It wasn’t until coming out into the world about my childhood did I learn and understand that my totally illogical fear of the dentist is actually quite common amongst people that were abused as children. I found this fascinating because I didn’t understand that there would be a link at all, even though my own irrational fear does trigger many of the things from childhood, I never saw that there was a correlation between the two.
I found that I wasn’t the only one with this fear. I know dental fear isn’t just in those that have been abused, it is a common fear in general, but what I found about the link between child sexual abuse and dental fear made a lot of sense to me and explained why I have it.
I stare now at the letter that has come from my dentist, just a copy that is referring me to the hospital for sedation. I’m only having a rebuild on a back tooth that I smashed a couple of months ago, nothing major. But there is no way I can get in the dental chair for work to be done. In fact just to have it looked at, I couldn’t lie back, he had to view it with me mostly sat upright and my other half in the room.
I asked him to please not use any instruments in my mouth, not even the mirror. I was shaking and my breathing was going, all he was doing was looking into my mouth to assess the damage I had done to this tooth. “It’s easy to fix,” he told me.
Easy? Not at all, just sitting in that chair wasn’t easy. He said he could fix it there and then, I asked if instead he could remove all my teeth. And yes I really did ask, because I hate this fear, I look after my teeth so much to save myself the trauma of the dentist, that I thought if I just had them removed, the only thing I’ll ever have to endure is having a cast of my mouth taken. He said no. At 36 years old, he said by the time I reached my 60’s my gums would have receded so much that not even dentures would hold and he wasn’t about to start removing teeth that were healthy.
Of course I understood what he was saying, and told him he couldn’t fix my tooth. I saw my other half sigh. But I just couldn’t bring myself to say yes. I asked to be sedated.
So now I have this letter that states severe needle fear, which is funny because it isn’t. Needles don’t bother me, the ex-drug abuser in me laughed. I am not afraid of needles at all.
But what the dentist does cause:
- Having to lie back while a dentist examines my mouth (usually a man)
- Having to trust a person of authority.
- The anticipation of pain
- Feeling smothered
- Instruments in my mouth as well as fingers
- Lack of control (which goes back to the authority figure having control)
- Hands over my mouth and nose
- Fear of not being able to breathe or swallow
- Fear of gagging
- Worried about the dentist getting annoyed
- Feeling restrained.
It seems that many dental procedures remind me and others like me of abusive experiences.