HEALTH My Life to Date (and how I've Survived It)

A Wuss’s Guide to Dentophobia – It’s only When I Say ‘Ahh!’

I’ve suffered from Dentophobia, ever since I can remember.  My first dental check-up, aged about five, ended in tears.  My mother took me to a revered dentist in Cheltenham called Dr Dagger.  I kid you not.

Since my, ‘oh woe is me, I’ve got a Humpty Dumpty face’ post earlier this week, it turns out that my facial swelling was not mumps after all.  After a video consultation with my GP, he thinks the inflammation is coming from a tooth, despite not having any toothache.  On closer examination, there appears to be something decidedly dodgy going on inside a broken molar.  So it would seem, my teeth have come back to bite me.

So when did my dentophobia start?  With the Dr Dagger experience, of course.  I obligingly sat in the treatment chair, and he approached wearing a surgical gown and mask.  Not so out of place these days, but in hindsight, a bit daunting for a five-year-old’s dental initiation. He thrust a spotlight the size of a flying saucer in my face, and asked me to say, ‘Ah!’  That’s all he did, but it was too much for me.  My mother had to drag me out, kicking and screaming, from under his kneehole desk.


My second, and third, dental traumas happened in my early teens.  I had too many teeth and my parent’s dentist then was a lovely man called Paddy.  His wife was an anaesthetist in the hospital. They were both much too nice to be ripping out children’s teeth, and they whipped out four of mine.

In those days the anaesthetic was gas.  The mask stank of a mixture of nitrous oxide and rubber.  A smell firmly stored in my olfactory memory banks.  I had the same procedure twice, and each time they extracted two teeth.  On each occasion, I staggered out of the surgery like I’d drunk a barrel of beer.

Teenage Metal Mouth

Instead of sending me to a dentophobia counsellor, my parents packed me off to an orthodontist. I spent most of my teenage years with a metal mouth, with braces on both the top and bottom rows of my teeth.  The skin inside of my lips frequently caught on the metal and used to bleed.  When they finally came off, I was given a plate to wear every night, until I forgot to put it in.

As soon as I was no longer under parental supervision, visits to the dentist became sporadic.  Despite my aunt sending me the odd cheque with a sticky fixer attached to it saying ‘You must go to the dentist!!!!!’

My dentophobia went off the Richter Scale during my forties when I experienced another dental nightmare.  Two molars next door to each other simultaneously blew up with abscesses.  That time, my face swelled so badly I was not only in agony, but I couldn’t open my mouth wide enough for the dentist to extract them, because the swelling was so bad.  So, I had two options:

1) letting them break my jaw to get in, or

2) being put on to a high dose of antibiotics and wait for the swelling to go down.  Deja vu this week then?

I obviously opted for option 2 and had the teeth taken out in the hospital.

A couple of times since then, I have undergone painful dental treatment. I worked myself into a fine old frenzy prior to the last extraction, when they had to knock me out, again. The gap left by the late lamented tooth, filled with a Valplast partial denture.

Having built up a degree of trust with that dentist, he emigrated to New Zealand, so I haven’t been to see a dental surgeon since.  No, I don’t want to be drawn into how long ago that was, because I can’t remember.

A writers group friend, who recently went to live in the UK, was Chairman of a Phobia Committee in Jersey, and she tried to persuade me to go to meetings.  I should have gone.  I suppose I have another phobia about people thinking I’m a wuss about not wanting to the dentist.  Well, they’d be right, but I do have yet another phobia; the fear of waking up next to a set of pearly whites soaking in a glass on the bedside table.

Fortunately for me, dentists in Jersey have been given the okay to come back to work next week and I have a provisional appointment booked, subject to the arrival of the dentist’s PPE. I’ve been hibernating for weeks, but no self-respecting dentist is looking forward to going back to work after Lockdown to treat irresponsible dentophobes like myself. Demanding treatment when they haven’t seen a dentist for years. I am a disgrace.

If you don’t want to end up like me, with rotten teeth and a watermelon face, get yourself to the dentist now!  Rotten teeth = mucho pain.



  1. Tessa, hands down, this is THE worst dental nightmare I have ever read–not the writing, which is GREAT (I think pain may be your “muse”). Our dentists are still waiting to open here. Because he-who-shall-not-be-named (hint: he lives in the White House) has messed up everything to do with COVID-19 so spectacularly, I’m not sure they ever will open again. Good luck to you. Sorry about the dentist who emigrated to New Zealand–possibly you could move there? Stay well,or at least as well as you can with flaming pain in your head.

    1. Amy! I love your comments, they always make me smile!

      There are many reasons why emigrating to New Zealand is particularly appealing at the moment. To have a Prime Minister like Jacinda Ardern, for one.

      Okay, here are some hard COVID-19 facts from the UK. I live in Jersey, Channel Islands, which is a self-governing parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy, with its own financial, legal and judicial systems.

      We are an island, so keeping COVID-19 out, should have been relatively easy, had we gone into Lockdown sooner.

      There isn’t a huge amount of testing going on in Jersey, but here are the stats to date.

      Jersey Population: 106,800
      Confirmed Cases: 308 Recovered Cases: 287 Deaths: 29
      New Zealand Population: 4.886 Million
      Confirmed Cases: 1,154 Recovered Cases: 1,131 Deaths: 22

      I am neither a Statistician nor a Mathematician, but something doesn’t look right here.

      Let’s all go and live in New Zealand!

Thank you very much for visiting my niche-less blog! If you have time before you leave, would love you to tell us what you think. All the best, Tessa Barrie

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