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