Why are people so afraid to go to the dentist?

I didn’t go to the dentist at all between the ages of, say, 18-27. Part of it was a lack of dental insurance, but for me the fear part wasn’t related to pain, it was not wanting to get yelled at for having not gone to the dentist recently (I had poor brushing habits as a child, and would get lectured at every visit). The longer I didn’t go, the more I knew they’d yell at me. I think mostly, though, it was the lack of dental insurance (my father kindly paid for my wisdom teeth to be removed when I was 25-26).

When I finally got insurance I sucked it up and made myself go, figuring that maybe I deserved to be yelled at (though I still dreaded it), and it turns out that I picked the best dentist in the entire world. :slight_smile: He and his staff were patient and understanding, no one lectured me, etc. And, even though it took 2 cleanings to get rid of the ~10 years of plaque, there was little pain. Nine years and three (local) moves later I’m still with the same dentist, and I recommend them to anyone who will listen. They make notes about sensitive spots and actually remember them at the next visit, the hygeinists are always friendly and concerned about how you and your mouth are feeling during the cleaning, I am almost always seen right on time, etc. And, these days my teeth get an “A” at every visit. :smiley:

My dentist uses a laser. No horrible drill noise, no smell (that I remember, anyway), and – the best part – no pain. I didn’t need any novocaine at all for the entire filling procedure. Apparently they can only use the laser for new cavities (replacing old fillings still requires a regular drill), so I’ve only had it once, but it was so nice! Maybe you can ask your dentist about it?

I don’t hate the dentist because of the pain. I hate the dentist because of the lecture.

“Somebody doesn’t know how to brush. Let me get the plastic teeth out and show you.” Of course, when I brush, I don’t get to hold my teeth and gums in my hand, away from my tongue and cheeks, and maybe that explains why I’m not as good at getting to the molars as the demonstration shows.

Have you ever gone into the doctor’s office complaining of the flu and been told, “Somebody doesn’t know how to wash their hands. Let me get a pair of plastic hands and demonstrate for you.”?

Didn’t think so. But the dentist is always so high and mighty! Schmuck.

Since my childhood, I had only been to the dentist once in adulthood. I’d never had dental insurance, and had to go to a welfare dentist. These are people who submit the lowest bid for the contract. Their skills are usually lacking, otherwise they’d have a flourishing practice with patients who can afford it. This guy couldn’t get my tooth out. He ended up with his knee on my chest, yanking as hard as he could. The tooth came out, but he dislodged part of the bone in my upper plate at the same time, and it’s always going to be like that.

Rather than go through that again, I didn’t go to the dentist anymore, until it would have been dangerous not to. Most of my teeth went bad and broke off, and I had abscesses. That’s how afraid I was to go to the dentist.

After I got married and was on my wife’s dental plan, I started going. I was extremely pleased to find that technology has improved since I went last. They removed the remains of my bad teeth and built crowns over the rest. Most of what I have left are crowns. But they work, and it hasn’t been anywhere near as bad as I expected. My last appointment is tomorrow, for a filling. That’ll be it, unless I decide to get false teeth to go where there are currently none. I kinda miss the Vicodin, but I have no reason to take it anymore.

So that’s why people are afraid to go to the dentist: fear of pain, and bad experiences.

I’m betting a lot of it has to do with each individual’s experience and tolerance. I hate going to the dentist because of the pain. But it’s not my denstist’s fault that it’s painful. I have extremely sensitive teeth and I’m also practically immune to most anesthetics, including topicals, locals and generals. I woke up while getting my wisdom teeth removed. My epidural, which I didn’t have until I’d been in labor for more than 28 hours, wore off just after I delivered less than four hours later. I had a filling put in last week and, even after four shots of novacaine, I could still feel it so just told the dentist to please, please please make it quick.

So it’s not a ham-handed dentist - in my case anyway (though I’ve heard there are lots of them) - just a very sensitive mouth and unfortunate resistance to anesethetic.

I recently went to the dentist for the first time in a couple years. I’d been avoiding it because (in short) I’m a control freak and people poking sharp objects in my mouth is an unpleasant thought. Then I didn’t have insurance for a while, and momentum built up.

Plus, the previous dentist I saw was just kind of a jerk. If you’re not going to take the time to sit down, answer my questions, and reassure me, then I’m not going to give you my money, toothache be damned.

I’m fortunate to have strong teeth – never a single cavity. If my teeth hurt, I would definitely go to a dentist. But when it comes to routine cleanings… I usually find something else to do. For me, the main reason is that I’m kind of protective about my personal space. I like a few feet between me and the next person. I don’t go much beyond a polite handshake, even with my siblings. There are about 4 people I’m willing to hug. So, there is a very small number of people whose fingers I want inside my freakin’ mouth. I haaaate that. If there is some fairly clear, fairly immediate need for that sort of thing, I’ll deal with it. But since my teeth look fine and don’t hurt, I’m in no hurry to have a stranger wedge his or her hand into one of my orifices.

Went regularly as a child, back in the mists of time, when all the tools hung off the chair and no novacaine was standard procedure.

As a young adult I stopped going as I could not afford it. I let things get a little run down, you might say.

My first overseas travel experience brought me face to face with a culture where dentistry was still practiced on the street with a guy who’s assistant’s job was to hold you down! Yeah, that’ll get anybody back into the dentist’s chair. The very thought of it made me go before each holiday I took to Asia.

In the interim years I have become incredibly fearful of the dentist. Because the roots of my teeth are very, very long and my teeth are very sensitive. The novocaine was often not 100 % effective, maybe every 3rd or 4th visit was like a little electroshock surprise! Repeat that experience for 15 plus yrs and you’d be a little jumpy going to the dentist too. Fear hardly begins to cover it.

After each horrid experience I would enquire of the dentist if I shouldn’t maybe seek out a dentist that uses gas? Each and every time (through many acknowledged high quality dentists) I was assured there was no need. Things like this just happen! And foolishly I believed them, time and time again. I am embarrassed at how long I allowed myself to be strung along. I was a fool.

It is NOT unreasonable to expect anesthesia to be 100% effective, 100% of the time.

Eventually I wised up and switched to a dentist that specializes in sedation dentistry (after reading about it on this board!). He uses gas in addition to the novocaine on me. (And other forms of sedation, including IV on other patients!).

Gas is a wonderful thing. The beauty of it is that they hook you up when you get seated and before and jabs etc. A couple of deep breaths and your anxiety melts away. Without the anxiety the jaw significantly unclenches in a way that seriously reduces the after pain of jabs and drilling. The patient largely controls the dosage of gas in that any time you feel a little anxious by developments you just take a couple of really deep breaths and, voila, you just relax. Also this dentist has a protocal wherein I need only raise my hand for any reason and he will stop what he’s doing, very reassuring.

The gas, in combo with the novocaine, was all I needed. However it was clear my new dentist was still paying the frieght for all the ones who had come before him. My experience being what it was I was constantly awaiting the inevitable time when the freezing would not take. Like waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Three weeks ago began a course of events which brought me to my knees. I cracked a tooth, he suggested a root canal, while I was waiting to get back in to see him, and of course, on a Friday night, things when from uncomfortable as I bite, to blood curdling agony. It had become infected, there was nothing to be done until Monday, antibiotics and huge pain killers. What a weekend, I was weak from pain and drowsy from pain meds and still in agony.

I called the office Monday. When the girl said Friday was as soon as they could see me I began to quietly weep and could not speak. She says, ‘Hang on a sec’, followed by, ‘Be here at noon, we won’t do the root canal but we will stabilize it for you.’

Going to the office for that visit I do not think I could have had any more trepidation if I had been walking to the gallows. I was certain this would be the time it wouldn’t take. How could it when the horse sized pain pills had only quieted it down to a dull roar?

First thing he gets his big needle, asks do I need gas before the shot, (NO sir, have at it!), and jabs away. It was the most glorious moment, I cannot even put it into words. The pain subsided and relief was mine. I almost wept it was so indescribably good. When he came back in, a few minutes later, he told me I already looked 100% better than just ten minutes earlier.

Long story short (Like that’s possible now!), he stabilized my tooth. I returned within a week to have the root canal completed, within ten days the crown and now, all is well and beautiful in my world. But I knew after that first encounter, when the agony was full upon me, I would never, ever be afraid of the dentist again!

Usually a visit to the dentist keeps me from sleeping well the night before, sometimes I would need a sleeping pill, I would always make my husband wait in the office, and I was always a little tremble inside when I took my seat in the chair. But no more, after that first visit I returned for the root canal and crown having slept, unaided, like a baby the night before. By the crown I told my husband I’d call when I was done he didn’t need to wait!

Never let a dentist poo poo your pain or discomfort, never hesistate to try another dentist until you find one who hears your concerns. Look under sedation dentistry in the phone book.

Elbows, recently reinstated as ‘not afraid of anything’ !!!

Perfect timing for this thread, I just got back from the dentist.

Going to the dentist is Not Fun. The whole idea of being tipped over backwards and having someone poke around in your mouth with sharp things triggers a response in that deep, primative, lizard part of the brain.

I needed a crown. Actually broke a point off one of my molars two days ago.

I used to really dread it. But the last few times haven’t been nearly as bad as I feared they would be. I remembered that, and I figured that this time wouldn’t be all too bad. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I wasn’t freaking out, either.

They couldn’t get me completely numb; kept giving me shots, my tongue and cheek went lights out but I could still feel the drill. They gave me to option of a temporary patch, and to reschedule and try again. I figured I was already there, and the times they tried drilling were unpleasant, but not unbearable. I told them to go ahead.

It was not the most enjoyable ten minutes of my life.

I’ve got the temporary crown on now; back for the permanent in three weeks.

The side of my face is still numb.

:::::curls up into fetal position, whimpers:::::
See, this is the sort of thing that has led to my severe, and fairly well-deserved dental, uh “anxiety” is a bit of an understatement.

I don’t know that I’d be capable of typing so soon after such a visit. I’d still have the shakes.

I really, really, REALLY appreciate my new dentist’s liberal use of Halcion and nitrous oxide. If she drills, and something hurts, she can simply add more novocaine and lalalala it’s cool with me. As opposed to that hurt…more novo…more anxiety… hurt again… MORE ANXIETY nasty positive feedback look.

Of course the downside of being that loopy, and numbed up too boot, is that one does not always notice when one is chewing the HELL out of one’s cheek when doing the “bite down, polish some more” bit at the end of the session. :eek: :smack: :mad:

The dentist was fun until I started getting cavities. I take good care of my teeth but for some reason the enamel isn’t as great as it used to be. I brush twice daily and floss - it’s not like I gargle with Pepsi before bed or anything. My cavities were minor but many my last visit. Fillings took a long time because they had to hit me 4 times with the Novocain to get me numb enough. The smell of “teeth smoke” from the drilling was sickening. One tooth took 3 weeks to stop aching so much I couldn’t sleep at night. My jaw and face were sore from the dentist and his assistant leaning on it.

I don’t think I’m afraid of it because there’s nothing I’d consider frightening about it. I just don’t get excited about it. In fact there’s a million things I would rather do first than go to the dentist, like slam my genitals in a car door, for example.

It’s pain. Not so much getting drilled or having major procedures, because they give you anasthetic for that, but the endless scraping and scoring that go with the regular cleanings.

It’s also money. Dental insurance always comes with huge deductibles and co-pays, for the simple reason that dental problems are so common. Feeling you can’t quite afford it this month is another “good” reason to avoid going.

Denture-adhesive commercials are something else. I tell you, some of the actors look hardly older than my nephew, and he’s only 20.

For me, part of it is fear and part of it is anticipation of real pain. I had a terrible dentist growing up who was a clod and who by all rights should have had his license revoked. I’ve had great dentists since then, very professional and sensitive when I say I am fearful, and yet I still have that learned fear that I can’t quite shake.

With the pain, it seems like the hygienists often don’t believe me when I say “this tooth is sensitive, so please be careful when you clean it.” Then they start cleaning and owwwie! Plus a lot of procedures just hurt and there isn’t much to be done. Even when they numb your gum before giving you a shot, the needle still has to go into a nerve and ugh is that awful. And all you can do is try and be brave and not be the little crybaby you secretly are inside. All in all not a great way to spend an afternoon.

For me, definitely the lectures. I have social anxiety, and the possibility of criticism makes me upset. Having people see that I’m upset (I often cry) makes me more upset, and so on into a nasty feedback loop. It got really bad when I didn’t go for a while after leaving grad school. Then, I had the additional fear of being lectured for not going to the dentist for a long time.

I also hate the sound that the scraper thing makes when they use it on your teeth. It has a fingernails-against-a-chalkboard quality to me.

I have a sensitive gag reflex. I hate having X-rays taken, because sometimes those things they put in your mouth for them trigger it.

In a weird way I sometimes find a cleaning to be sort of relaxing. I do agree about the lectures to an extent. My dentist always tells me to floss, and I tell her I do, which see doesn’t seem to believe even though she tells me my gums are healthy.

I hate my quarterly cleanings. IT HURTS. I have extremely sensitive teeth. I don’t know where the hell that came from, but I have to use the Crest for sensitive teeth now. I do the quarterly maintenance so I won’t lose my teeth, but it truly sucks.

Afraid is too strong a word. I find it very unpleasant. Irrationally I often feel like I can’t breath when he is doing stuff.

In the past 4 years I’ve had many operations and so lately it is just simply I don’t want more work being done. No more needles, no more anything.

I also have an easily triggered gag reflex. Due to this I absolutely loath dental x-rays, as they are guaranteed to trigger the gagging if I don’t concentrate totally on my breathing; even then it can be real difficult.

But I have to face the music and see my dentist and his staff fairly regularly due to ongoing issues with the roots of several of my teeth.

I have a severe dentist phobia. I never did until I had a root canal go horribly awry a few years ago- the worst, most prolonged pain you could ever imagine. Several days of it, in fact. Since then, every time I even just sit down in a dental chair, I start having anxiety attacks. Just the thought of it almost sends me spinning. Plus, for some reason the anesthetic (Lidacaine?) makes me cry, so I always leave the office bawling, and that combined with the anxiety makes me feel a wreck. Blech, going to the dentist sucks. But I have to admit that it’s worth it in the end.

I’m honestly convinced that my father had a case of post-traumatic stress disorder from the dentists of his childhood. He grew up in the 30s and joined the Navy in '45. Apparently, part of that was sending all the new recruits to a dentist, and they were literally held down and drilled out.

Sometime after he moved back to California, about eight years ago, he must have found God’s best dentist. When saw him, his crowns had been replaced with porcelain, and I think even his front teeth had been worked on. All I can think is that they must have doped him to the gills, and he probably had a couple of martinis before going in.

I had a not great dentist when I was a kid. He was, again, ham handed, and didn’t always make sure things were numb before drilling. I remember him telling me once not to cry, because it would scare the little kid out in the waiting room. When I got out and saw that there was no little kid, I felt completely betrayed.

I’ve let my teeth go for five years at a time, lucking out that I’ve got a health set of gums and chompers. However, my original fillings are due to be replaced, and even with dental insurance left over from being laid off, I don’t have the money to do that.

My current dentist, though, is wonderful. He waits to make sure all the numbing has taken. He answers questions. He doesn’t lecture. Plus, the novocaine system he uses is metered by a computer, so there’s no chance of getting a huge bolus of liquid pushed into your jaw in less than a second. I like that tons.

It’s not quite that I’m afraid of pain, it’s a guarantee. There will be pain. Lots of pain. Pain from the cleaning itself and pain from keeping my mouth open that whole time (I have TMJ). I try to avoid pain. It’s the body’s way of telling you something’s wrong. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of the drill on a nerve when the novocaine hasn’t taken. No dentist=no pain.
Add to that the lecture/guilt trip… why should I bother?