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How Can I Get Over My Fear of Bristles?

I have spent the last 22 years avoiding brushing my teeth because (as strange as this sounds) the sound of the bristles touching my teeth turns me into a cringing mess, to the point where I go completely weak and even my legs want to give in from underneath me. Even the adverts on TV have the same effect and as a result I cannot teach my daughter to brush her teeth and to be honest, I would not like to show her how it makes me feel in case she starts to copy me. For years I kept it to myself and ignored my teeth and tried not to show them in public out of embarrassment. Obviously this couldn’t go on forever and being 29 now my teeth are so bad that most are not far past saving. I’ve just been having them removed one by one by emergency dentists as they start to cause pain. It’s got to the point my teeth are so far gone and I’m running out of teeth, so I’m going to need dentures to replace all the teeth so I can actually eat. Also, my dentist keeps telling me I need to start brushing them, otherwise the work he is doing is pointless. It’s been years since I tried talking about my phobia of bristles, as I felt that I would feel and look rather stupid trying to explain this to him and have got to the point where I really need to address this issue once and for all, before I have to drink my meals. Any advice you could give would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

The issues here are in two parts .The first is that you think that all your teeth need to come out and you need dentures.
The second is that your phobia of teeth-brushing hasn’t been spoken about and has done a lot of damage.
You also tell me that it affecting your daughter and I’m sure you would not like her to be damaged by your very real and disabling fear.
If you have dentures and no teeth then the brushing phobia becomes no longer a problem. BUT you will have to be able to clean your dentures with a brush.
The psychological approach to this would be to do some de-sensitisation exercises with a brush. Also to have some CBT, which would address your irrational thoughts about tooth-brushing. The issue may be complicated by your previous bad experiences.
I hope this helps a bit, Jenny.

Answer provided by: Dr Jennifer Pinder Retired
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