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Dentistry/Dentophobia and Tooth Pain


I have extreme dentophobia and extreme tooth pain, but so far, the mental anguish of visiting a dentist outweighs the pain in my tooth.

When I was a child, my dentist would drill my cavities without first numbing the tooth. He explained that it was just a "surface cavity" and it didn't need numbing. But, it always hurt a lot and it was always deeper than he thought. He would drill and drill and it was VERY painful. But, the mental anguish was always worse. He would make me feel so bad about myself that I would cry every time I left the dentist's office.

As an adult now, I don't go to a dentist unless I'm in severe pain. My mental pain outweighs my physical pain. I can withstand a good amount of pain before I finally break down and go to see a dentist.

Last year my physical pain won over my dentophobia and I had to break down and go to the dentist. My new dentist referred me to an endodontist for a root canal. Even though the endodontist was sure I needed a root canal, he put ice on it first to see if it would hurt. I've never had anyone do that before, and of course, it was very painful when he put ice on it!

A year later, I find myself with pain in another tooth. I've put off going to see a dentist now for a while. There is a general dentist in my area that specializes in sedation dentistry. I've thought about going there because it seems like he caters to those with dentophobia.

However, I do think I'd rather have an endodontist check on it. My sister had a terrible experience when a general dentist broke off a piece of a rotary file in her tooth and she got a terrible infection. (She went through so much, I felt her pain!)

I know I shouldn't put off going to a dentist any longer because of my tooth pain. I know it just gets worse. It hurt a lot and was cold sensitive for months. The cold sensitivity went away, but now it feels sore in the gums between two teeth. It hurts to tap on my tooth, so I have to be careful to just chew on the "good" side of my mouth and not chew so hard as not to accidentally bite down hard on the other side of my mouth. I've read that your root can die but you can still have an infection.

I try to "man up" and just go every time even though I'm scared out of my mind. My bad childhood experiences have stuck with me for life, I'm afraid.

So, do I need a referral from a general dentist to see an endodontist if I think I need a root canal? Even though there is a sedation dentist in my area, I think I would rather have an endodontist tend to it. Also, should I tell an endodontist about my dentophobia or will they just not care?

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my question. :)

Hi Amy,

Dentophobia is something a lot of people have and you have made a GREAT step by recognizing what you are feeling and being willing to deal with. Although you didn't ask, finding a general dentist who is REALLY good dealing with fearful patients is probably your most important step.

Now to answer your, you don't need a referral to an endodontist in most cases. However, each specialist chooses how they practice, so in your area it is possible that a referral would be necessary. In our area, it's not needed. However, your fist appointment would be for an examination to determine exactly what is involved and whether a root canal will really solve your problem.

I would also DEFINITELY discuss your apprehension with the endodontist. They might use IV sedation or oral medication to help relax you and make the whole experience a bit more pleasant. If the endodontist doesn't seem to care, find another one.....we're out there, you just need to find us.

Best of luck and Happy New Year!

Gary Backlund DMD, MSD


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Gary Backlund, DMD, MSD


I am an Endodontist ( root canal specialist ) and can answer questions about root canals and their treatment. I cannot diagnose or treat online, but can answer general questions. I have been a specialist for 25 years and am Past President of the Washington State Association of Endodontists.


25 years practicing as a specialist

American Association of Endodonists, Past President Washington State Association of Endodontists.

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