I went far too long with very serious dental problems because of fear. Fear of $. Fear of being shamed. Fear of bad expensive news. Fear of gagging. Fear of pain. And the hardcore fear of being supine and vulnerable.
By way of explanation — I had my two permanent front teeth knocked out, and the treatment for that was painful and baffling. The results were also aesthetically unappealing. Did I mention I was eight years old? Yeah. An inadequately numbed eight year old kid makes some severe memory ruts in the dental department.
ANYWAY, I only started going to the dentist again fairly regularly because I had a tooth go painfully bad, and a friend recommended her dentist and sat with me while I made the appointment.
I have many giant flags in my file about anxiety. Also noted are that I can gag more easily than we would all like. AND that my jaw dislocates easily.
Being forthright about being a Very Freaked Out patient helped. If my usual hygienist has a schedule change, the office calls me so I ca n decide whether I am in a place to try out a different human.
Declaring the situation still helps:
“I have some life going on right now and am more easily upset than usual.”
“May I have a warm neck pillow and a blanket?” (This is a Thing and after many flustered apologies on my part, the staff made it clear that it was very ok and helped them.)
I have dental insurance — it’s better than none — and the means to pony up for nitrous most of the time. It’s still daunting.
And yet, it’s better done than undone and dreaded.