i’m afraid to go the dentist

dear heather,
I’m turning 16 in less than a month, and I’m still afraid to go to the dentist! I was fine until I turned 15, and now, every time I go, I end up crying and shaking because I’m so scared. It’s horrible! Everyone there must think I’m a baby and it’s embarrassing. I just don’t want to be afraid to go anymore. Can you help me?

It’s highly doubtful than anyone at your dentist’s office thinks you’re a baby, because fear of dentists is so common! (I actually have a dentist appointment today that I am trying to get out of.) But your situation sounds like a pretty extreme version of dentist office anxiety.

You do seem to be thinking positively about getting over this, and that counts for a lot. Sometimes the first step in conquering fear is having a sense that you can do something about it.

Being able to talk about it is also important, so one thing I would suggest is that you try speaking to your dentist about the way you feel–if you haven’t already. Do you have the kind of relationship with him or her that makes it comfortable for you to ask questions about the procedures and all the options for pain relief? Or, if he or she is super busy, is there someone else in the office you can mention it to?

If not, what about switching dentists? Many dentists offer ways for patients to distract themselves. I don’t like the sound of the drill, so my dentist gives me VR headsets and I watch and listen to videos while he works on me.

Another idea is maybe trying to think differently about your dental visits. Does it help, for instance, to focus on the long-term health benefits to your teeth? What about how much better you look with good teeth? Or you could try some visualization: maybe you can come up with a calming thought or image that you can bring to mind on your way in the door.

With time and a little patience, most people do seem to get over fears such as yours. However, if you find that your feelings just aren’t going away, you should probably look into the possibility that you’re suffering from panic attacks.

take care,

Posted in: Help Me Heather, Sucky Emotions, Sucky Emotions
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