What was the reason for your dental phobia?
I really don’t know what the reason for my dental phobia was and/or is. My mother tells me I had a bad experience with an army dentist when I was a toddler but I don’t remember that. It may be that I feel helpless in the dentist’s chair because of my ignorance of dental matters: I know very much more about the functions of my internal organs than I do about the way my teeth and mouth work. But truly I think I’m just a timid person who very much dislikes pain!
What made you decide to take the first step in contacting a dentist despite your phobia?
My first contact with a dentist was when my mother took me as a child. Then, as a teenager, vanity led me to have my front teeth straightened (the power of vanity is amazing!). After that I didn’t approach a dentist for very many years, confident in the belief that I would never have any problem. When I finally approached a dentist again it was because I thought I would only ever need a cleaning.
What made you choose the dentist / clinic that you did?
I chose the old Park West practice because it was recommended to me. Dr Maini (Aqua Spa) “inherited” me from that practice.
Describe your dental experience
My first contacts with the practice were for appraisal, cleaning and teaching me how to brush and floss properly. I could cope with that: no injections and no drilling sounds. It’s true there were the sounds and sensations of polishing, which I dislike, but that didn’t actually frighten me. But then at the beginning of 2000 one of my pre-molars snapped because of a crumbling filling. I was lucky enough not to suffer pain because the crack missed the nerve (by less than a millimetre!) but it was frightening. Dr Maini treated me: it was the first time he’d given me any potentially painful treatment. I was extremely anxious, so much so that I was visibly shaking and couldn’t even hold the plastic cup to rinse my mouth. I even forgot to breathe occasionally! Dr Maini got me through that and mended the tooth successfully. I ended the session pale and shaking but not completely shattered. Since then he, together with some of his colleagues, have done some extensive work on me for rather serious problems. It’s not been enjoyable by any means, but Dr Maini gives me a mild sedative when he thinks I need it, as well as anaesthetic injections and a DVD viewer to distract me.
How did you manage to overcome your dental phobia?
I don’t think I have overcome my dental phobia but I can control it much better. Dr Maini and his colleagues are very good at explaining why treatments have to be done. Understanding that need and the danger of neglect of the teeth and mouth help to reconcile me to accepting discomfort in the chair. But the greatest help to me is that all the staff at the practice deal with me as me rather than as “the patient”. I can express my anxieties and feelings to any of them and they immediately seek a practical way of overcoming them. They have very up-to-date equipment and techniques so that I can be confident that I will spend as little time in the chair as possible and will feel as little sensation as possible.
How do you currently feel about your dental phobia?
The phobia still exists inside me. I continue to fear going to the dentist’s, much as I like all the staff there. But their relaxed, understanding approach and high level of modern training calm me so that I am able to cope.
Any other comments or words of advice to people out there who are suffering from dental phobia and are avoiding the dentist?
Don’t avoid the dentist! I happily sailed through without dental care until my fifties – and then I was hit by some very serious problems, which could have been prevented earlier. Do some research: seek out a practice which is up-to-date, where the staff take refresher training courses and where they are eager to explain the details of proposed treatment – and where they are willing and able to listen to you.
This patient has undergone treatment with Dr Anoop Maini of Aqua Dental Spa, who is a dental phobia certified dentist.
Aqua Dental Spa – 25 Manchester Square London W1U 3PY, Web: www.gentledentists.co.uk, Tel: 020 7935 5332