Dental phobia - Carol's story

Carol Gerrard suffered from dental anxiety from a very young age, triggered by several negative and traumatic experiences at the dentist as a child.
All of these experiences made a lasting impression on Carol, affecting how she felt about visiting the dentist well into her adulthood.
Carol, from Whitby in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, used to dread having to visit the dentist, so much so that she would avoid treatment and leave practices prior to appointments when her anxiety became too overwhelming.
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Here she shares her experience with dental anxiety over the years, and how she luckily managed to overcome the issue with the help of her dentist and his expertise.
“I know that my dental anxiety started as a child. I am 66 years old now, and yet I still have a very vivid memory of the bad experiences I had as a young girl that led to my fear of visiting the dentist,” explained Carol.
“My mum was always anxious about going to the dentist herself and I do think that transferred to me as a child, but it then manifested further into a real phobia through my own experiences.
“My first memory of having a really unpleasant experience at the dentist was an occasion where I was so scared that they had to use a tranquiliser to try and calm me down to treat me, but I was so agitated and had so much adrenaline that the tranquilisers had no effect.
“I then remember when I was about ten years old, I went to visit my school dentist to have some teeth removed. The school dentist was a big guy, and so was very intimidating, which only exacerbated my pre-existing anxiety. I was so terrified and I can still vividly picture him looming over me with the gas to put me under for treatment, and then that image was all I could see again as I was coming round.
“I think these experiences enabled my dental anxiety to manifest and explains how going to the dentist then became such an incredibly unpleasant ordeal for me. I would dread going for days, even weeks, before my appointment, and when I would go my heart would be racing, I would start shaking; it was just complete and utter fear.
“Luckily, I then found a new dentist local to my home in Whitby, and he was a lovely, kind and gentle man and was the first clinician to really listen to my needs and build my treatment around them to try and help me overcome the anxiety.
“A big part of my fear was that I had a real phobia of needles and injections in my mouth, so when I got this new dentist, I said straight away I didn’t want any injections for any of my treatments, even as a young girl. He accepted my decision and luckily I only ever needed to have fillings at his practice so I could manage not having any injections.
“Then when I was 18, I moved down to Reading and I booked an appointment with a new dentist, believing that I was an adult now so I should be able to handle any fears.
“However, I got myself so riled up about having to go to a new dentist that when the dentist told me I needed an injection for a filling, I actually passed out because I had so much adrenaline coursing through me.
“From then on, I travelled all the way from Reading to Whitby to my hometown dentist every time I needed treatment, as he was the only dentist I had been to that made me feel comfortable and eased my nerves.
“Then a few years later I moved to London with my husband and I booked an appointment at a local practice. My husband came with me as I was nervous about going to a new practice, and as we were sat in the waiting room, I heard a patient screaming from the treatment room. I got up and left right away.
“I went back to this practice a few months later and during the appointment I asked the clinician if we could do the treatment without injections, but he flatly refused so I left again, as I was too scared of the prospect of having an injection in my mouth.
“Years later I returned to Whitby and found a great local dentist, Dr Roy Bennett at Whitby Dental, who is very experienced in helping people overcome dental anxiety and phobia. The whole practice is a very relaxing experience, and during my first visit I explained my situation and Roy put me through a session of relaxation therapy and taught me some self-hypnosis techniques that I still use to this day, as they really do help me remain calm.
“All the support Roy has offered me has helped me overcome my dental anxiety completely, and I now experience no fear when visiting the dentist. I have since wanted ten veneers, which I needed injections for, and having the treatment was no issue for me in the slightest!
“My experience just goes to show how important it is to have a dentist you trust and who understands your needs. When I was younger, I don’t think dentists had enough understanding around the psychological issues around dental anxiety or how to treat it, and over the years I have realised the long-term impacts these past traumatic experiences from that time had on my life.
“Luckily, I am now so far from my past dental anxieties that I’m not even worried to return to practice post-lockdown. I understand those that are still going through help with the phobia may be scared to go back, especially with PPE covering the team’s faces, but I know their welcoming smiles will still be there. I would recommend anyone who is experiencing anything similar to what I went through to find a dentist who can really help them through it, as it is so important to keep up with your dental care for your general health and wellbeing.”

Dental phobia causes and solutions

We want to reassure those nervous about attending our practices that support will be readily available to help with any issues around dental phobia.

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A root canal procedure left Sue Walker with a phobia of going to the dentist, she didn’t go for regular check-ups or treatments for more than 12 years.