I know there are people who have an extreme fear of their dentist.
This post will help anyone who wants to overcome their fear of their dentist. Or at least understand the fear.
I had two fillings done, so nothing extensive. But there was still an injection (anesthesia) sucking, spraying, drilling, scraping, prodding, stuffing (cotton)…
How to overcome extreme fear of your dentist
I “went on a trip” while in my dentist’s chair. My eyes closed, drilling noises echoing through my skull, this blog post was birthed in my mind while I lay down and let my dentist do whatever he had to do!
If I wasn’t in recovery, all this would not have occurred to me. I had an increased awareness of what was going on…
1. No Shame
Do you feel shame that you need work done on your teeth? I definitely do.
I know some people who have NOTHING wrong with their teeth. They’ve only needed cleaning. But no cavities, no misaligned teeth, no capping, no wisdom teeth, etc…
There was once I was freaking out at the thought of needing a crown or a root canal done at some point in my life when I get older. Why don’t I have naturally perfect teeth?
But then I realised… They’re just TEETH.
It’s ok if I need my teeth mended. It’s ok if I need false teeth. It’s ok…
I’m not a lesser person if I have work done on my teeth, while someone else has “perfect” teeth. There is NO SHAME in fixing my teeth in any way that is required.
What you can do:
Assure yourself that you aren’t a bad person, you aren’t a failure, you aren’t “imperfect” if you need your teeth fixed. You are a normal human being with dental needs. Your body is like an organic machine, which needs to be maintained from time to time! Avoiding your routine dental check-up to prevent feeling like a failure is not wise at all.
(I realised growing up, my mom repeatedly told me our teeth are precious—which isn’t wrong—so we need to take great care for them. When anything that went wrong with mine, I felt like a failure. I felt like I have not taken care of my teeth like I should. And I can imagine her saying to me if I told her I needed fillings: See, you don’t take good enough care of your teeth! She is always quick to point out what she thinks is wrong with me.)
2. Watch your Anxiety
The anxiety associated with being “trapped” in a chair and having things done to you is VERY REAL.
You don’t know what they’ll find in your mouth. You may think you’re going for a simple cleaning, but your dentist may find a cavity?
You don’t know what they’ll be doing to you. The dentist will just tell you, “Ok you have a cavity”, but you don’t really know what they’re going to DO with your mouth, your teeth, after that.
Of course, it’s sometimes better not to know.
And being in such close quarters with another human being… Today I felt my dentist press up against my shoulder at times. He was on my right, but he was working on teeth on my left side, so that was inevitable.
Encountering surprises, the unknown and feeling so close to someone else is definitely cause for anxiety which leads to fear.
What you can do:
Notice your anxiety building. Be it due to the impending drilling noises or the possible pain you might feel… When you feel anxious, calm yourself down. It’s your fight or flight instinct on overdrive. Inhale and exhale slow and steady breaths. It’s easier said than done to simply calm down. But practice always helps. Try, try, and try again…
3. Build Trust
I’ve been seeing my dentist since I was a teenager. He has all my records. He can see all the holes in my teeth which he has plugged over the years.
My eyes closed but I can hear him speaking to me and his dental nurse. His voice is soft and gentle.
All my visits to him have gone well. I can’t say it has always been pleasant, but due to our long term relationship, I’ve developed trust in him over all this time.
I trust that whatever he does for my dental health is what I need and he has my best interest at heart.
And due to being an “old customer”, I get preferential rates too!
Trust in someone really helps.
What you can do:
If you don’t have a regular dentist, try to look for one you’re comfortable with and stick to him/her. The tough part is the looking. And then, visit your dentist every 6 months. Seeing someone more regularly, there will be an increased familiarity and trust will grow from there. People make the mistake of going to the dentist only when there’s something wrong! Dental/oral health is really important.
4. Feel Safe
I usually close my eyes because I don’t want to see my dentist’s face up close. Also because I don’t want to see the instruments he’s using on me!
My mind started imagining what they were doing to my teeth. Have you seen videos of surgery? Yes, those! Ughhh…
But then I told myself to think happy, soothing thoughts. So what appeared in my mind was a bunny on green grass.
When my mind shifted to gums, blood and gore again, I had to purposefully cut off those thoughts and materialise a bunny in my mind’s eye. So there was a bit of back and forth, but I persisted in staying with thoughts of the bunny. At the very end, I even imagined myself reaching out to pet it. That made me feel good… and safe 🙂
This was my first time trying this. I think it worked! Bunnies are my symbol of safety. I’m not really sure why, but this has proven true.
I also realised, you need to be in a (mental) place of safety especially with someone putting foreign objects into your mouth.
Your mouth is an intimate part of you. You use it for so many purposes—to talk, eat, drink, breathe, kiss, express yourself with a smile or frown…
You have to trust the person doing this and feel safe with all this being done “to” you.
What you can do:
Telling yourself you’re in safe hands really helps. Tell yourself your dentist is there to help you. The worst thing to happen is if anything goes wrong. Think about it, there was nothing you could have done to prevent it. YOUR job is just to sit still in the chair and open your mouth. You have left it up to the professional. There is nothing you can do better. Do what you can, and the rest is up to God, your Higher Power, the Universe, etc…
Are you afraid of going to the dentist? Can you relate to the points above? Tell me in the comments below. And if you think this will help anyone overcome their extreme fear of the dentist, share this post with them!