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Root canal treatment left me terrified of the dentist

Help..please. I have always been nervous of dentists but always attended 6 monthly. Then 2 years ago I had to have root canal treatment and I went into a state of panic over the rubber dam…I had never heard of it before! I felt as if I couldn’t breathe or swallow and thought I was going to die through choking. My biggest problem is I can’t do the normal swallowing action when my mouth is wide open and need my dentist to stop regularly so I can swallow. I also swallow more when I’m nervous. With the rubber dam I was unable to close my mouth and panicked, even the suction didn’t help and I worried I was going to cough as well. Now I am totally dental phobic..the thought of a dentist frightens me, but I have toothache and I still have 1 lower wisdom tooth which has grown sidewards and filled once by a previous dentist which is now hurting. I’ve tried all the calming images, deep breathing etc. I’m afraid of sedation because I suffer from OCD and panic when I’m not in control. I don’t know what to do and would be grateful for any advice (I am in my fifties and dentists in my childhood involved gas masks…terrifying!!

Im sorry that you have developed this anxiety .
It sounds as if you might benefit from some Cognitive Behavioural help to assist with this .
Im not sure whether you had the tooth that was root treated completed , if you did then its probable that you may not need another one .
The purpose of the rubber dam is to keep the saliva away from the tooth that the dentist is working on , and constant swallowing is actually a problem and can be unsafe .and to protect your airway .
Its possible to learn to swallow with it on , but it needs to be practised , and the dentist needs to be sensitive to stop from time to time.
It sounds as if the wisdom tooth needs to come out . You could ask for some sedative medication that sedates you but doesnt mean that you lose control at all , such as a dose of 10 mgm of diazepam which is easy to arrange . Even with IV sedation you dont lose control , because you are still conscious and can respond to the dentist , although you will not remember any of it .
yes I had gas as a child and its not nice at all , modern sedation or general anaesthetics are done with an injection in the arm , are much lighter and safer .
If you have OCD then do you have a therapist you could talk to about this .
its important that you deal with the wisdom tooth , as waiting for tooth ache is a bad idea , and treatment in an unplanned emergency is more complicated .
Hope this helps a bit

Answer provided by: Dr Jennifer Pinder Retired
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