For me it all started with school dentist, like most people of my generation. I can recall several experiences where dentists would give me injections to numb my mouth but it didn’t work. They wouldn’t believe me and told me it was all in my imagination. This meant that I would have to endure the pain of treatment, which once included a 3hour root canal treatment appointment! I think these experiences have manifested themselves over the years and this resulted in my anxieties become extremely over-the-top.
What made you decide to take the first step in contacting a dentist?
I was recommended by a friend. I also went to my previous dentist on recommendation – he was highly recommended for nervous and anxious patients like myself. However, he didn’t put me at ease at all – he was impatient, put me on edge and had a complete lack of understanding for my phobia. He seemed all too happy to knock me out (sedate me) as it saved him any bother. I put up with it though as it is not easy to change.
It all came to a head two years ago though when I had extensive treatment for a new bridge. After enduring the numerous visits to have my new bridge made and fitted, I was left in a lot of pain and discomfort. So I returned to the dentist and they told me I would need root canal treatment. Being told this was all too much and I ended up breaking down afterwards when talking to a friend. It was her who encouraged me to seek a second opinion with Richard Colebourne at Evesham Dental Health Team. I was in such a state – I was in so much pain and I was really worried about what other treatment I would have to go through. And so despite having to travel such a long way, I had an appointment with Richard within a day or two.
What made you choose the dentist / clinic that you did?
On that first meeting with Richard, he did manage to put me at ease although it wasn’t easy. He was so relaxed; he listened and understood my experiences, which gave me confidence. He needed to take an xray to determine what was causing the pain. However with my previous dentist I found that even doing that was difficult for me; I found them horrendous as I gag very easily. The dentist would lose his cool and leave me for a few minutes before trying again – making me even more worked up. However, Richard helped me with deep breathing and I was able to relax a little so that he could do it. Afterwards looking at the xray, even I was able to see the problem and I am not a dentist – it was plain to see. The problem was that the bridge was loose – I did not need the root canal treatment. So it meant we had to go back to square one and start all over again with making a new bridge. But this time I knew that Richard would be the one to do it.
Describe your dental experience (from the initial contact, the first appointment, consultation and right through to the treatment including your feelings and anxieties throughout).
Everybody is reassuring, especially Richard and Angela (hygienist) who I see. In fact everyone is very reassuring right from when you walk in the door; it is very much a team effort. All the staff are extremely welcoming, friendly and calm, and so because there is such a relaxed atmosphere I do not feel anxious when I come in – I leave it at the front door.
The whole dental environment can contribute towards my anxiety, right from when I when first walk in the door. If a member of staff doesn’t seem quite right with you, or you receive a negative look, it can make me feel more on edge. It is so important when someone like me walks in that we receive the right impression. As a patient at EDHT it has never been conveyed to me if things aren’t quite right or if someone has been having a bad day. I always experience a warm welcome.
How did you manage to overcome your dental phobia?
"I have all my treatment with the dentist through IV sedation. When I first came to EDHT I did say I would love to not have to have sedation but I didn’t know how to do it without it. At one point I even thought I would need sedation for the hygienist. I’ve come a long way – I now have confidence and I am reassured because I have built up trust with Richard and the team"
How do you currently feel about your dental phobia?
I don’t have the same anxieties and phobia to the extent as I did in the past. I don’t think it will ever completely go away but when I walk into EDHT I know I am in safe hands, and they are going to look after me and not cause me any pain. It almost feels as though I am in a security blanket. However having said that, I would panic and be very worried if I had to go to see another dentist and couldn’t see Richard at EDHT.
I now feel as though I don’t really have any problems coming to see the dentist or hygienist. It has taken a long time for me to shed all the problems that I have experienced but it is no longer a white-knuckle experience and now I wonder why I was so worried.
Any other comments or words of advice to people out there who are suffering from dental phobia and are avoiding the dentist?
Go to EDHT! But failing that the best thing is to find a dentist / dental practice who understands anxiety. It is so important that your dentist is able to understand and empathise with you as a patient.
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!!!”