I have a horrible toothache and know I need some very serious dental work. I have an appointment on Monday to see a local dentist, but there is a small problem. I am absolutely terrified of dentists! I mean like terrified of flying level of phobia!

Do dentists knock you out any more? I’m thinking that is what it will take to really get any work done.

You could probably find a dentist who would work with general anesthesia, though I suspect that number is shrinking. There are also dentists who specialize on people who are really adverse to pain and/or with people who have phobias against people mucking around in their mouths. You would probably do well to go to one of those.

As someone going through the exact same thing right now (root canal and extraction scheduled for Tuesday), I’ve gotten over my trepidation regarding dentistry thusly:

  1. Learn about the procedure you’ll be going under. If it’s an extraction, read up on how they’re going to do it. If it’s a crown, learn about the different types and when they should be used.
  2. Remind yourself that your dentist is a professional. They want your repeat business, and thus it behooves them to make the experience as nontraumatic as possible for you.
  3. Pragmatically, evaluate the pain and discomfort you’re in now. Imagine that never going away. If that doesn’t frighten you more than the thought of a 90 minute stretch in a chair, imagine harder.
  4. Remember that it’s not as bad as waterboarding.

My last dentist experience was decidedly…well, not pleasant, but not nearly as unpleasant as the irrational fear had me expecting it to be. I had a bit of work done as well.

Just make sure you tell yourself to relax every few minutes. It’s amazing how much you realise your body is tensed when you are thinking about trying to relax!

How serious dental work? They still knock you out for wisdom teeth extraction–they did me, anyway. IV in the arm. They put it in and the nurse said “Okay now just rel—” and then I woke up in the lobby with my mouth full of gauze. Easy.

I think you gotta tell them beforehand, though. So the anesthesiologist can be there.

I’m apprehensive with dentists, but not phobia level. It’s too late for your current situation, but something to keep in my for the future; regular visits for teeth cleaning and checkups got me more comfortable with the dentist rummaging around inside my mouth.

My last major dental work was the removal of two wisdom teeth done under local anesthetics. I won’t say it was pleasant, but I didn’t experience any pain during the work.

The phrase you’re looking for is “sedation dentistry”. They still advertise around these parts.

Do note that the insurance often doesn’t cover sedation. I had an apicoectomy a couple years back (don’t look it up; you don’t want to know if you’re scared of the dentist) where I chose sedation and I have literally zero memory of any part of the procedure. I took some nasty tasting powder, and then woke up at home about 20 hours later with stitches and a decent amount of pain due to the trauma of the work they’d done, but nothing that narcotics couldn’t fix.

Do note that you need someone who can not only drive you to/from the dentist in case of sedation, but that’s strong enough to physically help you get from the car into your house on the return trip. We weren’t aware of this fact and my wife had some issues getting me up the three flights of stairs to our apartment at the time.

Last time I had a “toothache” I needed root canal work. By the time the doctor was available I was ready to do the work myself.

Look for a doctor who will do “sedative” dentistry. It is apparently a growing field.

This is the key. Any amount of discomfort or horror you experience will be temporary. Imagine yourself a couple of days after with NO PAIN.

I think you guys are missing the whole “irrational fear” part of phobia.

Just keep biting the dentist’s fingers while he’s trying to work. Let him know who’s boss.

I see a growing need for dentistry doulas.

You can ask for nitrous oxide, or even an antianxiolytic like Ativan. Most dentists would rather work on a relaxed patient than a fear crazed patient. It’s annoying as hell to see someone white knuckle it…

Update: I did go in and was very honest about my irrational fears. The staff was awesome and really made me feel like I wasn’t alone and they see it all the time. My problem ended up being one tooth in desperate need of a root canal and another which is really starting to need one. I’m having both done under sedation rather then two separate visits. There are some other things like a deep cleaning and such that need doing, but first things first.

It’s not cheap by any means, even with health insurance. But life was getting too miserable to not get this taken care of.

Root canal usually takes several visits. Be ready for it. If your dentist will use a general then you’re okay. I’m exactly like you. But it gets better.

After it’s done, you’ll wonder why you waited so long in misery. I was in your shoes 2 months ago and I still can’t believe how much pain I endured before I caved and went in.

Hope you don’t wake up untucked.

Find a female dentist. Seriously. For some neanderthal, sexist reason, I’ve found female dentists much more soothing than male one. This is an internal thing, it’s not a claim about differences in innate psychology of women vs. men. It more a claim that you’re never too old for a mommy, particularly in times of stress.

You can find compassionate dentists and people who work in your mouth in both flavors.

My dentist is a very caring guy who has always been up on the latest technology, much of it aimed at making the patient as comfortable as possible. For example, he has been using the wand thing to inject novacain since it was new technology and I believe there are a lot of dentists, etc. who don’t bother with it despite the fact that it’s less invasive (my theory on that is it is more expensive and that’s why other dentists don’t do it). It’s a lot better for kids (doesn’t freak them out like a needle), but nice for adults too. It’s not all psychological, but part of it is that it’s nice not to see someone coming at you with a big needle of novacain.

He should also teach doctors, dentists and people in general about the lost art of having a good “bedside manner.” Probably a lot of it is he is very genial, and a bit of a well kempt hippy (ponytail, but, he’s older than me, it’s grey, and it’s a short ponytail).

I just wanted to check in here since I am getting a tooth pulled out of my head Thursday. Cracked tooth that I had a root canal on a long time ago. Root canal is still good but appears the crack has worsened (with some pain resulting). Not looking forward to it because I’ve had root canals before, but nothing compared to the experience of having a cracked tooth yanked out of my head a while back. Not so much the pain (they fix you up for that), but, with teeth that are in pieces it is hard to get them out. You can just picture it as my head in a vice, someone standing on my chest and wrenching it out with a pair of vice grip pliers. OK, I am exaggerating, which will probably help when the actual event is going on. Cheers!

I had my root canal done in one visit…about 2 hours.

But what if your dentist tries pulling the ol’ inadvertent crotch-to-shoulder maneuver?