Mental Health

How To Combat A Fear Of Going To The Dentists

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t terrified of going to the dentists. To me all I associate them with is a lot of pain and fear: just the smell or the sound of a drill can make my palms sweaty and send my heart rate into overdrive!

When I was little we used to get reminder cards through the post ever year and occasionally I’d be the one to find them first…so I’d hide them in my room in the hopes that they’d forget to go that year! It sounds so bad but it did actually work sometimes. Most of the time they’d send a second set of cards and I wouldn’t be able to get those in time though.

The reason I hated those places so much? Anaesthetic doesn’t work on me or most of my family.

At all.

Meaning every time I was forced to have a filling I had to go through the agony of having needles shoved in my mouth that did nothing (normally two or three times even though it clearly wasn’t working) then have my tooth drilled into with nothing to stop the pain. I remember screaming the place down one year and trying to kick the dentist to make him stop. I was only 6, I was in a hell of a lot of pain and I was terrified. The dentist just carried on even though I was clearly in pain and a lot of distress and I became terrified of having to go through that again.

Go figure.

How To Combat A Fear Of Going To The Dentists

Once I finally hit 16 and was legally allowed to tell them where they could shove their treatments, I did and I stopped going altogether a few years later. Yes I know that sounds bad but it’s like asking someone who’s scared of clowns to go to a circus- it isn’t going to happen unless you force them to.

It wasn’t until the problems with my gums became really bad that I questioned the diagnosis I’d had the last time I went. I’d been told that my gums were receding and painful because I was malnourished and that once I started recovering, my gums would go back to normal. Considering the problem started not long after I became anorexic this made total sense to me and I just accepted that’s what it was. Seems daft now but I was high on medication in those early days and considering it didn’t get much worse for two/three years, I didn’t really think about it.

Then they took a serious turn for the worse over the course of a week. I honestly thought I was going to loose my front two teeth so I did a Google search for emergency dentists in my area, went with the place that had the best reviews and booked an appointment for the following week. I was freaking out on the build up to it but it turned out to be nothing like my old place! It was a private practice rather than an NHS place and I’m planning on writing a separate post on my experience there, so all I’ll say is they were amazing!

I’ve been back three times since the original appointment for treatment and a follow up consultation and by this point, I don’t even get a flicker of anxiety when I go in. That will probably change if I ever need a filling but I’ve been assured that nothing will be done without me being fully numb (good luck with that one) and that there are lots of different treatment options available now that weren’t around when I was a kid, so I’m hopeful I won’t have to go through that experience ever again.

How To Combat A Fear Of Going To The Dentists

These are some of the things I did when I went to the first appointment to help keep myself calm.

Take headphones

One of the things I hate most is the sounds of the dentists, especially the drills! I find that having my headphones in and listening to my favourite music helps me relax. Obviously it’s best to explain to the people doing the treatment why you’ll be putting them in so you don’t seem rude, but when I explained to mine she said it’s quite normal for people to do it.

Use a Fidget Cube

I originally thought these were just a fad, especially since the fidget spinner craze hit not long after I first saw them but they really do work. Both me and Chris bought one and now we don’t leave the house without them: they’re great tools for distracting and calming yourself down in lots of different situations. I used mine all through my first consultation and then when I was having the treatment and it helped loads.

Explain your fears

The best thing to do is to explain to your fears to them. It’s a really common fear actually, probably because almost all of us have had a traumatic experience with them at some point in our lives. When I told mine about some of the things that had happened in the past she was really understanding, made sure to explain everything that was going to happen and told me if I had any worried to stop them straight away.

Find a place you’re comfortable with

Obviously as a kid you’re stuck with the dentists your parents take you to and you’ve got no say in where you go or what happens to you. As an adult you have the ability to choose where you go and have the ability to say yes or no to the treatments suggested. This was the biggest help to me, I changed where I went and realised that I’ll never be forced to have something done again. It didn’t get rid of the fear completely but it helped lessen it enough for me to go.

Remember: you are in complete control

This was kind of covered in the last paragraph but you are in complete control of what happens to you while there. You can ask them to stop or say you aren’t comfortable at any time and they will stop what they’re doing. If they don’t? Then clearly they aren’t a place you want to be going to and you might want to switch to a different dentist or practice all together.

What do you do to lessen the anxiety of going to the dentists?

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6 Comments

  1. Kaiya

    August 11, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    I’m so, so glad you found a better dentist! I’ve always had terrible anxiety about the dentist, too. My way of coping with it was to count the dots on the ceiling while the dentist(s) worked on my mouth. I have since found a place with better service, but was later financially screwed over by the same company. (Finally found a place that didn’t scare the shit out of me, and then they sent me a surprise bill in the mail. Go figure.) Anyway, thank you for sharing! This is a great post on tips that I hadn’t seen before.

    (Side note, as I’m new to your blog and haven’t gone through the depths of your posts to find the answer: I hope you’re on the path of recovery with your anorexia, too. <3)

  2. Jade Marie

    August 11, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    Oh my days that’s horrible! To find a much better place only for the to screw you over! I don’t think they should be allowed to send out bills like that, it should be all upfront on what the cost will be! I’m so glad you found the post helpful though 🙂

    And I am indeed thank you lovely! I still have minor relapses every few months but I’m much better than even just a year ago 🙂 also, welcome to my blog! I hope you find my content useful and interesting (or at the very least enjoy my daft stories haha) <3

  3. Kaiya

    August 11, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    The insurance situation in the U.S. is awful, haha. My partner is from the U.K., so we often joke (with more and more seriousness) about moving to the U.K. It’s a mess.

    I’m glad to hear you’re doing better! Relapses–while obviously not ideal–happen and it’s okay, as long as you get back to rights. I think we can be too hard on ourselves.

    I love your blog so far. 🙂 I relate to it on many levels. <3

  4. Jade Marie

    August 11, 2017 at 6:34 pm

    I’ve seen in the news how bad it is in the U.S 🙁 then again it’s not that much better over here unless you can afford to go private 🙁

    Yeah relapses are unavailable, you never fully recover from an eating disorder unfortunately but I always pull back so you’re right, I shouldn’t be too hard on myself!

    And thank you so much! 🙂 <3

  5. Everydaylifegirl

    September 19, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    Oh yes, the dentist and the doctor are what I always had anxiety about. When I got braces as a teenager, then I always used to hate going to the orthodontist. The whole day all I could think about was seeing this creepy old dentist 😛

  6. Jade Marie

    September 19, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    I wish I’d been able to have braces, I won’t smile because of how bad my teeth are out of line 😫

What are your thoughts? Let me know!