I always try and keep my blog and socials fun and positive as I really do believe that positivity attracts positivity. However, I also like to be real and I have made no secret of my mental health issues. What I have not really spoken about is my dental phobia. This can also be known as odontophobia or dentophobia.
My dental phobia
I believe that this is strongly linked to mental health. There should be so much more help and support available so that people do not end up like me. I do not really know exactly when or why this developed but I did have some bad dental experiences in my late teens and early twenties.
When I was ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) I was bed ridden for over a year and severely depressed. The CFS lasted over 7 years and depression has been an ongoing battle since I was 17. The thing is, when you are suicidal, dental hygiene is not on the top of your list. When CFS was at its worst it would feel as if I had completed a marathon if I managed to get to the toilet and back. Therefore, my teeth were neglected.
Add to this dry mouth from medication, an addiction to fizzy diet drinks and a bad high sugar diet and you can imagine the state of my teeth. I was also a heavy smoker for many years but gave up in 2015. I could see my teeth getting worse. Holes started appearing and even tooth loss but the worst my teeth got, the harder it was to see a dentist.
Dental phobia is so much more than not liking the dentist!
I have heard many comments over the years such as ‘man up’, ‘no one likes visiting the dentist’ and ‘I get nervous too but you still have to go’. If only it was that simple! Just thinking about dentists while writing this post I am shaking and feeling really nauseous.
I have been through so much pain with my teeth but that is easier for me than seeing a dentist. As awful as this sounds, I have even popped my own abscesses rather than see a dentist! Teeth have snapped off and I couldn’t bring myself to see a dentist. The remaining teeth wore away over the years and now there is just roots stuck in my gums.
No help available
I did manage to see a dentist a few years ago when I was feeling stronger but they said I needed to be referred to the hospital. I waited four months before an appointment came and by then I could not face it.
Twice I have visited a GP (two different ones in my surgery.) I explained that I need help as I physically can not go to a dentist and asked to be referred straight to hospital as I knew that was what a dentist would do anyway from my last visit. Both times my dental phobia was dismissed and I was left feeling really ashamed and told to make an appointment at the dentist as there was nothing that they could do.
Not just cosmetic
It has effected my confidence so much and stopped me speaking to people as I do not want to open my mouth and for them to see. I have worked really hard on my confidence and self-esteem but it has always been in the back of my mind.
One of the worst things is never being able to smile properly for fear of people seeing inside my mouth. It makes me feel dirty, worthless and disgusting.
I also worry about the health of my mouth. Dentists check for cancers and other oral diseases and then of course there is gum disease which I do actually think that I now have. My gums are moving away from my teeth.
Where I am now
At my grandsons birthday party I lost my front tooth so now I look absolutely horrific. I feel very low as I can no longer stick my head in the sand, I have to face the mess that I am in. My mouth has changed shape and it is hard to eat. I have very few teeth left and the ones that are left are loose.
I have been trying to book an appointment to see a dentist but there are no dentists accepting NHS patients that deal with dental phobias anywhere. I can’t even see any normal dentists accepting NHS patients.
We have no savings and live on a very small income so there is no way I can afford to go private. I don’t even know where I would get the £260 needed to pay the NHS fees if I could get an appointment!
One step forward, ten back
This has been a really difficult post to write, admitting what a mess I am in but I wanted to be truthful and explain why I will not be very visible at the moment.
I feel really let down by doctors, the NHS and dentists all round. It makes me wonder how many other people are in similar positions due to poor mental health and illness.
I also feel really disappointed in myself. I just want a healthy mouth and to be able to smile but now I can not even bear the thought of leaving the house. I turn 40 in October and I had so many plans but now I do not know what I will do.