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Anxiety This forum is for seeking advice on anxiety and stress related issues.

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Panic attacks and the Dentist...... - May 14th 2016, 12:49 AM

So to make a long story short, I have avoided the dentist for quite awhile. But recently developed a tooth infection, they were going to give me a root canal. So I showed up at the appointment, they started for the first like 10 minutes and I had a panic attack, and they couldn't do the root canal. So now I have a brittle half of a tooth that needs to be taken care of (and is probably infected r super prone to infection) , and a pissed off dentist. My dentist basically is refusing to the root canal and sent me to an oral surgeon....and decided to just extract the tooth. But I don't want to go to an oral surgeon, and I really want to save my tooth. My anxiety is just getting in the way, and being shuffled place, to place isn't going to help me. I was jumping between two dentists offices (which is probably bad, but I don't know which one I like more) and the dentist at the other office, offered to do a root canal with laughing gas. It's not for another month, which I fear is a long time. He too gave me the number to a specialist and said to call the specialist should the tooth start hurting. I feel a bit better about that because he's not pushing me off because of my anxiety, but is using it as a back up. Where my other dentist was I felt was pushing me away and just referred me to get it extracted, which I don't want...

I guess my questions are:
1.) How do I manage to not have a panic attack during a root canal?
2.) How do I make a choice on what dentist to use?
3.) Overall, how can I make going to the dentist easier on myself?

I have a lot of work I need to get done on my teeth, but my anxiety/panic disorder is blocking me, which could damage my mouth more and my health.
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Re: Panic attacks and the Dentist...... - May 14th 2016, 01:46 AM


I'm not sure that I have any easy answers to what you're going through here, but let me see if I can be at least somewhat useful.

First of all, keep in mind that you are not alone in this. A lot of people have fears (or at the very least, mild-moderate emotional discomfort) relating to certain medical experiences. Dental work is a very common one, and so is anything involving needles.

The biggest thing that you can do to help yourself, I think, is to have good communication with your dentist or surgeon. Make sure they know how you're feeling and what this is like for you. If you feel that they are discounting what you're going through, or not being understanding or helpful, that is probably a sign that you need a different doctor.

With whomever you do choose, try to get as much information as you can about what you are going to have happen -- what does the dentist plan to do, what will it feel like, how long will it take...those are all valid questions, and having a good understanding of what's going on might help put you at ease. Of course, if you think you'd rather be ignorant about it all, that is a valid choice as well.

I would also recommend establishing some kind of signal for when you want the dentist to stop what they're doing. I haven't had any dental work done (not while awake, at least), but my understanding is this is relatively common and most dentists would be open to the idea. That way, you have rudimentary communication if you feel any pain, are getting too anxious, or just need to take a break for a little bit.

There are plenty of other things you can do as well -- you can learn relaxation techniques (like visualization or progressive muscle relaxation), you can bring relaxing music for yourself (they might even offer it to you), and nitrous oxide ("laughing gas") can help some people tremendously; it wouldn't hurt to try it, and if you don't like it, they can turn it off and put it away forever.

Seeing a counselor might also be helpful for you if you feel it's difficult to manage your anxiety. Your dentist might also be able to prescribe you a small dosage of an oral anti-anxiety medication. They can have mild side-effects (usually nothing bad), but they can certainly help take the edge off in some instances.

There is one other possibility, which I hesitate to mention (because as a psychology student I feel it would be the least-effective long term). Some dentists/surgeons would be willing to put you under IV sedation or even general anesthesia while they carry out the procedure. The good news is, you won't experience anything too scary while you're in the office. The bad news is, you won't experience anything too scary while you're in the office. (What I'm saying is, while that would effectively get you through this procedure, it's probably not going to make your fears any better in the long term. For that to happen, you have to actually face/experience whatever is causing your fear so that you can get more accustomed to it and have positive experiences with it).

Anyway, this has gotten long, so I'll leave it here. I wish you luck, and please PM me if you need any further help or support

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last updated on 11/11/17
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