14 September 2009


Mostly, I am not afraid. I am not afraid of spiders or any other creepy crawlies. In fact, I would happily let them crawl on my skin and this would include cockroaches. I am not afraid of the dark and if there were a graveyard nearby, I would nonchalantly walk through it alone in the middle of the night. Horror films don't terrify me, nor do snakes or rats. However, I do have one fear - and this is a fear that has often caused me to break out into a cold sweat or grip the armrests of the chair so tightly that more than once I have literally had to be prised off. I'm thinking about dentists and yes I will come out and admit it folks - I am a dentophobic.

I have never had a dental "check up" in my entire adult life. Any visits I have ever made have been unavoidable - usually because of insufferable pain. Because of this there have been periods when I have gone five or six years without seeing one of these deranged sadists with their arrays of drills and pastes, their disconcerting conversations and their unpleasantly sour-sweet body odours. Why would any intelligent person actually choose to be a dentist? Spending your entire working life rooting around in people's mouths seems to me to be a very narrow and unappealing way in which to feather your nest. Mind you - even though they are little more than oral mechanics fixing your teeth - dentists are handsomely rewarded. As my old mother used to say - you won't see a poor dentist.

Until last Friday, I was not on an NHS dentist's list. Once or twice, I had half-heartedly tried to get on a list but the problem was they always wanted to begin with a "check up". Recently, I have had a dental issue which has now translated itself into a hamster cheek on my left side - all down to a developing root infection. On Sunday lunchtime, I travelled to an area of Sheffield called Fir Vale which is home to a large Pakistani community - I was seeing the emergency "out of hours" dentist. The guy reminded me of the "doc" in "Back to The Future" but his communication skills were even more limited. There were no social niceties and no advice about paracetamol or what do if the problem persisted. He spent no more than three minutes in my mouth. I even had to ask if it would be okay for me to rinse out with that pink antiseptic water that dentists favour.

I woke up on Monday morning with a big swollen cheek so the dentist's intervention appeared to have caused more harm than good. The emergency dental service gave me another appointment at Fir Vale. Aaaaargh! I just didn't want to see that pigman again but there he was! I had to wait for an hour and a half before finally getting into his torture chamber once again. This time, after prodding around my un-numbed jaws, he prescribed some antibiotic pills which left me wondering why he hadn't done that the first time. "A lot of pus coming out...suck on the tooth," made me realise that he did possess the power of speech after all.

This semi-mute has buggered the offending tooth so badly that it will definitely now have to be extracted - but not by him. Apparently, more by luck than judgement, I have managed to get on the patient list for one of the best NHS dental practices in Sheffield but I still can't understand why they couldn't see me instead of having to travel to Dr Death at Fir Vale. Dentophobia, like most phobias, is irrational I know but when you're dentophobic you just can't help it - no matter how much you convince yourself of the illogicality of your fear.


  1. I once went 11 years between dental visits, thanks to having been traumatized (-ised) by a dentist impersonator in an Air Force uniform.

    My sympathies....

    Can we rightfully assume, then, that your smile resembles that of the late Queen Mother?

  2. No, it's more like QEI- wooden teeth!

    I offered you my place with that nice but very camp fella on Halifax Road when I left Sheff.

    Trouble is I was always a bit worried when he asked me to open my mouth while dropping me backwards in a sex chair...

  3. RHYMES My front teeth are like sparkling pearls and be warned it is probably a treasonable offence to speak ill of our dear Queen Mother.
    BOOTHROYD And after that chair had dropped backwards what did he do to you? Good job you're in Thailand right now because complicity with Mr R. Brague of Georgia may have result in cosmetic surgery upon your teeth with my fist.

  4. I just relived your horror. Thank goodness my days with the sadists are over.

  5. How wretched! I am reminded of my dental experiences in NYC (i.e. the dentists for which my lousy union provided coverage)

    I wish that when you had to go a dentist, you could go to my dentist. His practice is devoted to easing people of their fears of dentistry and giving them as stress-free an experience as possible.

  6. I sometimes work on training or examinations for dentists, in Communication Skills. For some unexplained reason - perhaps because it isn't considered important when selecting students of dentistry - they are, in general, very poor at communicating with patients. Often their tutors are too! I hope it's changing slowly - - but it IS slowly. There are some superb dentists, of course - but as a whole they haven't got the message that they need to be good with people, not just with a drill!

  7. I sympathize with your fear. Does your dentist also take your blood pressure when you're in his office? Mine does, and my bp is always sky high there. Can you imagine anyone whose bp ISN'T high in a dentist's office?

  8. Well, I can't blame you for having a hard time on coping up with your dental phobia. When I was still a child, I had a great fear of dental clinics. Luckily, I was able to cope up my phobia by the time I was 10 years old. We lived in Tennessee. Dentists in Bartlett are truly professional and are child-friendly dentists. That was actually the reason why I was able to overcome my dental phobia.


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