In the 15 years I worked in the dental field, I saw a wide range of anxiety behaviors surface for patients.  I’ve had my own experiences of dental anxiety too. The dental office is actually a very common place for anxiety to land.

The dental chair is a vulnerable place to be.  Someone with authority is hovering over you while you lie supine, they are shoving pokey things in your mouth, and you are usually in a small, confined area. To top it off, most dental providers are not trained to recognize the signs of trauma triggers.  I’ve heard some shocking comments by dentists because they were so unaware of how deeply a patient’s anxiety impacts their behavior.

Likewise, many patients don’t realize why they have such strong reactions to the dental office.  They may have never had a bad experience with a dentist, but they break out in sweat and invent reasons to avoid making (or keeping) appointments just the same.  They chide themselves for overreacting (or others make cutting remarks) and this all backfires into making the situation even worse.

Once, during a root canal, I couldn’t stop crying during the procedure.  The dentist wasn’t hurting me, but I was having physical flashbacks of being trapped.  I didn’t want to explain myself and I didn’t want to have to stop and reschedule, so I stayed still and silent. After she finished, she never even acknowledged my tears or anxiety. It was just business as usual.

When I worked in the dental field, I thought about getting additional training to share with other dental providers.  I never followed through with it, but as I am continuing with my trauma certification program the idea has resurfaced for me.

How about you?  Have you had fears/anxiety show up someplace unexpected like the dental office?