First let me tell you a little about how my dentophobia came to life!
As a little kid, I remember that I had no problem going to the dentist. I had very healthy teeth, didn’t have any cavities and they were all standing fairly straight. Then at the age of maybe 10 or 11 my school dentist discovered that I had what looked like the start of a new cavity in one of my molar teeth. They recommended putting a sort of glaze on all of my molars, and that would prevent it from becoming a real cavity. I went in a bit nervous, not knowing exactly what they were going to do. Things are a little blurry after that, but I do remember panicking. I remember lying in that chair, having so much dental gear in my mouth and suddenly I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I got really scared and I started to cry.
At that moment, the dentist thought that it would be a good idea to get angry at a scared child and then throw me out and into the waiting room. I remember she was so mad at me, and I couldn’t understand how a grownup could get so angry just because I was scared. I felt embarrassed.
Later on I’ve heard that my mom made a big deal about it and sent in quite the complaint. I didn’t see her there after that. If it was my case alone, or others too that did it, I have no idea.
A few more years went by, and I was more nervous about going to the dentist, but not proper phobic about it yet.
Then came the time when I got my first cavity, at the age of about 14 or 15, and that was the time when I first found out that I’m quite resistent to local anesthetics. Not only could I feel a lot of pain while they started to drill, but they didn’t believe me when I said I could. And there I was, panicking in a dentist chair once again. I was in a lot of pain, and when they finally believed me and stopped drilling, it took 4 doses of local anesthesia before I couldn’t feel any pain.
After that it would go 15 years of utter fear before I sat down in one of those chairs again.
My phobia got really bad over the years, to the point where I would break into sweat just at the mention of dentists or dental care. I would get so nervous just thinking about it that I thought I was going to either faint or throw up.
Then came December 2017, and one of my wisdom teeth got infected. The left side of my face swelled up, and I was in so much pain. I knew there were no escaping the visit that I’d dreaded for so many years.
So I started asking around, and Googling a lot. Eventually my choice ended on Torshov Tannlegesenter where they had a very good reputation for doing great work with people who struggle with dentophobia. Me and my swollen face went in there on a Saturday, and I felt like my heart was going to pound its way out of my body the whole subway and bus ride over there.
As I sat in the waiting room, I could hear them drilling someone’s teeth in the other room. I was sure that the dentist would find me unconscious and lying in my own vomit when he got out of there. Luckily I neither passed out or puked.
After a little while, it was my time to go in and sit in that dreaded chair. The dentist looked like he was about my age, kind looking and a good singing voice (I’ll get to that later), and he looked at me and said:
“You’re not really ready to be here, are you?”
In that moment I just started to cry and cry. The tears wouldn’t stop coming, no matter how much I tried to remind myself that I’m an adult and that my fear was totally irrational.
I was handed some paper towels and then the dentist and his assistant had a talk with me about my prior experiences and my options. Then he asked me if he could take a look at the tooth that was bothering me, and he could do a full check as well, but if I felt like I was going to panic or got more scared I would just raise my hand and he would stop.
I got out of that room all x-rayed, tartar removed, with a prescription for some antibiotics and another booked appointment just three days later to pull that troublesome wisdom tooth.
I was really nervous the next few days, but I came to find that my heart rate was much lower on my way in the second time than the first. I had to meet up half an hour before my appointment so that I could take a mild sedative drug to help me relax. That’s when I found out that my body is very resistent to sedatives as well. It did nothing. I was then asked if I wanted to go ahead or to rebook so I could either get a stronger sedative or they could put me under. I had built up so much courage to go there that day, that if I’d rebooked and had to go home, I’m not sure I would have managed to do it again. So I told them to go ahead.
They were really careful and made sure that they used enough local anaesthetics, and that it actually worked before they started. It was over and done with in about 15 minutes. My wonderful dentist explained everything he was doing and he had a radio playing in the background playing golden oldies that he sang along to while he did his magic.
I got out of there, one tooth and one phobia less. I called my mom and I cried because I was so relieved that I’d finally done it. I was (and still is) very proud of myself, even though it took me way too long.
I was in quite a lot of pain the next few days, but it got better. And a week after, I went in to remove the stitches AND to drill the three cavities that needed to be fixed. The best part; I wasn’t even nervous!
I know that the path to fighting phobias are very individual. In my case, it was a need to face the fear and to have someone that I trusted and made me feel safe. For others it might take several trips, or they have to do so with the help of a therapist. But no matter how big the fear is, it’s all about acknowledging it and taking the first steps.
If you’re ever in need of a good dentist in Oslo, then I can HIGHLY recommend Torshov Tannlegesenter!
I can now say that I’m cured of dentophobia and I’m so grateful for that!