Personal Stories of Anxiety Disorders and Dental Phobia

Finally, phobia free!

by KeepSmiling

I just got done reading another user’s thread about their dental phobia (by RobotGuy). My story is a little similar, as I’m sure a lot of us can relate.

I grew up with a good dentist, going twice a year, and only having one cavity filled (that I can remember). Once my parents divorced, I developed an anxiety disorder and just stopped going to the dentist. Allowing myself to go so long without check-ups developed irrational fears that kept me from going for years. Like RobotGuy, I couldn’t stand to listen to others talk about dental procedures, didn’t want to watch a TV show if a dentist was being talked about, and got anxious driving by my dentist’s office.

Just to give you a little background, I’ve had the same dentist all my life. He’s a nice enough guy and is really good at what he does. But when I finally gathered up the courage to have an exam done, I didn’t feel like they had really listened to me when I said that I had an anxiety disorder. The dental hygienist did nothing to put me at ease and the dentist was rather cold when he told me I needed to have my wisdom teeth out and what would happen if I didn’t do anything. Great… just what I needed to hear. I walked out and never went back.

Not long after that visit, my filling came out. I had an initial panic attack but didn’t feel any pain. So I did my best to keep the cavity-free from food: brushing well and using Listerine mouthwash. In fact, my brushing habits were really good because I wanted to prevent that tooth from decaying and therefore, avoid going to the dentist.

Funny thing about that, you can’t really stop tooth decay that way. The tooth got weaker, and little bits would break apart until I had about half of my tooth missing. Since there was no pain, I didn’t do anything about it… I was just buying time (I think I went 3-4 years).

I finally realized that I would eventually need to go to the dentist and had to work on my phobia. I’m so glad I found this web site! Yes, I was still a little anxious as I read through the site, but I knew that I was taking a big step just by looking into it. I think the fear of the unknown is our greatest source of anxiety.

Finally, there came a day when that tooth started sending me signals saying, “Hey buddy, you need to take care of this… it’s time.” I cried. I didn’t want to go through with it. But I finally got the nerve to call my co-worker/friend and asked for the name of her dentist. She prayed with me, and once I got off the phone with her, I gave the dentist a call.

Fortunately for me, they were able to get me in that day. I told the receptionist about my anxiety disorder and that I’d like to come in that day because I was “feeling brave” and felt I could handle it.

I went in a little anxious, but they did a great job of making me feel welcome. The exam didn’t take that long, as we just focused on the tooth that was causing me problems. He told me it was an abscessed tooth and I’d need a root canal and a crown. I had a slight twinge of panic, only because I had heard bad things about root canals, but never really bothered to look into them. I joked with my dentist who gave me a smile and said, “don’t believe everything you hear about root canals.” He explained what he was going to do, how long it would take, and what I could expect. When I told the lady at the reception desk about what I needed done, she answered my questions, as she had the procedure done herself many times.

A week later, I was back in the chair. Over the course of that week, the doctor gave me antibiotics to help clear up the infection to make his job easier when doing the root canal. For the most part, I wasn’t really anxious… more excited to finally conquer this phobia and have a crown put on. The procedure took a little while, but he told me to expect that. We spent the first hour or so preparing the tooth for the crown. Once that was done, he used a special machine to scan that area so that he could make a crown for that tooth and have it made in his office within an hour. Once we sent my crown to the milling machine, he got to work on the root canal. Once the root canal was done, it was time to put the crown on… efficient man he is, I like that!

So what did I learn from all of this?

  • Putting off a problem could cause more problems than just getting it done. I didn’t want to hear this when I had my phobia. But seriously, having my filling re-done would’ve required less time in the chair than a root canal. The root canal didn’t hurt at all and wasn’t bad, but it was three hours in the chair instead of a filling that would’ve taken less than 15 minutes. Don’t be afraid to take baby steps!
  • Find a dentist you’re comfortable with. I felt loyal to the dentist I had since I was a kid, but I realized that I need a fresh start with a new dentist and it has made all the difference with my anxiety and I’m looking forward to going back.
  • Numbing agent is your friend. I told my dentist that I didn’t care what he did as long as I didn’t feel anything. The tiny pricks he gave me prior to the procedure numbed the entire area and I didn’t feel a thing. When it started to wear off, he gave me more. The little prick and slight burning sensation are much better than going without it. Just be brave, you can do it!
  • Close your eyes. If you’re intimidated by the tools of the trade, just close your eyes. During my procedure, I think I just laid back with my eyes closed and mouth open while he worked. I was actually mad because he and his hygienist were having such a good conversation and I couldn’t talk. Ha ha! The tools and the sounds didn’t really bother me, I just closed my eyes because I realized he’d be in my face for three hours and didn’t really feel like looking at him.
  • Tell yourself you can do it. I’ve faced many obstacles with my anxiety disorder, and going to the dentist was one of my last big ones. For me, I told myself I could do it and tried to imagine what it’d be like to have a tooth back there again. 🙂

So to those of you who are still worrying, it’s okay to worry… I did so for a long time. I hope that you’re able to find a great dentist who will work with you and help you get over your anxiety. You can do it, and I look forward to reading your success story on this forum. 🙂