How to Stop Hating and Start Healing...
People often say to me, "I hate dentists!"
I understand where they're coming from. As a child, I lived through my share of dental horror stories.
As a five-year old, there was nothing worse than having a hard-as-nails, ex-military dentist bearing down on my teeth without the benefit of Local Anaesthetic.
As I reached my early teens, I began to dread going to the dentist.
In my late teen, I spent so much time in the dental chair I figured, "Hey... I could do this job."
My mother was a dental-phobic. She needed to be sedated to even step into a dental office. She couldn't even come visit me at my office.
How about you? Are you a Dentist-Hater?
Over the years, I've had many people tell me "Nothing personal Doc, but I hate dentists."
Being curious as to why someone would say that, I would ask them about their reasons and listen to their story. I discovered that people had many different reasons why they hated dentists...
You see, dentistry isn’t like car repairs. If something goes wrong with your car, you can just go get it fixed. No pain, no fear, no suffering.
You may love your car, but a car isn't that personal. You're never going to say "I hate car mechanics!" and keep using that as an excuse to avoid getting any car repairs.
Dental care, on the other hand, is VERY personal. There’s this huge emotional component that comes into play, involving powerful feelings such as fear, guilt and embarrassment. It's this emotional component is what makes dentistry so complicated.
Here's a revelation... Everyone talks about fear of dentists being a big issue, but recent studies show that more people avoid the dentist out of embarrassment than out of fear. That's a huge shift. For countless years fear had always been assumed the dominant emotion.
If you feel embarrassed about your dental condition, you'll continue avoiding the dentist. The trouble is you're stuck feeling more ashamed as time goes by.
So what do you do? You resort to Emotional Self-Preservation. You deflect personal reponsibility with a line like "I hate dentists."
Emotional Self-Preservation can be a dangerous thing. It can leave you tied in knots and trapped in that avoidance pattern. Your teeth problems, in the meantime, just keep going from bad to worse.
Do you have any dental problems? Are you hung up on who's to blame for that?
Over the years, I've met lots of people in need of dental care. Many get stuck on emotional issues such as "Who's to blame?" and they can’t seem to move forward.
As a dentist, I try to help people get past blame and any other emotional barriers that hold them back.
If you came to me with dental problems, my first priority would be to eliminate pain and address any urgent needs so you can get right back to your normal life. Matters of blame would only sidetrack us from the work to be done.
My next challenge would be getting you back to health. That means taking care of any problems that you already knew about, along with any hidden ones you weren’t aware of. Priority would be given to areas of active disease and anything that would pose immediate threat to your health.
Once you achieved good dental health, my next goal would be to keep you there. That means raising your level of health to help you prevent future problems. It also means dicovering the sources of your past problems and taking appropriate action to deal with those.
Establishing supportive habits and eliminating destructive ones is vitally important.
If you've suffered a ton of cavities because you happen to LOVE sucking on hard candies, you can be sure I'll support you on changing that.
If you've recently had negative momentum with your dental health, that has to be turned around. This is the leadership step – helping you achieve sustainable health rather than having you struggle along from one crisis to another.
Beyond health, I would help you explore possibilities to restore and enhance your smile to an exceptional level. At this highest level of care, I would focus on optimizing the beauty, function and longevity of your smile.
Here’s the thing, people get emotionally stuck and can’t get past that first level of crisis-driven care. They just struggle along in anticipation of their next dental disaster.
I call that the Path of Pain. These people focus on fear and pain and they're bound to get plenty more of it.
People will say "I hate dentists!" but often they're not true Dentist-Haters. They're just using an easy excuse for the Dental-Avoider approach they've been taking.
Some people are wracked by shame and guilt over their dental problems. Some feel embarrassed that they haven't been to a dentist in a long time - that they've let themselves go.
Do you feel that way? Have you been avoiding the dentist so you don't have to face any bad news or deal with the embarrassment and guilt you would feel for having left thing so long?
Why not blame the dentist instead? Easier to pin the dentist with the bad-guy label and you can relieved of personal responsibility. You'll no longer have to feel any emotional burden.
I see that emotional tactic all the time. People blaming past dentists for their current problems. They're trying to make themselves feel better without having to deal with things.
If it makes you feel better, go ahead and blame that old dentist. Just make sure you keep going to the dentist. Your teeth aren't getting any better on their own. Dental diseases are progressive in nature, and today's minor problem can become tomorrow's disaster.
I want to help you get off that Path of Pain. To stop blaming and hating so you can start healing.
Are you sometimes your own worst enemy?
Underlying emotional issues can be more debilitating than the actual physical needs in your mouth. I see lots of people like this. Some are crippled by guilt. Some remain trapped in denial and maintain an extremely defensive posture. Some just stop caring and let everything slide.
Part of getting people back to good health is establishing emotional fitness and a healthy approach to dental care. I may sound gender biased here, but it's usually males that are total cavemen when it comes to health care.
If you haven't been to a dentist lately and are feeling embarrassed about the condition of your teeth, take some comfort in that you're not alone.
Here's what I'm leading to... If you're like many people I've met over the years, you never really stood a chance. The deck was heavily stacked against you right from the beginning. It's not all your fault you have so many problems.
You hate dentists because it's been all bad news and misery for so many years.
For more information on the topic of Hating Dentists, visit the Hate Dentists Blog.
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About the Author: Dr. Joe Bulger is a cosmetic dentist from Toronto, Canada and the owner-founder of Royal York Dental. A prestigious office serving West Toronto since 1950.
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