Scared of the dentist’s chair

Last time I went to the dentist, I couldn’t stop shaking and crying. How can I stop myself from causing a scene? 

Our elder can relate. Perhaps it’s time to find a new dentist.


Dear EWC

Hi! Thank you for taking the time to read this. So, for as long as I can remember I have been scared of dentists. Like, shaking and crying kind of scared. But it was more or less controllable. I had a trusted dentist back in my home country, she knew me well so visits to her were kind of… bearable. But then Covid happened. On one occasion I was forced to go to a dentist (that was recommended to me by a friend of a friend) and let’s just say it was a horrible experience. Recently I had to go to a new dentist and I have to go to a few more visits with her. So far she seems nice and the fact that that hospital provides an interpreter is a huge help since I at least understand fully what’s going on. But when I sat in the chair my reaction got worse than before. I was sobbing and shaking and even my jaw was jittery. We had to stop multiple times to let me calm down. And even after we were done I had trouble speaking (was a bit slow and stuttered) and was twitching for a while. I used a fidget toy for the second half and it helped but my reaction surprised me. I feel like I am overreacting but there is not much I could do at that time so I kind of feel guilty for causing a scene and taking so much of their time.


Ketchman replies

Me too! I’ve always been terrified to sit in that chair. I finally got to the point where I can handle cleanings and even the occasional routine exam but that’s about it. My dentists have learned about my discomfort with their procedures and take extra care with me and, so far, it seems to have worked out well. You shouldn’t feel guilty about being nervous and frightened anymore than feeling guilty about having a tooth cavity. Those feelings are simply part of the condition the dentist will have to deal with. If the dentist is unable to, it’s probably time to look for another dentist.

I’ve had the misfortune of having had a lot of dental work done over the years that’s likely to have paid for a good chunk of my dentist’s children’s college education. I always make sure to let my dentists know, in advance, that I am not going to be an ideal patient due to my nervousness with dental work and low pain threshold. On a couple of occasions when I was scheduled for some lengthy and particularly unpleasant procedures (I won’t go into the details) I asked for, and was given, a prescription for a tranquilizer medication that I took before my appointment. That helped immensely. It’s not something you should make a habit of but is very useful on occasion.

A good dentist should be capable of dealing not only with the physical aspects of treating dental disease but also with the trepidation that many people have about dentists in general. The play “Little Shop of Horrors” has a lot of fun depicting dentists – or one in particular – as the personification of the fears that many of us harbor about the profession. You’ve nothing to be ashamed of. A good dentist is one who is prepared to handle all aspects of treatment the patient requires including making the patient comfortable and taking whatever time is necessary to successfully complete treatment. If the dentist can’t do that, it’s her problem and not yours.

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