Personal Stories of Anxiety Disorders and Dental Phobia

The following stories were posted on our forum by people who have experienced both dental anxiety and other types of anxieties, such as GAD and panic attacks. You can also read more general personal stories about overcoming dental phobia on Dental Fear Central.

Anxiety disorders and dental phobia

For Agoraphobics And Those With Panic Attacks

by kittykitty

So… I kinda wanted to tell my success story and give hope to those with agoraphobia and panic attacks. I must have browsed this website a million times looking for some shred of hope when suffering from dental pain and fear of going to the dentist! I think we often have the mindset that “My agoraphobia and anxiety is worse than anyone’s!”. I know I’ve had that thought several times.

So… to give you a brief history of my own panic disorder and agoraphobia, I struggle to leave my house every single time I have to. Every time. Grocery shopping? Check! Corner store? Check! Called 911 while having a panic attack? Check! Dentist? Check! Check! Check! I have trouble with one on one conversations because the entire time my heart is pounding out of my chest and I feel like I’m just going to faint. This all started for me from a bad relationship + I had quite severe anxiety as a kid, but that doesn’t really matter, I suppose. Sometimes we don’t even know where or why it starts, but it is what it is.

Now to the dental fear. I’m here to say that you CAN do it. I know. I wouldn’t have believed it either. Especially since it’s hard to even socialize, leave the house, etc…

My teeth started failing me at the age of 23 (I have an autoimmune illness and bad genetics in the tooth department). I know first hand how painful it is, not to mention embarrassing. 

So… I wanted to give some tips and tricks to those suffering and share what helped me get to the dentist and get treatment. 

  1. Find a dentist you trust and be 1000% honest with your dentist about your fear. Discuss your anxiety, panic, agoraphobia, and whatever it is you’re afraid of. When you first call to make an appointment, ask the receptionist if the dentist would be willing to call you back so you can talk to him about your fears. I found that going in and pretending to feel ‘a-ok’ just added to my anxiety. I was just sitting there paralyzed with fear and wanting to jump out of my skin. You’d be surprised how understanding most dentists are, as they see fearful patients often. 
  2. Find a dentist that is close to you, if at all possible. I have found that the anticipation of going to the dentist takes my anxiety to the next level, and driving 30 minutes or more to get there doesn’t help. Knowing my dentist is really close (5 minutes away) makes it that much easier. 
  3. Don’t go alone. Let someone else drive you to and from your appointment. This needs to be someone you fully trust. As silly as it may sound to some, I found that riding in the back seat helped in case I panicked and felt the need to lie down. 
  4. Take things that make you comfortable. I usually take things for distraction, such as an iPod with calming music, a bottle of water, medication in case I panic, and a small snack such as a granola bar. Just knowing I have these things helps alleviate some of my anxiety.
  5. Sit with the panic. Feel it, and ride it out. I know… it’s SO HARD. It feels like any second you’re going to explode or go crazy. You won’t. I promise. I often repeat in my head “feel the fear and do it anyway”. I don’t know if this sounds corny lol, but it helps me. I actually let myself focus on each symptom, feel it, make peace with it, and remind myself that panic is NOT going to kill me, no matter how uncomfortable it feels.
  6. Ask for sedation during treatment. I often opt for IV sedation during treatments such as extractions and root canals. I know it can be quite pricey, but it’s so worth it. If you have the means, I’d suggest it 100%. I’m in and out and don’t remember the appointment at all. And not in a scary way! But in a very relaxed way. There are also other forms of sedation that are more affordable, such as nitrous and pills. Whatever makes you feel the most comfortable during treatment, I recommend doing. 

Lastly, don’t beat yourself up if you miss an appointment. Just keep trying. It can be hard to even call and make appointments, and I totally understand that! I still get nervous every time. As I said earlier, I make myself feel the fear and do it anyway.

You can do it! Having a healthy mouth is so worth it! I have found that every time I make myself go, it gets a little easier, and I suppose this is how it is for all fears. The only way out is through. 

I hope this helps someone.