dealing with dental phobia

The Mortifying Reason I’m Scared of the Dentist

Scared of the dentist? Here’s a story that’ll help make you feel just a little bit better..

Did I ever tell you about the time I threw up at the dentist’s? Or ON the dentist, rather? 

What am I saying: of COURSE I didn’t tell you. I mean, I did mention it briefly on Instagram Stories, safe in the knowledge that my horrifying confession would disappear in 24 hours, but, once it did, I basically just buried my head in the sand and tried to pretend it didn’t happen.

But it happened, guys. Oh, it happened: and it was all because of my extreme – and totally inexplicable – dental phobia relating to one specific aspect of my smile makeover.

It’s probably not what you think it is.

My dental phobia, you see, isn’t about drills, or needles, or any of the other things that typically give people the chills when visiting the dentist. I’m fine with all of that.  No, really. I mean, I realise that fear of the dentist is totally the kind of thing you’d expect from me, but actually? Nah, I’m good, thanks. In fact, if you’d asked me just a few years ago, I’d have said that nope, I was absolutely NOT scared of the dentist.

Other than this one thing, obviously: the dreaded dental impressions. And the way they instantly trigger my gag reflex.

Now, I’m sure I must have had impressions taken of my teeth lots of times in the past, but the first time I really remember having it done was during my Invisalign treatment a few years ago.  Back then, I had to have impressions taken for each new set of braces – so, every few weeks, basically.

I absolutely HATED it. To the point where, the night before each appointment, I’d lie awake worrying about how I was going to cope. I’d feel sick with nerves on the way to the dental surgery, then lie trembling in the chair, waiting for the moment when a giant, goop-filled tray would be inserted into my mouth, and left there to set, before being wrenched back off again. I wasn’t scared of the DENTIST: I was, however, terrified that I was going to throw up all over the poor man, and, well,  I mean, it’s not exactly a fun day out, is it?

While most people probably don’t exactly relish the thought of having dental impressions taken, though, I’m forced to acknowledge here that there’s no real reason why I find it so horrifying. It’s just a few minutes out of your life, after all: it’s not painful, it’s not scary – but, every single time I have to have it done, I become absolutely convinced I’m about to throw up. Every time without fail.

I didn’t, though – or not until this year, anyway.  And, OK, during the Invislaign treatment, there were a few times when I started gagging, and found myself struggling to sit up in the chair, eyes bulging and brow sweating, totally convinced I was going to:

a) Throw up

and then

b) Choke to death on my own vomit, on account of the fact that there was a giant, goop-filled tray in my mouth at the time.

It. Was. Awful. And also ridiculous, really. Every time it happened I felt so embarrassed by it, and, all the way home, I’d be sitting there imagining how stupid I must have looked with my bulging eyes and panicked squeaks. MORTIFYING. Just… MORTIFYING. By the end of the treatment, what had started off as a minor fear had developed into a full-blown dental phobia, and, by the time I was done, I vowed never to allow anyone to take dental impressions from me ever again. I was now so scared of the dentist – or this one aspect of visiting the dentist, rather, that, if it came to it, I’d just let all my teeth fall out instead, I figured: because anything would be better than the goop-filled trays and the bulging eyes, no?

Then, of course, I decided to have a smile makeover.  Because, as it turns out, I didn’t REALLY want to just let all my teeth fall out after all. Funny, that.

dealing with dental phobia: the mortifying reason I'm scared of the dentist

The first part of my treatment involved tooth whitening, and, for that, I had to have custom whitening trays made up – ones that were specially molded to fit my teeth exactly, and hold the whitening gel in place. And how do they make those trays, I hear you ask?

BY TAKING DENTAL IMPRESSIONS, OBVIOUSLY.

I had my first set of impressions taken during a visit to the hygienist. Now, my dentist specialises in treating nervous patients – including those with fairly extreme levels of dental phobia –  so they were a perfect choice for someone scared of the dentist. By this stage, though,  it had been a few years since I’d last had impressions taken: the memory of it had faded a bit, and, I don’t know, I guess I thought that maybe this time I’d be able to deal with it better.

SPOILER ALERT: NO, I COULDN’T.

Sophie, the hygienist took the impressions for the bottom teeth first, and, once I’d explained a bit about my weird dental phobia, she did everything she could to help me through it: first of all by getting me to sit up in the chair rather than lying down, and then by gently talking me through the procedure, and using a few little distraction techniques to try to take my mind off the giant tray of goo in my mouth. I was panicking the whole time, but I somehow got through it.

The upper tray, however, was a different matter altogether: almost as soon as it went in, I started panicking; within 30 seconds or so, the panic had turned into gagging, and then, the next thing I knew, I was literally living my worst dental nightmare – throwing up all over myself, while sitting there goggle-eyed and in a cold sweat, still with the tray in my mouth, and the goo inside it now welded onto my teeth.

I have honestly never been more embarrassed in my life – not even that time I went out wearing two different shoes, and didn’t realise until I was hobbling across a car park, wondering why one of my legs suddenly seemed to be shorter than the other.

Sophie and her assistant were both absolutely lovely about it, of course, but… well, there I was, covered in my own vomit, and also? Covered in my own shame. Two good things did come out of the incident, though, namely:

01.  Despite my dramatics, Sophie still somehow managed to get a good enough impression to be able to make up the whitening trays.

02. I was at least able to disprove my theory that, if someone were to throw up with a large dental tray in their mouth, they would obviously choke to death on their own vomit. So that’s something, I guess?

I might have survived step one of the smile makeover, though, but my issues were not yet over, because, as I soon discovered, I’d need to have more sets of impressions taken as the treatment progressed – quite a few more, in fact. Gulp. Now, in all honesty, this would’ve been a deal-breaker for me. After the vomiting incident, I really didn’t think I could go through that particular ordeal again, and if there had been no other option, I’d probably have walked away at that point – that’s how much I hate having impressions taken. I might not have started out scared of the dentist, but I certainly was now that I knew my worst nightmare could, indeed, become a reality.

Fortunately for me, though, there WAS another option for people who are scared of the dentist purely because of their stupid gag reflex.

It’s this guy:

laser scanner for dental impressions: ideal for people who are scared of the dentist

It’s a laser scanner, and that’s the photo of my teeth it created.  Using this machine, my dentist, Jamie, was able to take impressions of my teeth without the need for any goo-filled trays or gagging: he simply used the wand you can see attached to the right of the screen to scan the teeth, and create the image. It was a complete game-changer for me – and, as I said, the only reason I was able to continue with my treatment, in spite of my ongoing dental phobia. 

I have had to have some impressions taken the old-fashioned way – mostly to create the temporary veneers I talked about in my last post – but fortunately Jamie has been able to get these using smaller trays, which don’t trigger my over-sensitive gag reflex quite as easily. I still panic a bit every time it has to happen, but I’m pleased to report that I’ve yet to actually start gagging from it, and there’s been no repeat of The Incident, so I’m grateful for small mercies  – and, of course, for a dentist who’s particularly well equipped to deal with anxious patients!

Anyone else scared of the dentist? And, if you answered yes to that, have you ever thrown up on one, though? 

COMMENTS
  • Vita

    REPLY

    Ugh, no dental impressions are the worst. Bleugh. Serious kudos for you doing it anyway mind!

    February 15, 2019
  • Anjali

    REPLY

    That sounds awful! Good that the laser scanning means you don’t need to have any more impressions, though.
    BTW I didn’t receive the email notification for this post. Do I need to subscribe again?

    February 15, 2019
  • Justine

    REPLY

    Yes sitting upright, is the most obvious thing to be doing, the second is concentrating on taking deep breaths through your NOSE !!!. Trying to breathe through your mouth is a recipe for disaster, with a full mouth it triggers a panic reaction. I hope this tip helps someone out there.

    February 15, 2019
  • Brenda

    REPLY

    My son is exactly the same — he has a major gag reflex which has caused him to vomit during impressions. So when our Orthodontist got the laser machine, we were ALL ecstatic!! It truly is a game changer!

    February 15, 2019
  • Jenna

    REPLY

    I hear ya! Those impressions are the worst! Why do they lay people down for those anyway? I always thought was really weird. I’ve had two done (for retainers after braces) and I couldn’t stop gagging either. I probably need to have a new retainer fitted, but I honestly don’t want to have impressions taken, so I’ll just hope my old retainer keeps working…or have my teeth move back.

    February 15, 2019
  • Holly

    REPLY

    I don’t know whether this is helpful, but it sounds like the root of this isn’t a dental phobia but a vomit phobia, which is really common! If you ever decide to see someone about it, you definitely wouldn’t be the first person to present with that kind of a fear. 🙂
    Also, I’m really enjoying your dental series (after I had braces a few years ago I have become obsessed) so thanks for sharing!

    February 16, 2019
      • Holly

        REPLY

        Sorry, wasn’t trying to play at diagnosis ? it sounds like a really tricky one to have, but all worth it for the beautiful teeth at the end!

        February 16, 2019
  • Trudy

    REPLY

    Oh man, I’m so glad to know it’s not only me who gags on those dental impressions! I also hate the x-rays – my dentist shoves these great big plates in my mouth that feel like they go halfway down my throat, and I sit there gagging and choking until they get the picture. Fortunately it’s normally over pretty quick, or I don’t think I’d cope at all.

    February 16, 2019
  • That sounds horrible! But I completely understand your dental phobia. For me, it’s the smell. Every time I picture those white walls and that particular smell most dentistries have, my stomach starts churning.
    On another note, can’t wait to read more about your smile makeover! Keep us updated, please!

    February 21, 2019
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