Dental Phobia as the result of Trauma
by Michele Lafferty
Besides suffering from PTSD as a result of other traumas that included rape, I was traumatized by two different dentists.
Just having to lie back in the dental chair caused me to feel vulnerable.
I always felt safer with the lead apron on when they were doing x-rays in the chair. One dentist did not give the anesthetic time to take effect before pulling a tooth and the other did those deep cleanings without any anesthetic.
Many years later I found a dentist to whom I explained what I had experienced. He called it "barbaric" and told me he was "into painless dentistry." He uses flavored topicals before giving me shots, has taken me through 5 root canals without any pain and recently extracted 7 teeth and put in immediate dentures.
Even with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Valium, and a friend in the room when I had the 7 extractions and immediate dentures I still had a panic attack that had me physically shaking, not to mention numerous panic attacks leading up to the event. Due to my dental phobia I did not get this dental work (dentures) done when I had the money 8 years ago. And then my circumstances changed and I could not afford it.
Had I understood this as "dental phobia" rather than cowardice, I would have dealt with it in therapy when I had the money. I think it would help if the American Dental Association made a concerted effort to raise public awareness of dental phobia with public service announcements, offers of free pamphlets on various dental procedures (what to expect)and the like. It would help to increase business for all dentists and also improve dental health in this country. And it would have been really great to have been able to buy a "Dentures for Dummies" book to read before tackling this challenge.
Being told I would have to "figure out" how to eat with them was of no comfort to me and only increased the pressure put on me when I was least able to handle it.
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