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My Dental Anxiety Story

February 1, 2017

An opportunity arose for me to take a role as a General Manager in a dental practice. A practice that’s on top of its game and expanding into other areas both geographically and clinically. Whilst I was excited about the opportunity one thing held me back from accepting immediately. I was dentist and needle Phobic! Truly I was, and with reason. I had had a horrific experience with a root canal in 2001 that had left me scarred. I discussed this new career option with family, who all stared blankly at me before grinning, then laughing. There was no way I was going to take this role was their considered opinion. Was it this reaction that led me to taking it, or the challenge of the role itself?

Well whatever it was, I walked through the front doors last November – General Manager of Boyne Dental & Implant Clinic. Me and the skills of my career to date and my recently acquired bag of tricks from Lean Six Sigma. With my usual enthusiasm, I delved into what had to be reviewed, improved, achieved etc. Until one day, one of the Patient Care Managers asked me when I had last been to a dentist. I froze – really froze! Quite taken aback at my reaction she took on the most soothing tone and asked me to explain my fear. I did. To my shock and horror, a few days later she made an appointment for me to have a consultation with one of our Dentists! When I say, I was trembling, I am not joking!

As General Manager however, I felt the need to pull my socks up and get on with it. This was my new job for God’s sake. I was being called on to practice what I would soon be preaching.

And so, I kept my appointment with Dr Niall Neeson, our specialist in providing bespoke patient care to nervous patients. Prior to my appointment, through random conversation, the team had assessed my musical tastes and as I entered the surgery I was enveloped in some of my favourite tunes. ‘The Chair’ stood in the centre of the room but it wasn’t the focus, the music, the candles, the ambiance – Top Gear on the TV! (in deference to my previous career). Niall invited me to sit with him, not in ‘The Chair’, but in occasional chairs. We chatted about my fears. I found myself relaxing as he spoke of how technologies have moved on, and what skills and equipment he offers.

By the time, he suggested actually examining me, I found myself moving to ‘The Chair’ in relative calm.  I did freeze as it reclined. I was offered a clicker. This, I was advised was to enable me to regain control, from a situation where you can hardly talk or respond. I was also given a stress ball and relaxed somewhat. The language used was not overly clinical, or no tut tut tones like when one goes to confessions – Bless me father, it has been 15years since my last visit!

So, Niall talked me through a general overview of my oral health and a proposed treatment plan. Now, this I’d had before over the 15years when I’d been for scale and polish, but once treatment plans were suggested – I ran! Never returning to the same dentist twice. But deciding to engage now was not only because of my role in the company, but I was actually feeling safe. We waited a few weeks and I made my 1st ‘real’ appointment. To have a filling done! Again, I was really nervous, to the point that the Patient Care Manager who had initially ‘set me up’ (Maria!) was feeling a little bad for me.

About 30 mins before my appointment Maria called up to my office and placed a gizmo called ‘Alpha Stim’ on my ears. These are a little like a Tens machine, offering pulses that a stimulate a relaxing feeling. I was told that I may feel anything from woozy to stoned. As with my upcoming experience, I still actually had no idea what to expect. I did relax though. It was quite a pleasant, floaty, feeling.

Again, I arrived at ‘The Chair’. Music, tone, ambiance all there to relax me. I felt my toes curl and my back brace with the notion of the syringe, but Niall had a clever device called ‘A Wand’ that dispenses the anesthetic electronically. After using a numbing gel, he set this up, it’s like a small tube. No metal, no cold.

Without going through the clinical stuff. I survived. I more than survived! I was really proud of myself (ok Niall and his nurse Emma evidently had a lot to do with it), but I was fine about it all. I then let Maria set up an appointment with the Hygienist and have been back with Niall since. I’m still nervous, but I can now even handle the syringe!

My point really is, please don’t be afraid of your dentist. I genuinely empathise with those who have had bad and scarring experiences in the past but nowadays, especially in Boyne Dental & Implant Clinic in Navan, there is genuinely nothing to fear or be anxious about.

But serious anxiety currently prevents thousands of people from seeking proper preventative care. The consequences of this problem may go far beyond dental pain or lost teeth. Gum disease is a serious infection that can affect other parts of the body. Studies now link it to illnesses including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Of the many things, I’ve learned over the past few months, one that stands out is that whilst many avoid the dentist because of fear or cost, continued avoidance will only make the treatments more intrusive and accelerate the costs.

I’d like to offer a word of thanks to all the team in Boyne Dental. We have a big night out next weekend. We have been nominated for 7 Awards at the 2017 Irish Dentistry Awards, and I’m looking forward to SMILING WITH CONFIDENCE! 🙂

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