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I have been afraid of the dentist my whole life

Hello Dr. Pinder,

I’m 45 years old and have been afraid of the dentist my whole life as my first 3 visits in early childhood were horrific. I’ve seen a dentist three times in 20 years, my most recent visit being 10 years ago.

After a decade of successfully avoiding the dentist, I was forced to seek help emergently in June for an unbelievably painful abscessed tooth. The tooth needed a root canal which I was only able to barely do after several doses of halcion. The pain continued and the tooth abscessed again and needed to be retreated last month. 5 pills later I was in the chair but not sedated and such a wreck they actually had 2 assistants restrain me. Though they were gentle and meant well I’ve found the whole episode has set me back decades. I have several teeth needing significant restorations in every quadrant of my mouth including a bottom second molar with a distal crack and pain in the tooth directly above that I refused to let the doctor touch. While I have a dentist, his idea of dealing with phobic patients is oral sedation which we agree clearly isn’t working.

The pain by the molar is so great I can’t sleep on that side as just touching my cheek to the pillow is agonizing. I have so much work to be done but am even more paralyzed by fear than before treatment which I didnt think was possible. I thought I was making forward progress by having the root canals but feel I am back at square one and don’t know what to do now….except avoid going back. What now?!

Thank you for any help or direction you can offer.

Kind regards.

Im sorry that your experiences have been so bad .As you mention Halcion are you in the US .
We dont use that drug in the UK , or if its being used then its really outside accepted practice .
There are some patients for whom Oral sedation is not sufficient , and with what has happened , I doubt that it will be now .
So the next step would be to find a dentist that carries out Intra venous Sedation .
Are some of the teeth that need treatment saveable without extensive root canal work ? or might they be better extracted .
Is it a root canal specialist who is carrying out your root canals as there may be a better chance of success with a specialist .
The problem is that it becomes a vicious cycle of leaving it , then you are in terrible pain when you need treatment .
Have you considered finding ( in the UK ) a clinical psychologist who might help you . Cognitive Behaviour Therapy can help some people .
Some University Dental schools / hospitals have Special Needs Clinics .

Answer provided by: Dr Jennifer Pinder Retired
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