Overcoming Fear of the Dentist

Flashback to a few weeks ago:

I found myself being adjusted to the dental polishing position in the oh-so-comfy plastic recliner at my local dentist. At this point, my feet being above my head did not alarm me as I rationalized that the dental assistant just needed good leveraging. Several little mishaps, however, begun to occur: bits of plastic roaming around my mouth that needed to be suctioned out, a water spray to the face, and the assistant dropping the polisher on the floor. I was still okay, though. My mind had not yet begun to wander towards the doom and gloom anxiety (see previous post) that I am often prone to. Nope, I was cool, calm, collected, and managed to find humor in these little mistakes. But then, a big mistake happened. A malfunction with the cavitron (the piece of equipment that lasers off plaque) occurred, creating a small explosion in my mouth. End result: chipped tooth, anger, and no validation or accountability from the dentist that checked my mouth to see if everything was okay. The worst part though was experiencing the cognitive distortion (thinking mistake) called catastrophizing. Catastrophizing includes jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst. After the incident, I had convinced myself that I would need follow up dental work, succumb to nights of dental agony, and end up being stuck in that dental chair for hours to come!

How I pulled it together: Lots and lots of deep breathing, communication with the dental team on how disappointed I was, and honoring my anger. I accepted that this was an accident but also that I was allowed to be angry. I transformed my anger into logical problem-solving skills, demanding that I receive documentation of the events that occurred.

Present day: So yes, I’m still dealing with insurance claim corrections and tomorrow I’m headed back to the dentist to get the tooth fixed. I do admit that I did my fair share of venting about the whole ordeal which probably didn’t serve the creation of positive emotions. Looking back, however, I can say that I dodged embracing the victim mode and switched gears into “now what?” mode, making necessary frequent calls to the dentist and the insurance company.

Accidents happen and many things in life are beyond our control. Trying to manage reactions to these events and turning upsetting emotions into constructive energy is one of the best ways to ride out life’s surprises.

Is there a time when you can recall falling down the catastrophizing rabbit hole and everything ended up turning out okay? If so, leave your story in the comment below, I would love to hear from you.

2 thoughts on “Overcoming Fear of the Dentist

  1. Hello Melissa! <3
    Thanks for sharing your story about catastrophizing. I think that is something I do without putting this term on it and without always being mindful of it. When something triggers my anxiety, I am likely to go down the worst-case-scenario rabbit hole which doesn't usually help or create positive outcomes. I also try to convince myself to be calm which doesn't honor the present feeling. Your example of honoring your anger and using it to be productive is a great one. Thanks again.

    1. Thank you for the thoughtful reply! Yes, it is easy to tell ourselves to “get over it” and quickly move on. Your emotions need validation and recognition so that you can quickly adjust to the next step in your evolution.

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