I booked my first treatment in so maybe? I guess we’ll see! We can but hope :)

Yes, exactly. As long as I know what I’m working with, I feel that much more at ease going in on the day of my appointment.

I hope to have IV for when I get fillings done! Just to put me at ease, etc, etc. And honestly, with fillings it’s less of a disaster if the IV doesn’t take rather than with extractions LOL But yes, I’m working very hard with my poor tooth to keep it going. I mean it’s lasted this long, it can go another…like six months right? (Oh boy that’s far away haha)

I was just going to suggest that we should probably move the conversation so we don’t clog the forum! We could use my thread, or we can use the private messages as well?