I have had a dentist phobia since my childhood, which has affected me for nearly two decades. When I was 8 years old, I was forced to go to the dentist and have three baby teeth removed by the dentist. This was on the orders of my paediatric oncologist, as loose teeth during chemo was an infection risk. It wasn’t a fun experience and it induced an immense fear of dentists in me.
Fast forward a few years to my teens, post chemo. It’s possible my teeth were damaged partly due to the chemo and partly due to being a normal teen who ate lots of sweets and rarely brushed my teeth. I had to have 13 fillings. THIRTEEN. My dentist phobia reached new heights and I had to be pinned down by adults as I was too scared to sit in the chair. My mouth had to be held open. I was a crying, panicking mess.
I didn’t go to the dentist again after that. Not at all. My phobia of the dentist had reached the point that I simply couldn’t bring myself to go. And being an adult, there was nobody to make me. Obviously my children go to the dentist, but I have to take Mike along for moral support as I can’t bring myself to go into the room with them.
Last week, aged 32, I found myself in a conundrum. I had toothache. And no dentist. My children’s dentist don’t accept adult NHS patients so I rung around trying to find one that does. My hurty tooth started bleeding. I left work in a panic. I was in a lot of pain, feeling sick and swallowing blood.
To cut a long story short, I had a very bad infection. I had to go to an emergency dentist (tip: call 111 if you need one of these – they can find you one). My mother-in-law took me and I was very brave. I sat in the chair like an adult (but I felt small and vulnerable), whilst the dentist looked in my mouth with a mirror and took an x-ray. I wouldn’t let her use the metal spikey scrapey thing though. The thought makes me gag.
One week and a course of antibiotics later, I was back in the chair. My dentist phobia taking control of me as I sat crying hysterically and fighting off a panic attack. I needed an extraction right away.
I’m fine with needles, so the two local anaesthetic injections were no problem. I wasn’t offered any sedatives or any additional pain relief.
When I was calm enough to have the tooth removed, the dentist held my jaw with one hand and did the extraction with the other. I can’t even bring myself to detail what she did, so let’s just say it involved lots of metal in my teeth, which made me panic. And the pain was immense. The extraction took a good few minutes and I was screaming out in pain. I think the dental nurse was helping the dentist to hold my head still. It was like something out of my nightmares. My screaming didn’t make it stop. She was pulling a part of my body out and the pain, was comparable to twin childbirth with forceps. I felt traumatised and violated. I had hoped that my dentist phobia was unfounded but this experience showed me that actually, there’s a bloody good reason why I am so frightened. I was right to be fearful because actually it was even worse than I had prepared myself for.
I can’t go through that again. I just can’t. I cried and shook for hours. If I ever need more dental work (which I know I do), I am going to need to be unconscious for it.
Two days after my extraction, I appeared in my dentist’s doorway again. I couldn’t cope with the pain and the smell emanating from my mouth was like rotting flesh. She took a look (metal free) and assured me it was healing correctly. I didn’t have a dry socket, the blood clot was in place, the smell was normal and so was the pain. I’ve barely slept in two nights and paracetamol and ibuprofen weren’t taking the edge off the pain in my gums and jaw. The dentist placed a herbal dressing over the wound (to be honest it looked an smelled like “herbs” of the illegal variety). It began tingling right away and provided me with a few hours instant pain relief.
It’s safe to say that my dentist phobia is firmly still in place and I don’t think it will ever ease now. I really hope it heals quickly as the pain is immense and I can’t wait to be able to eat properly again. I feel weak and miserable and keep bursting into tears. Is it right to feel so traumatised over something “as simple as an extraction” (the dentist’s words)?