Dental-phobic in Los Angeles
April 16, 2012 6:40 AM   Subscribe

I have severe dental phobia. In no small part thanks to that, I now have some pretty bad dental problems that will soon force me to go to the dentist. Can recommend a dentist near mid-town Los Angeles that is good for phobic people? I'd also appreciate any tips dealing with the shame that comes from a very neglected mouth.

While my phobia came into bloom after a two-day root canal with ineffective anesthesia, it's not only the pain that I'm afraid of. I also am embarrassed by the state of my mouth (I find I cannot even detail the problems here), and the shame is as big a deterrent for me as the pain is. I spend as much time dreading the lecture from the dentist as I do the drill. (I've read the previous threads, so any additional advice would be welcome).

The one bright side is that I now have a good dental plan and discretionary income on top of that, so I don't mind spending money if someone can recommend a top-notch dentist in Los Angeles who is good for dealing with the anxious.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
No recommendations for a local doc, but one tip for your self-consciousness: any dentist more than a couple years out of school has surely seen worse. Like ER workers, they are hard to shock.

I think it's also totally fine and appropriate to let the doc know politely that you're aware of the issues and would rather not endure the lecture. Unless there's a new, uncommon thing going on for them to address with you, dentist lectures are pretty pointless anyway.
posted by broadway bill at 6:50 AM on April 16, 2012

I used to be far more dental-phobic than I am now. Nitrous cured me of a lot of that.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:52 AM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I understand your phobia and have had mine as well. I highly recommend Dr. Roy Martinian. I saw him after almost 20 years of not seeing a dentist and he was kind and understanding and was very sensitive to my fear of pain. I ended up feeling like I was in a spa every time I went to have work done. He did numerous root canals and helped save my teeth and even started me on a track for getting braces to fix the reason why I had gotten so many cavities in the first place. I've recommended him to numerous friends who had the same fears and several of my family members have seen him as well. With any dentist you choose, be upfront about your fears and see how they approach them. You'll be able to tell from the first check-up if they are someone that meet your need for comfort.
posted by i_wear_boots at 6:53 AM on April 16, 2012

I requested full anaesthesia for gum surgery which is normally done under local anaesthetic. I cried when I met the kind and gentle dental surgeon trying to explain why the teeth and gums were so neglected (long complicated story around avoiding abusive exhusband whose medical insurance I was on back then during the separation period).

Ask to be knocked out completely, it helps.
posted by infini at 7:17 AM on April 16, 2012

This is your solution: Dr. Cynthia Cheung, in Westwood. (Or her colleague, Dr. Joyce.) They will not lecture or harangue you. The office is calm and soothing. They want you to be pain-free. They also have a lot of nice distractions, like DVDs and CDs. I promise you -- I was in a situation very similar to yours and they have really, really helped me. It's gotten to the point where I have a teeth cleaning scheduled for next week and I have zero anxiety about it, which is a brand-new feeling for me!
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:18 AM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't help you with the dentist recommendation but I wanted to pop in and second that you should ask for nitrous or a one-off anti-anxiety pill to deal with your fears if you can't be completely knocked out.

I've been treated for phobia of needles (required as a condition of hospital admission) but I still get extremely anxious about serious dental work that requires anesthesia injected into my gums. Nitrous has been a great boon to me, as has valium and/or ativan on various occasions.
posted by immlass at 7:46 AM on April 16, 2012

I love my dentist: Dr. Susan Hanigan-Gilmour. She's in a cool Deco building in Downtown, and her hands are so gentle that getting a cleaning from her always makes me zone out. It's strangely relaxing.

I went to her after a horrible experience with someone else that had left me totally terrified, and she's so kind and not-judgy. I just really like her. She's like your nicest aunt, and she's totally on your side. She says things like "I can tell you've really been doing a great job flossing." and there are no lectures. I think, from things she and her staff have said, that she has a LOT of phobic patients.

Good luck!
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:34 AM on April 16, 2012

I've been there. But you know what? I got dental insurance with a new job, and went in to the dentist expecting a lecture, and it never came. I explained to the dentist that I'd had a really bad experience with a dentist (and my brother had an even worse one with the same guy) and that I'd been scared to go see a dentist ever since. They get it, they've seen it, and they know that it's scary for a lot of people. Even things such as the sight of a dentist's chair and all the instruments can be very frightening to someone who had a bad experience with a dentist. (I got lucky; apparently I've been blessed with very strong teeth. All I needed was a few fillings and I was good to go.)

Just explain it to them, and they're likely not going to be judgmental. They'll likely be glad to be the one that gets you back in good shape anyway. (And never be afraid to tell a dentist if something doesn't feel right; they can give you more novocaine or change what they're doing. You don't want to hurt, and they don't want to hurt you.)
posted by azpenguin at 9:51 AM on April 16, 2012

I know the Valley is further afield than you're looking to go, but I think the more info/options you get here the better - Michael Bjornbak in Sherman Oaks is super nice, totally non-judgmental, and works with phobic patients.

Also: azpenguin is right on the money, especially when it comes to dentists who advertise themselves as being friendly to anxious patients.
posted by usonian at 11:11 AM on April 16, 2012

I want to second BlahLaLa's recommendation. My dentist is Dr. Joyce, and she is amazing and comforting.
posted by sawdustbear at 12:32 PM on April 16, 2012

My wife and I have had great experiences with Dr. Kimura in Brentwood (sorry if he's out of your target area).
posted by puritycontrol at 3:19 PM on April 16, 2012

My dentist prescribed Valium to me to help with my phobia of needles. (I hadn't had a checkiup for five years as last time they tried to inject my gum and I vomited everywhere.) It helped, as I sat in the chair and had the work done and realised that nothing bad happened. I also let him know before the first exam that I was nervous, which I think helped.
posted by mippy at 3:33 AM on April 17, 2012

If for whatever reason you choose not to go to one of the dentists people are recommending here, I suggest that when you call to make an appointment you explain your situation and if the person you are talking to makes you feel bad about it then don't go to that office.

Maybe I've just been lucky but all the dentists I've been to as an adult have been more than willing to meet me where I am and have not been judgy, even when I've gone a few years without a checkup (which I did after college, swore I would never do again, and then did again - ANYWAY).

There are lots of good, compassionate dentists out there. Don't settle for someone who makes you feel bad or who doesn't take your concerns seriously. (That said, do take the dentist's advice seriously; if they advise for or against something, it's likely for a good reason.)

And I get the embarrassment and shame - but you are not alone in in avoiding the dentist, and once you get yourself to the dentist it will be so much easier to let go of those feelings!
posted by mskyle at 7:14 AM on April 17, 2012

Seconding Cynthia Cheung.

She's focused, professional, calming, and very compassionate.
Being able to check out to a DVD of a favorite tv show helps.
And she's definitely great about avoiding pain, as well.

Truly a good experience.
posted by jann at 11:09 PM on April 17, 2012

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