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Worsening Dental Anxiety



Junior member
Nov 24, 2020

I've just found this forum after having problems with dental anxiety and I'm hoping I could get some reassurance from people who understand what it's like. It's going to be a long story but I think getting it off my chest could help.

I grew up in the UK and never had any issues going to the dentist as a child. I didn't take very good care of my teeth at the time and ended up having to have four quite large fillings on my molars, but no further issues cropped up once I started taking better care of them as an adult. The only issue I had was a nasty infection in one of the filled teeth that required a root canal. The dentist recommended a crown be put on that tooth after the root canal, but as it was a back tooth the NHS would only cover a gold crown, which at 23 years old was not something I wanted at all. I left the root canal as is and it didn't cause me any trouble despite not having a crown on it.

I then moved to the USA with my wife about 18 months ago and luckily got very good dental insurance through my job, although most of the available dentists on my plan are part of a chain. I went for an initial checkup and the dentist was very brusque and didn't say much to me, but didn't report any problems with my teeth. I then got a scale and polish where the hygienist informed me that I had 'some gum recession,' which triggered an obsessive-compulsive anxiety spiral. I was constantly checking my teeth in the mirror and was convinced that the recession would get worse and worse until all my teeth would fall out and have to be extracted. I scheduled another appointment with that hygienist just to talk about the gum recession, and she reassured me that it was relatively minor, which soothed the anxiety a bit.

I was supposed to schedule another appointment for a checkup, scale, and polish in 6 months time, but then COVID hit and I didn't book an appointment until about a month ago. I saw a different dentist this time who was friendlier, but she told me that I needed two fillings, three crowns, and a mouth guard as apparently I was grinding my teeth and had caused fractures in two of the molars that had fillings in. This was so much worse than I was expecting, especially as I had been taking really good care of my teeth since that last appointment, and I started uncontrollably crying. She said it was OK and that everything was fixable, and I scheduled an appointment for the two fillings and the first crown three weeks later, which was the earliest appointment that was available.

At that appointment I had the fillings done and the temporary crown put on and I thought at the time that everything was OK. They said that the permanent crown would be available in three weeks, but the soonest appointment I could get was in four weeks time. I scheduled that appointment and for a few days everything was fine, but then I started getting throbbing pain in the tooth with the temporary crown on it, especially in response to hot and cold. I got in for an emergency appointment yesterday, mentioned the heat sensitivity, and straight away the dentist said you need a root canal in that tooth. Apparently there was a cavity right at the base of that tooth, which I wasn't informed about, and that when she had done the initial prep-work for the crown she was a bit concerned with how close it was to the nerve, which again I wasn't informed about. Of course the root canal couldn't be done then and there, instead I would need to be referred to an endodontist to do this. The only appointment available before I was supposed to get my permanent crown put on was in three weeks time at a branch about a 90 minute drive from where we live, so I've had to book a whole day off work to go get this done.

I was crying again at this point and couldn't get out all the questions I wanted to ask. I just don't understand why I'm having all of these issues with my teeth when I've never taken better care of them before. The dentist said that I might just be genetically predisposed to it and regardless of how much care I take I could still have these issues, which is terrifying.

I'm worried that when I get to the endodontist he will say that the tooth is too damaged to have a root canal done on it and will need to be extracted. I still haven't got a mouth guard from the dentist so I'm worried that if I keep grinding my teeth the fractures will get worse and again I will need to have those teeth extracted. I'm only 27 and I feel embarrassed that my teeth have so many issues, and if I had to have teeth extracted it would make me feel even worse. I wish that these procedures could be done sooner, because in the meantime I'm just stressing uncontrollably. Even after I get this crown done I still have the other two on the other side that I need to schedule, and goodness only knows how long that will take.

I also don't know if this dentist is just trying to sell me unnecessary treatment because I have good dental insurance that will pay out, or if NHS dentistry in the UK was just subpar.

I'm sorry that this has been so long, I really just needed to vent and hopefully get some advice from other people who are going through the same thing as me.


Staff member
Jan 1, 2005
Hi elliejoonm :welcome:

Really sorry to hear about your recent experiences with dentists 😞. While it's impossible to say whether your new dentist is just more thorough than previous ones or not, dental chains in the US do have a bit of a reputation for overtreatment. Of course, there are good and bad apples everywhere, but generally speaking, chain dentists are under pressure to meet a quota and, err, "produce". We've got a page on how to find a good dentist here:

Finding a good independent dentist who owns or is a partner in a practice/office may well work out cheaper in the long run. It must be really frustrating to be tied to a chain because of the dental plan your employer provides.

Quite frankly, the dentist's statement that you might just be genetically predisposed to teeth issues sounds like nonsense and nothing to worry about. Sure, there are some conditions which can predispose people to dental problems, but they are few and far between (e.g. some aggressive forms of periodontal disease, or medical conditions which lead to a very dry mouth, but you'd probably know all about it by now if you were affected).

Endodontists are great at saving even very badly damaged teeth, BTW :).

It's impossible to say if the treatment was necessary or not, and it must be awful to have those nagging doubts. Maybe you could research all the other dentists that you are allowed to see under your insurance plan. We've also got a page on financing dental treatment in the US here:

Wishing you all the best for your endo appointment, and feel free to vent at any time