Confession: I Have Dental Anxiety, And How I Deal With It

Anxiety and embarrassment are nothing to be ashamed of. That was something that I told myself everyday, even the days when I was too frightened to even leave the house. These feelings are not real, I tried to convince myself. Nothing bad has happened. Go outside.

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But the feelings were real, and it did feel as though something bad was going to happen, or had happened, almost every single day of my life. I still struggle with anxiety now, but not to the same extent. I think, in many ways, that anxiety is something that I will have to be aware of, and think about, for the rest of my life – much like how alcoholics are alcoholics for life. Just because they are not drinking today does not mean that they don’t want a drink.

I realised that I wasn’t dealing well with my anxiety when I realised that I had not been to the dentist in over a decade – and I am someone who has always prided herself on her health. I eat very healthily, and I have never smoked. I go on two runs a week, and do yoga three times a week. I focus on using organic ingredients in my cooking . . . the list could go on and on and on, and yet I was neglecting my dental health because my general anxiety had manifested itself strongly into dental anxiety.

Dealing with dental anxiety is not quite the same as processing all of the other variants. With most things, you can avoid the thing that makes you anxious, and apart from it slightly curtailing your life in a way that is not entirely essential, you can often go on in much the same way. But the trouble with dental anxiety is that the very thing that could help me – a calm, understanding, and well trained (local San Diego) dentist who could help me most past my dental anxiety – was the very thing that I was avoiding!

When I realised that I didn’t want to be held by these fears, these feelings, this repression, any longer I did a little researching on the internet – and to my surprise I found that there was a top dentist practising locally (San Diego) that specialised in helping people who were afraid of the dentist to come to terms with their anxiety – not to beat it necessarily, but to face it – and in so doing, receive any dental treatment that they would need.

Dr Paige Woods was able to see me relatively quickly, and within minutes I knew that this was the woman who would truly be able to help me deal with my dental anxiety. The way that she spoke, it was almost as though she had experienced it herself, even though that couldn’t be possible! Such a large barrier to mental health and anxiety is that it’s hard to believe that anyone else is feeling the same way that you do, but talking to Dr Woods made me realise that even if she hadn’t, she had been trained well enough to be able to help me, and that was the most important thing.

I’m now able to go and see her every year, and so far my teeth have been doing so well that I almost can’t believe that I have avoided it for so long. At the same time, facing my dental anxiety has made my troubles with other types of anxiety much better: Dr Woods has taught me some calming techniques that no one else has that have really helped. I owe her so much. 

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