Family life

Dealing with dentist phobia

It's not her kids — Tracy's the one with a big fear of the dentist's chair.

By Tracy Chappell
Dealing with dentist phobia

No, I’m not talking about my kids. In fact, Anna adores going to the dentist. Sean has no trouble going to the dentist, and I’ve just made an appointment for Avery’s first official visit as she turns four (she had a meet-the-dentist type visit a long time ago and we forgot to go beyond that. Second children!).
I’ve always asked Sean to take Anna to the dentist because I’m afraid that some of my dentist phobia will rub off on her. Like dogs, Anna can smell fear. And if she sensed it, she’d want to know exactly why the dentist is such a horrible, terrible, awful place. What if I couldn’t control myself and grabbed her by the arms and exclaimed “Run for your life, Anna! Run away and don’t let them get you!"?
I have sensitive gums, so to me, the dentist has always been a house of pain. Plus, the sound of that drill makes me want to curl up in the fetal position. As soon as you walk in, you hear it: Eeeeee! Eeeeee! Eeeee! I also have a horrific recurring dream of my teeth falling out, so my phobia may all centre around that. I evaded the dentist for five full years until I decided it was time to be a big girl (ie: I thought a had a cavity). I would make appointments and then reschedule them a few times, then cancel them again. I took extremely good care of my teeth to avoid dentist trips. In fact, when I forced myself back into the chair after my hiatus (requesting a “nice” hygienist who would be gentle and not give me a guilt trip), the dentist couldn’t believe I had been away. I didn’t even have a cavity — what a waste of anxiety!
I now have a good relationship with the receptionist and have explained to her that she can’t let me leave the office without booking my next appointment (or I never will) and she’s also not allowed to let me reschedule to infinity.
Yesterday I had my first practically pain-free visit. I wasn’t even in the eyes-squeezed-shut-and-white-knuckle-grip-on-the-armrests mode that gives my hygienists such alarm. I’ll begrudgingly admit that it wasn’t so bad and that regular dentist visits are important, and especially helpful for “sensitive” people like me.
Now I just have to convince kid #2 of that. When I told her (with a big smile on my face) that she’s going to her first dentist appointment, she burst into tears, moaning, “I don’t like the dentist!” Seriously, I’ve never breathed a word of this phobia around the kids, so perhaps Avery also has a great fear (or bullsh*t) detector. I’ll make sure my calm husband takes her too.
I know people who actually like going to the dentist. They find it relaxing. Relaxing! I say give me a book, a cocktail and a pedicure — that’s relaxation, baby.
Do you or your kids have dentist phobia? How do you manage it? (I may need some tips for Avery!)

Photo by GraphicReality via Flickr

This article was originally published on May 10, 2012

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