Adult-Onset Dental Anxiety

When I was little, I loved the dentist. I loved getting the sticker and the new tooth brush and felt like I had a badge of honor when I could leave with the report of NO CAVITIES.

Something happened in the last couple of years. I think I became an adult for one thing, but with that I apparently got all weirdo about the dentist.

My husband Nathan and I first realized there was a problem when one day I just up and cancelled my appointment for really no reason at all. Nathan then started scheduling both of our appointments together. Insert eye-roll.  This way he can drive me there and force me to go, and it usually involves a lunch date as bribery.

Let me interject here that everyone at our dental office is amazingly friendly, kind and gentle. There is absolutely no justification or explanation for my issues. Everything negative that is happening in the dental experience is in my head.

Every time I go to the dentist, I feel more ridiculous anxiety than the time before. I don’t even know what is happening, but here is the account of what happened in my head during a recent visit.

Dental experience recap:

First I think about my hair as I sit down. If it’s down, it’s all everywhere hanging down in their way and gross. Pony tail won’t allow my head to lay flat. Braid would bug the back of my neck since every single thing is bugging me at this stage. I go with high messy bun. Just out of the shower and in comfy clothes. Seriously, it’s like I’m dressed to go in for surgery or something. And yes, this is just for a cleaning.

I sit in the chair and immediately start trying to figure out how to relax. Except I don’t. I put my arms across my waste and clinch my hands together in some sort of death grip. Then I think about breathing. Sure, I can breath in and out really slowly and focus on that, right? No, I can’t do that. The hygienist will feel my excessive breathing and be weirded out.  Ok, I can pray. I try that but keep getting super distracted. I could pretend to be asleep. No stupid, that’s not logical. With your mouth wide opened while someone is scraping your teeth? Not believable.

In a few short minutes that actually felt like three hours,  all of my “pretend to be happy and normal” is completely gone. My panicky face is now just out and on display and I’m thinking I don’t have the mental energy to hide it and survive this event. I keep rolling my feet. Why am I doing that? To try to relax my body because that’s like the only part it seems I can move and not disrupt what’s happening. But now it’s getting annoying. I’m doing it too much. I need to stop.

I think about how much I need chap stick, and how stupid it was to not stick it in my pocket. How my lips suddenly feel crazy dry and damaged and will probably take weeks to recover.

Because everything seems five million times worse than it is in real life right now.

What makes this even crazier is I can hear Nathan in the station next to me chatting it up with his hygienist. Like a whole conversation. I can’t figure out when he’s holding his mouth opened to be getting anything done in it with all this talking.

I’m blown away that he is in the same situation as I am but he seems to be loving life and having a grand time visiting. What even? While I sit and suffer. How dare he ? And how is this possible? But then I hope that my hygienist hears him so that she at least knows that I’m married to a normal person, and so maybe that makes her feel better about me somehow.

When it’s over, I’m exhausted like I’ve been through battle. And there is no reward. No sticker or token for a toy machine or anything. There’s only “Do you want to schedule your next appointment?” And my husband always does. His love and care can be so annoying.


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