Over the last 10 years or so I have come to love going to the dentist. Prior to that, I was such a phobic. In the city I lived at the time I couldn’t even walk past a dentist practice. My teeth were in dire straights, and I did lose all my top ones as they couldn’t be saved. If I can get around this, anyone can so let me tell you how I did it.
- Acknowledge the fear and resolve to work on making things better, it’s OK – we all fear different things, and that’s part of being human.
- Talk to a friend or someone you can trust about how you feel and whatever led to how you feel towards a dentist at this time.
- Ask said friend to call up a practice which deals with dental phobic patients and ask them to explain how you feel and why and friend should sum up the call with making an appointment for you in maybe a month or 2 months time; it takes time to work up to this.
- It’s best if the practice is recommended by positive feedback from various sources – don’t just pick someone out of Yellow Pages.
- With the support of said friend, try taking some detours so that you go past a dentist’s practice, even better if it’s the one you intend going to. After whatever number of attempts go past the surgery alone, it’s OK – no-one will come out if they see you pass and drag you inside.
- Go and visit the surgery when you arrive at reception explain to the dental receptionist that you have a dental phobia and that you have an appointment booked for X date and are trying to take baby steps to work through your phobia. Ask if you can sit for a time in their waiting area to help desensitise you to the feared environment, most practices won’t refuse.
- It doesn’t matter if you can do this for a minute or 10, allow the fears and anxiety to well up within you before you allow yourself to leave. It’s OK to release whatever emotions that brings up for you, repeat this step as often as you can over a day if possible, it might mean 1 minute in waiting room equal to 10 minutes in car sobbing, but that’s OK, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it takes time.
- On the day of your appointment, relax as much as you can and plan something fun for afterwards. Try and arrive a few minutes early so that you are not flustered by any problems that may crop up (e.g. parking, buses late, etc.).
The first appointment I went to all I did was look around the surgery and personally I wanted to look at the dentist’s tools and ask what they did, dentist was a bit reluctant to show me initially but agreed.
The next appointment the dentist chatted with me while I lay in the dentist chair. The appointment was simple, notice I haven’t mentioned anything about teeth yet.
Yet another appointment to take a look around my mouth very gently. This wasn’t a dental examination but simply to get me used to the idea of someone looking in my mouth and gently feeling around with her fingers.
The next appointment was when the actual first dental examination took place, the dentist was constantly checking I was OK, and if I wanted her to stop at any point, I could use the prearranged signal which was to raise my hand. She needed to take x-rays and talked me through how it was done and checked many times that I was OK to stop at any point and continue another time. I decided to get the x-rays done that day as I knew my teeth were in a bad way and to see what could be saved.
I made a playlist of relaxing music and asked the dentist if OK to use headphones, the dentist agreed.
At the first appointment to do any work to my teeth which involved removal of at least one, I kept telling myself it’s OK, I have come this far. I’m doing great and I’m so proud of myself. Tell yourself how PROUD you are, you are facing your fear.
On the day I arrived early (about 30 mins) and sat in the waiting room listening to my music and thinking as calm of thoughts as I could muster. I had worked my way up to sitting in the waiting room for 30 mins before. When the dentist called me in, I as calmly as I could left the waiting room and joined her in general chat for about 5 mins before I relaxed myself back and lay in the chair. I decided to place the headphones around my neck and turn the music up which the dentist was OK with.
Then work began, I asked the dentist to show me the needle in all its entirety (this one is personal preference I’m not needle-phobic and I needed to see what I was dealing with), she rubbed an anaesthetic cream around the gum area of the chosen tooth to be extracted, she continually checked I was OK and if I wanted to stop at any point that was OK too. Then I lay back and watched as she came from an angle at my mouth and again she checked I was OK. The injection was in and she repeated the process a few more times (I dunno) and asked if I was feeling OK to go and wait in the waiting room till the injection could take its full effect.
With the help of the dental nurse, I went to the waiting room again and kept trying to relax. I kept telling myself how well I was doing, X time ago I couldn’t even walk past a dental practice and here I was numbing up for an extraction and knowing I could walk out of practice at any point and still be welcome to come back.
THE TIME HAS COME: the first chosen tooth to go was one that was crumbling, so I was back in the dentist chair and feeling calmish, the dentist checked that I was OK many times and gently jostled the tooth to and fro until it gave way. My hand signal came up and dentist stopped each time on time, I was OK and while I expected a bit of pain afterwards it wasn’t near as bad as I thought it would be.
It got A LOT easier after this first step, and it took many visits over the next few months. Dentist became my friend and not someone to fear; she cared by checking constantly that I was OK and gave me a running commentary on what she was doing because that is what I personally wanted. She would stop any time I raised my hand or moved, however slightly, in the chair.
Actually, I came to like going to see her as I was in control and it was made as painless and easy for me as possible. It became easier, and within the course of the following 2 months, I had a lot of work done including root canals, fillings and cleaning and getting moulds taken for dentures.
Now I actually look forward to going to see the dentist and am perfectly happy to lie there while they do whatever – I don’t mind. In fact, I managed to relax on 2 occasions so much that I fell asleep in the chair while she worked on me. She swears that I wasn’t given anything on either occasion and I believe her. It’s because I knew I was OK and could be at peace with my dental phobia and lay it to rest.
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