I have a devastating fear of dentists. I happen to live with someone who not only goes for the recommended check-up every six months, oh no, he CHOOSES to go every three months. This is not because there is anything wrong with his teeth, but because he likes to have his teeth checked and cleaned regularly. That is such an alien concept to me; I can’t even imagine it because I am absolutely terrified of dentists. I know most people do not like to visit the dentist, but it is much more than that for me. Even writing this is making me feel extremely uneasy. I love looking for and adapting suitable images for articles, but I could not even bring myself to look for images of anything to do with dentists, hence the safer option of a cartoony tooth and a quote. I can’t watch anyone having any kind of dental experience on TV and the sound of the drill is agonising.
My fear is in response to an experience I had when I was 15 years old. Before that, my visits to the dentist were just mildly uncomfortable and a little painful (my dentist did not believe in anaesthetics to numb the area of the mouth being worked on). Then my dentist told me that one of my incisors had not grown out, but was lying across the top of my mouth and indeed, there was a bump in the roof of my mouth. He said he could remove it under local anaesthetic or I could have it done under general anaesthetic in a hospital. I absolutely did not like the idea of having my mouth cut open while I was awake, and neither did my mother. My mother knew a dental nurse, whom she consulted about the procedure. She advised my mum that it was probably best for me to have it done under general anaesthetic as it may be quite traumatic due to the amount of time it would take. My dentist owned his practice, and the nurse advised that this kind of procedure would be a big earner for him, so it was little surprise he would want to do it in house.
The dentist was not at all pleased to learn this and he tried to dissuade us, saying that he could book me in and have everything done within the next fortnight, whereas it could take up to a year to get seen by the hospital. We stuck by our decision, despite his forceful protests. I went into hospital and had my procedure within a few weeks. When I went to see the dentist the next time, he laughed and said “Still waiting for that hospital appointment?” as soon as I walked in. I took great satisfaction in telling him that I had already had the procedure, and I am sure that what ensued was punishment for this flippant comment. I needed a filling and when I was in the chair, he began drilling my tooth, but it really hurt, more than usual. I began to moan in pain and he told the nurse to hold me down, which she did (she was his wife) and he continued drilling saying “What? So now you want a general anaesthetic for a filling?”
I was in complete shock when I left that day and a complete mess. That one incident has affected me very badly and I wish it hadn’t. I have this horrible fear of anything going near my mouth; I had to have a gastroscopy in 2003 and when they were explaining the procedure to me, I completely freaked out and had a full on panic attack because I couldn’t handle the thought that something would be put down my throat. Now there is the chance that I have to go for another gastroscopy, so I find myself thinking back to where this all began.
Four years ago, I decided to do something about it; I wanted to confront my fears. I went to see a dentist after eighteen years and it was nightmarish, but the dentist was lovely. I was referred to a specialist and I was sedated for the check up and cleaning etc. I’m not scared of dentists, I guess but I’m still terrified of anything going near my mouth. It’s a kind of claustrophobia; like I can’t breathe and will suffocate. Also, it makes me feel so vulnerable. My biggest fear is that something will happen and I will need emergency dental treatment. So far though, my teeth have not let me down. I just hope it stays that way. But I have no idea how I will cope with another gastroscopy.
How do you feel about dentists? Have you ever had a similar experience?