Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Anti-Dentite: When Fear is More Than A Phobia

Scott Ellard Dentistry says:

A distinction has been made between dental anxiety, dental fear, and dental phobia.

DENTAL ANXIETY is a reaction to an UNKNOWN danger. Anxiety is extremely common, and most people experience some degree of dental anxiety especially if they’re about to have something done which they’ve never experienced before. Basically, it’s a fear of the unknown.

DENTAL FEAR is a reaction to a known danger (“I know what the dentist is going to do, been there, done that – I’m scared!!”), which involves a fight-or-flight response when confronted with the threatening stimulus.

DENTAL PHOBIA is basically the same as fear, only much stronger (“I know what happens when I go to the dentist – there’s no way I’m going back if I can help it. I’m so terrified I feel sick”). Also, the fight-or-flight response occurs when just thinking about or being reminded of the threatening situation. Someone with a dental phobia will avoid dental care at all costs until either a physical problem or the psychological burden of the phobia becomes overwhelming.

None of these apply to me.

The gist   When I was a young child, my mom took me for a check-up.  Unbeknownst to her, the dentist was on vacation, his non-dentist brother was filling in.  He decided to pull a tooth with pliers, no Novocaine and a locked door.  After I started screaming from the pain, he hit me repeatedly before my mother could kick the door in.

I have no memories of this, I've completely blocked them, but if I have to go to the dentist, it must be the root of my fear.  I cry, sweat, shake, and only go if I'm hurting so bad a fistful of painkillers won't ease the pain, will I make that call.  

A routine cleaning?  Not a chance!

I have to take anxiety meds so that I'm barely standing, I need a ride and they have to knock me out there when I get into the chair.  Most dentists think it's just a little fear like everyone else has, they don't take the time to ask why I'm sobbing like an infant while being held and rocked by my husband.

Do they even care?  I actually met a dentist I was not afraid of in Utah.  He would hold my hand, hand me a tissue and never do anything until I was calm.  He knew my kid's name, my hobbies, discussed his family and I felt comfortable under his care, for the first time.  EVER.  He left the practice to go work with his dad and I haven't been to the dentist since.  

Until now.

Put some long red hair on that guy and that's what I look like.  I went to the new dentist like that and still look like that.  

Because apparently he can't fix it. I need a specialist.  That means another dentist.

After that dentist does his thing, I have to go back to the other dentist to finish fixing this problem.  That means several dental trips in the next couple months and I currently have no tooth.  It broke off.

I have cried, taken enough meds to knock out a herd of elephants and have started in on the rum, but I'm still crying and I have the whole entire weekend to get through before I even get a consult on Monday with the specialist!

I may die from heart failure before the weekend ends.

If that is the case, my husband has instructions to glue in the busted tooth before I'm buried...


  1. Given that horrible childhood experience you had (even though you have no memory of it), your fear of dentists in general is completely understandable. But for some reason, it looks like your fear have become kind of selective. I’m not sure I get this right, but there are few dentists you can deal with, and then you are afraid of the rest? Anyway, I hope you survived that appointment with another dentist. And just so you know, you could always opt for sedation dentistry, if you really need to have a procedure done. Try googling it for your consideration. Good luck!

    Bettye Primm @ Back Mountain Dental

  2. My son goes every six months for a cleaning. I have to take anxiety meds just to bring him. Over seventeen years, five states, if the dentist was kind and gentle and I was desperate, I'd try them as well. Desperate being the key. My current dentist who only fixed the tooth I knocked out has been threatened with bodily harm many times. He is a kind man and takes it all in stride. So yeah, I'm selective. I still have to be drugged to get in the door, practically carried by my husband, and crying the entire time.... Fortunately, they all know me through my son and understand my reservations.


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