Severe dental phobia... Help!

Short story: dentists scare the crap out of me, but I have a broken tooth and need to go to the dentist tomorrow. I can’t even think straight today because of the anxiety.

Long story: I’ve never taken great care of my teeth. I know I should brush more often, get cleanings more often, not eat candy or drink soda, yada yada yada. I always feel so intensely guilty about not taking care of my teeth better that I’m afraid to show the dentist my teeth. Partly because my childhood dentist would always scold us for having cavities/plaque/gingivitis. Partly because I’m the kind of person who feels intense guilt for things that aren’t really my fault or aren’t big deals if they are.

Also, a few years back, I broke a molar on my right side. I wanted to save the tooth, so I opted for a root canal. The root canal ended the intense, sharp pain I was experiencing, but I still wasn’t able to apply pressure to that tooth (as in, eat with that tooth). I know, I should have called them up, asked what the deal was, gotten it fixed right away, but I didn’t. I was freaking out so hard during the root canal that I couldn’t handle another one.

So for the last 3 years, I’ve chewed exclusively on the right side. Now, I’ve broken a molar on the right side, and there’s nowhere safe to eat anymore. I’ve been trying to make do, but I can’t. I’m miserable. Both sides of my mouth ache. I’m constantly hungry because I’m just eating enough to not feel sick, but then my teeth hurt and I stop.

I mustered my courage this morning and called the dentist. Yes, it’s the same office that did my last (incomplete) root canal. They’re the only ones in my area that accept my husband’s dental insurance and have a financing program (since insurance won’t cover all of it). I explained multiple times that I have a dental phobia, so I’m hoping it’s all over my record and they’ll be kind to me.

Sedation isn’t covered by my insurance, and I can’t afford to pay out of pocket for nitrous oxide + dental work (probably root canal & crown). I can usually keep my anxiety under control through deep breathing, meditation, etc. but that’s just not possible in a dentist chair with fingers in my mouth and bright lights in my eyes.

Here’s where I need advice.

  1. How do other dentist-phobic people deal with the anxiety of going to the dentist without sedation/valium?
  2. what should I say/do about the incomplete root canal?

Be open an honest about the problems with your teeth, even the past issues. They can’t help you if you are not fully open about what’s wrong. You don’t need to be sedated. Ask your regular doctor to prescribe you something for anxiety. Take that before you go to your dental appointment.

You also need to take better care of your teeth. Going full dentures is a pain in the ass. You need your teeth.

I was always under the impression dentists keep a supply of Valium on hand for people like the OP.

Seeing my regular doctor to get a prescription for anxiety medication would cost as much as just paying for nitrous oxide. It costs roughly $300 for a doctor visit until my deductible has been met. Plus, I doubt I could get in to see my regular doctor between now and tomorrow morning when I have the dentist appointment.

So I’m asking for an ideas on how to stay calm without using medication to keep me calm (like nitrous, valium, or any other type of anti-anxiety).

Be upfront with the dentist. Talk about your anxiety and ask them to keep that in mind.

Other than that, I think all you can do is just try to breathe as calmly as you can and remind yourself that it really will be over soon. Maybe close your eyes and try to think of your happy place.

Good Luck. I too hate dental work and have a lot of nervousness when I have to go.

Look for a meditation app that you can listen to during the procedure. There is one callled “Calm” that is highly rated.

I think someone talking in your ear (get headphones/earbuds, of course) during the procedure will be helpful to you.

If the bright lights bother you, wear sunglasses or even a sleep mask. Really.

Do you have a music player? Maybe songs on your phone? If so, make a long playlist of music you like, that you can play loud in your earphones while they do the work. Keep your finger on the volume, so when you need, you can crank it loud to block out the noise of the work. Also so you can turn it down if they should ask you anything as they go along.

Tell them you’re phobic every time. It helps, trust me.

Take a book to read or listen to, and do that while you wait. I time my visits to minimize the wait which helps. I ask if it will be very long, if I can wait in my car till the last moment (because phobia). They should be accommodating.

I take a pill before I go too! It really helps. You could try asking if the dentist can prescribe anything! Maybe call it in, so you can take it before. They might be able to do that for you, and avoid the Dr’s visit. Or perhaps a walk in clinic. It’s only one tab you need really. Show them your mouth they might help you.

As one dental phobic to another, GOOD LUCK !

The dentist always prescribes 2, count 'em 2 valium for the lil’wrekker. She has an unnatural fear, that causes panic. I am talking meltdown, crying, running panic! So dentists know people have this. Tell them straight up you will need to be medicated. If they won’t comply move on to another dentist. You may have to go further afield. Your options are starving to death or a life threatening infection.

Do you prefer to deal with anxiety by not knowing what’s going to happen, or by knowing exactly what’s going to happen? If the former, as elbows and ZipperJJ said, wear headphones and tunr them up loud. Wear sunglasses. Tell the dentist you have anxiety and are trying not to focus on the procedure, and ask them not to talk to you unless it’s absolutely necessary. If the latter, ask the dentist to explain what they’re doing while they work, and about how long each thing they’re doing is going to take, so you feel more in control of the situation. Arrange a hand signal for ‘stop while I take a deep breath’.

Bring something soft but resiliant you can dig your fingernails into, like a stress ball.

If the dentist can’t provide you some Valium and you can’t afford nitrous oxide, do you have objections to alcohol? In all seriousness, that’s how I got through having a crown put on - made the appointment for early afternoon, then had two screwdrivers with lunch. Just enough to feel pleasantly insulated from the world. Not recommended if you don’t know your own metabolism well or if you’re prone to throwing up, but otherwise, there’s a reason it’s called ‘liquid courage’.

Call the dental office this afternoon and have them call you in a valium. If they won’t do it cancel the appointment and find another dentist. Seriously, you are endangering your life. Dental infections can kill you. If you can’t fix the broken teeth and root canel tooth have them removed.

I like that idea… that might be my breakfast tomorrow. I have an appointment scheduled for 8 am. They’re squeezing me in first thing so that they can hopefully address at least one of the teeth and make eating bearable. It really depends on what they find.

Thank you everyone for the ideas. I’m going to talk to the dentist about prescribing something for anxiety while I’m there tomorrow. Honestly, I thought nitrous was my only option from the dentist. If tomorrow ends up just being a diagnostic visit, then hopefully I’ll have something for when they actually do the work. If they end up being able to do some sort of repair tomorrow, hopefully some calming music and happy thoughts will do it for me… I hope.

I’m honestly so scared about it all and hurting so bad that I’m not sure if I’ll sleep tonight.

But I will go. I will go. I’m not going to be that girl who bitches on an online message board but doesn’t do anything about it.

I’ve found that improved local anesthetic technique has greatly decreased my own aversion to dentistry.

The application of topical anesthetic largely eliminates pain associated with having large needles injecting local anesthetic into your gums. Effectively painless dentistry is a very nice thing.

The only limiting factor for me now (apart from cost) is reluctance to invest the necessary time to get all the needed work done.

The OP should stop watching Marathon Man repeats before dentist visits. :slight_smile:

some dentists specialized in sedation for nervous folks so you can look for one of those.

Two generic Valium cost a few dollars. You take one about an hour before the appointment, and one right when you get there. The dentist prescribes them; you don’t have to see your PCP. You DO need someone to drive you back and forth to the appointment.

The dentist can also prescribe something like Tylenol 3 for you to have for a few days after the procedure.

Are you sure you can’t afford nitrous? It’s OOP for me too, but it costs only $70. Can you put it on a credit card?

I always get a book on audible on my phone and listen to it when I have a dental appointment. Some people might prefer music, but an easy book, like Agatha Christie, soothes me more than music.

I went to a real sadist as a child. I won’t share stories, because you don’t need that now; just say that he did good work from a cosmetic standpoint (he used porcelain fillings, for example, and most dentists didn’t at the time), and my mother cared more about that than whether I was being traumatized. The guy shouldn’t have been allowed to work with children. He had no patience or empathy with them whatsoever.

I used to have a really severe dental phobia, and didn’t see a dentist from about age 19 to maybe age 31, when a filling from childhood had to be replaced. At that point, I found a dentist who made it his business to help me get over my phobia. I had the Valium and gas for the first time, and someone who was nice, and gentle. After the old filling was replaced, I had a cleaning, and then had some long-overdue work done.

When I moved to Indy, I specifically looked for a dentist who used gas, and when I made my first appointment, I explained about my phobia, and how the other dentist had helped. The new dentist in Indy said she was sure she could help too, and she did. I even get nitrous for cleanings. Being honest with the dentist is something you absolutely have to do. Most dentists have dealt with dental phobias before, and the good ones want to help you with it.

I used to be scared of the dentist and also neglected my teeth as a kid.
When I finally went (because of the pain), I had 15 fillings over 2 days of treatment. :eek:

However I realised that I was only hurting myself.
So I started brushing my teeth and going regularly to the dentist.
In the last 40 years, I’ve had no problems. (It helps a lot that dental injections don’t hurt much now - just a brief prick.)

I wish you the best of luck, because the difference between an unhealthy mouth and a problem-free one is enormous.
I also sympathise over cost - here in the UK dental treatment is covered by our National Health Service and is therefore affordable.

If I am under the nitrous, the injection doesn’t bother me at all. I still can’t imagine having it without the nitrous. I’m not someone who tolerates pain very well. But one effect of the nitrous is that you feel just slightly numb all over, so the injection just isn’t as bad as it would be otherwise. The numbness is very slight-- that’s probably the wrong word. You just aren’t quite as sensitive. The injection is just a prick; it doesn’t feel like…well, I won’t say. Maybe it’s worse for me than the OP.

Besides, Glee could be right-- the injections might hurt less now than they did when I was a kid due to improved technique, and besides, in general, adults are less sensitive than children. Vaccines don’t bother adult me, but when I was a child, they felt like torture.

Serenata67: are you completely sold on using the dentist you called? I know you said no one else takes your insurance, but did you try out of your area? Maybe if you drive a little, you can find someone altogether cheaper, and then you’d be able to afford the nitrous.

Also, please try the Valium. It’s really just a few dollars. It comes in generic, and you’re just getting a couple of pills. I get something in the Valium family to help with insomnia, and I get 30 at a time (I don’t go through 30 a month, but I could actually get that many if I wanted-- I go through 30 in maybe 5 or 6 months); anyway, 30 of them costs me about $6. So two Valium couldn’t possibly cost more than that, and most likely less.

Dentist here. Sorry things aren’t going well Serenata67. This is late if your appointment is today. Are you not wanting something like valium and wanting to try only something without medication? As far as things like meditation etc. I have patients that do things like take with no problem while in the chair. If you have trouble because of the light fingers etc., as others have mentioned, headphones seem to be the most common thing among my patients. I wish I could tell you what would work but it really is one of those individual things. As for the nitrous, we charge $60 and it is good for all visits in a three month period(all offices vary of course). If valium isn’t really the problem but seeing your PCP is, as others have said your DDS can prescribe it for you. Since they have seen you before shouldn’t be a problem it is very cheap. As Beckdawrek says I prescribe 2 tabs(of course dose varies) one for night before and one an hour before. You do need a driver. For people who call and aren’t patients of record, I will give them 1 tab and let them know if they fail to show up we will never see them or give them another Rx. People just wanting drugs aren’t going to the pharmacy for only one pill but scared people will. Since you will be there anyway see if they can also give you a full exam, only take a few more minutes and is usually covered at 100% by insurance. That way you can know what all you need especially to see if the three year old root canal is still fixable. My educated guess would be that it is cracked and probably isn’t fixable after three years but you need to know for sure.
Grrr! I can’t speak for others but I don’t know any dentist that keep drugs on hand to give to patients. In TX one has to have a pharmacy license to charge for dispensed drugs(your state may be different). One could give them at no charge without a pharm lic but the paperwork is also not worth it since it only takes two minutes to call an Rx in.

I am glad a dentist came in and posted. I wonder how Seranata did?

I did ok. My tooth is fixed, any I’m still in one piece.

The problem: a filling I had cracked and broke off. No root canal; he just removed the old filling, cleaned it up a bit, and put a new one in. I was afraid it would be in the neighborhood of $300-500; the filling, exam, x-rays, etc. was closer to $100.

I made myself a Spotify list of the most calming classical music I could think of. Songs in major keys, that I know and love, that are calming to me. The only problem with classical music during a dental procedure: it inevitably decrescendos right as the drill kicks up. SMH.

I explained my phobia to them and the dentist was very gentle. He let me know something interesting; I seem to have a rather high tolerance to the anesthetic he used. He gave me a good dose and I could still feel things, so he dosed me again. This may explain some of the problems I’ve had; maybe I wasn’t as numb as I should have been.

I’m still rather sore; those extra shots in my jaw along with having to hold it open that long and lingering sensitivity to my tooth are still issues. But I can eat again. I’m going to make another appointment to deal with the lingering issues in my other tooth, too.

Good for you! Glad things went well.