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Visits to the Dentist

CISters agrees that it is important to empower the patient/client with the aim of providing an increased sense of control during the dental procedure and being provided with a feeling of protection or safety in a trusting environment.

For many, survivors of sexual abuse often have a fear of needles and pain amongst other very real anxieties. The fear, or feelings toward dental treatment (or a visit to the optician) in general often run much deeper and may also include:

  • Having to lie back or horizontal for treatment.
  • Having objects such as instruments and cotton rolls placed into the mouth.
  • Having a dentist’s hand(s) over the mouth and/or nose. Even another person’s hands anywhere near the face can provoke a panic attack.
  • Extreme difficulty or anxiety with certain types of treatment being performed such as impressions, or the use of rubber dam.
  • A fear of not being able to breathe.
  • A fear of not being able to swallow.
  • A fear of severe gagging or being sick during the treatment.
  • A fear that the treating dentist may get angry or become impatient with them during treatment.
  • A fear that an anxiety or panic attack may occur that cannot be controlled and the patient may behave in an irrational manner resulting in extreme embarrassment.
  • A feeling of being ‘naked’ in a dental chair due to the loss of control that being in the horizontal position invokes.
  • Being alone in a room with a person who is perceived socially or professionally to be ‘more powerful or educated’ than oneself.

All of these fears are a normal reaction for many survivors of sexual abuse.

You do NOT need to tell the dentist why you find it difficult to access dental care, but, if you can, it can often make the treatment less stressful.

If you need to go to the dentist, the following might be useful:

  • Prior to treatment you and the dentist could agree the use of a ‘stop signal’ such as raising a hand/finger if you want the dentist to stop the procedure, or how you might otherwise alert them to your distress.