I am not sure I am able to pin point one single cause or event for the development of my dental phobia. I believe it started at my old surgery when just after having my fixed braces removed I had a few tiny cavities, which needed to be filled to prevent further decay. I hadn’t been at the surgery long and hadn’t needed treatment with them before. As with most people, I was nervous anyway but nothing major.
When I got there I realized that there was a language barrier between the dentist and this made it slightly awkward from the first moment. I wasn’t greeted or comforted at all and there was no real explanation of what treatment I was going to undergo.
That first course of treatment was horrendous. No conversation was made and I was treated like just another patient rather than an individual. She injected anaesthetic without any warning, which was also conducted in an uncaring manner. All I knew was that I was getting fillings; I wasn’t even sure which teeth were getting work done on them on each occasion. I had been under the impression it was to be small fillings too, but after what seemed like an eternity of her drilling away at my back teeth I started to feel hot and sweaty.
I remember fluid building up in the back of my mouth and the assistant didn’t once use that suction thing to remove it and that was when the initial panic started because I was finding it hard to breathe and needed to swallow but couldn’t.
When she briefly stopped I explained I felt nauseous at this point. The response I got was something along the lines of; ‘don’t be silly, it won’t take long…’ etc. I found that treatment really painful and the panic I felt during it was so traumatic, I really wasn’t sure I wanted to go back.
What made you decide to take the first step in contacting a dentist?
I was in agony in all day and night for weeks, even months; trying out every home remedy I could research on Google. I literally had drawers upon drawers of different toothpastes, mouthwashes, and painkillers. I even resorted to taking someone else’s prescription painkillers because I was in so much pain. Something had to be done and several people recommended Fareham Road Dental Surgery. It took days of deliberating just to find the strength to go and ask them for help.
What made you choose the dentist / clinic that you did?
I can’t fault anything with the practice. The receptionists are very friendly compared to the rude and obnoxious receptionists of my old practice. The first dentist I saw, and his assistant were fantastic, and I explained everything about my feelings and experiences and put me to ease and explained my options. They didn’t encourage it, but by that point I had set my mind on sedation, and knew a practice in Southsea, specialising in such treatment. Again, he had tried to persuade me to not go through down route but was empathetic and treated me like a person rather than just another job.
Over time with antibiotics relieving the infection I had again, and having had the sedations done, I was feeling slightly more comfortable but I still had a lot of work to do. My dentist left to join a hospital and my replacement dentist was Kal Patel.
Describe your dental experience (from the initial contact, the first appointment, consultation and right through to the treatment including your feelings and anxieties throughout).
With Kal’s help I managed to sit through my first course of treatment in a very long time which made me feel proud of myself and was a massive step in my journey to overcoming my phobia.
There were times during which I got infections regularly and I remember the dread I felt going to ask for help. I felt like I had let him and myself down. However, his reaction was fantastic and instead of telling me off, he accepted that I was phobic. He gave me the necessary treatment, and just asked how I was feeling, about my brushing habits and my diet.
It was surprising how little I knew about teeth considering how dental problems had ruled my life for years. I now own an electric toothbrush and don’t rinse my mouth out after brushing. I was also educated on the dangers of sugar and how the frequency of the intake can be more problematic than the actual quantity. This was useful as I had an obsession with energy drinks, which I would drink throughout the day. It also helped my phobia to know that he knew my specific case. For example, he remembered that I told him about my energy drinks and sugary snacks. It’s comforting to be asked about it during every appointment.
A year or so ago I couldn’t even imagine myself sitting through treatment, but with the perseverance and friendliness I’ve been shown, I will soon be looking at getting my smile back to how it was before.
How did you manage to overcome your dental phobia?
I would be lying if I said I am 100% over my phobia, but I am at point where I can sit in the waiting room and look around and see I’m not most nervous person in the room anymore.
I am at the point where I almost look forward to going as I know it is for my benefit and instead of being hurt for nothing, I am going in there to improve myself and show off how well I’ve done and the hard work Kal has put in is paying off.
I’m even finding myself encouraging other people to go to the dentist who I know who are scared of making the first step like I was. I still feel nervous and a little panicky, but I am also put at ease in the knowledge I won’t get told off for asking for a break to compose myself.
How do you currently feel about your dental phobia?
As with most things in life it’s harder to remember the good times than it is the bad. Despite the length of time my phobia is taking to overcome, I have to say that the team made me instantly feel relaxed. Kal’s approach to dentistry is rare and made such an impact that I’ve persuaded two work colleagues join the practice and my parents will be joining too soon.
Kal treats me as an individual and even finds time to speak to me about my personal life. I consider him a friend more than some scary dentist who will ultimately cause me pain.
Any other comments or words of advice to people out there who are suffering from dental phobia and are avoiding the dentist?
I’ve still got a fair while to go before my treatment to complete my smile will be finished but I am just happy to have come this far. My dental issues and the appearance of my teeth still bother me to some degree but I’m glad to know I have support waiting for me.
I regret several things about this phobia of mine, the first being that I regret not having the courage to move dentists sooner. It was the best decision I ever made. I regret that I let my teeth and my mental state regarding oral hygiene get to the point I let it. If I had confronted the issue as it was developing I could have saved myself from some of the worse pain I’ve ever felt in my life and also prevented my confidence getting destroyed.
When you’re petrified of the dentist you don’t think straight. I would probably have to advise people of the situation that in the future they might not have a phobia. I never imagined coming as far as I have so I genuinely feel gutted I was unable to feel how I feel now, back then.
Everyone is different and I’ve been lucky to get such an amazing dentist but the best bit of advice I could offer someone who felt like I did, would be the first step, which is picking up the phone or going to the practice, is the hardest step to take.
Don’t leave it as long as I did and remember that the dentists are here to help you, not hurt you.
You are not alone.
More real patient stories
Patient of Dr Yasmin George (The Courtyard Clinic)
"I don’t even get anxious any more. I can’t say I have overcome my phobia – I get round it, with sedation"
Patient of Dr Leila Johnson (Causeway Dental Practice)
"I went to the dentist at the age of about 9yrs to have a tooth removed and ended up being pinned down by my mother, the nurse and the dentist had my head trapped between his legs to keep me still. At that age all I could hear was the cracking of the tooth not actually any pain. This experience has made me nervous of the dentist"
Patient of Dr David Rudin (The Arnold Dental Centre)
"My advice is not to avoid the dentist no matter how fearful you are. I felt stupid initially explaining how fearful I was of the dentist, but it was the best thing I have done! I would strongly advise speaking to your dentist and sharing your fears so they can help you through the process"
Patient of Dr Munther Sulieman (Merton Dental Centre)
"I managed to overcome my fear due to the fact that I know that Dr Sulieman has a good understanding of the root cause of my fear of visiting the dentist and actively takes steps to put my mind at rest and tailor my dental treatment to my need’s"
Patient of Dr Richard Colebourne (Evesham Dental Health Team)
"I think it is a case of mind over matter. I simply just didn’t see myself wearing false teeth. I had a brace as a girl, one of the ones that fitted in the roof of my mouth, and I didn’t get on with it. So I decided that I had to do something if I wanted to keep my teeth. I can now smile and feel proud that they’re mine. I am so chuffed. I have also always tried not to pass my fear on to my daughter"
Patient of Dr Kal Patel (Fareham Road Dental Surgery)
"I would be lying if I said I am 100% over my phobia, but I am at point where I can sit in the waiting room and look around and see I’m not most nervous person in the room anymore. I am at the point where I almost look forward to going as I know it is for my benefit and instead of being hurt for nothing, I am going in there to improve myself and show off how well I’ve done and the hard work Kal has put in is paying off"
Patient of Dr Claire Wilkinson (The Courtyard Clinic)
"I am still overcoming it now however, with the help of a great team of people, understanding, and working out what’s good for you, my salvation was music I let my mind run away with the music instead of letting the mind chatter take over, I’m not saying it goes completely however with each visit the mind chatter gets less and less"
Patient of Dr Claire Wilkinson (The Courtyard Clinic)
“With encouragement from Claire and the team, the tablets that calm me down enough to get in the chair. I listen to music so I cant hear what they say and close my eyes. Mad but it gets me through it!!!”