Special Dentist Edition: The Emetophobia Story

I just got back from the dentist, so let’s talk about dentists!


We all hate the dentist. Maybe not her personally, but the office, and the dental cleaning… I’ve never met anyone who enjoys having their teeth cleaned, really. And don’t get me started on fillings, root canals, and tooth removals… wisdom teeth… orthodontics… These are basically the greatest trials of human life, am I right?

The thing that makes the dentist challenging for emetos in particular is the close proximity to the gag reflex. For me, the main struggle is getting the x-rays done. This gigantic contraption goes in your mouth and you’re expected to bite down on it when the entire thing is basically IN your throat, and then sit there like that while they leave the room, press a button, etc. Last year, when I got my pictures done, I didn’t get one on my back right molars. She put the thing in my mouth, walked away, and within seconds I’d pulled it out. She came and put it back, and I took it right back out. Finally, I managed to keep it in for long enough to take the picture, but that was only because it wasn’t as far back as it should have been. The hygienist and I decided that it was close enough, and called it a day.

I’m lucky, because I have severely cavity-prone teeth. There’s something I never thought I’d say. But I spent half my childhood sitting in that chair having all sorts done to my teeth – drilling them, pulling them out, being injected with anesthesia… And aside from it basically being the worst, I’ve never had a vomiting-related experience there. Not like the famous hand-biting incident at the doctor’s when he put that popsicle stick on my tongue… But anyway. I don’t have anxiety at the dentist like some do, only because of my extreme exposure (I lost count at 30 fillings, but it’s more now. I have another one booked this summer. GREAT.)


I have really bad back molars because brushing there upsets my gag reflex, which means the hygienist has to spend extra time there while lecturing me about the importance of brushing all the way to the back. You know how much I care? Not at all, that’s how much. It’s just not gonna happen. Sorry.

Not only that, but have you ever brushed your teeth when you’re nauseous? It’s one of the worst things. (Can you tell I REALLY HATE dental hygiene???) I’ve had more panic attacks than I can count with a toothbrush in my mouth, which usually ended in barring myself in the bathroom for 20 minutes until I could stop crying, and being late for whatever I had been getting ready for.

One more thing – being a kid, I hated brushing. What kid doesn’t? But I was particularly hateful because the mint toothpaste was too strong, and made me want to gag. Guess which flavour I still avoid, to this day, to the point where I will not brush my teeth if I don’t have something in cinnamon? It’s so inconvenient, especially at the dentist, because I have to request special products since their standard is mint. But it’s better than the alternative, I say.


Well, that was an abrupt change of subject. Per my Daily Prompt post earlier today, I’m a strong believer in the power of the mind, and positive thinking. Along that line, I’ve spent time lately working on adjusting these harmful thought processes that lead to phobias, anxiety, and basically every other mental illness. Currently I’m using a book, which I purchased, but I won’t tell you which one or who it’s by until I have read the whole thing and have had time to ruminate on what I’ve learned. This blog will not become an infomercial, I promise. But one very important thing I have gained in this process is the power positive thinking can have on your entire life. It will not be easy for me to undo years of destructive thought habits to do with vomiting and anxiety, but the attempt has improved other areas of my life in ways I wasn’t expecting.

Basically, what I’ve learned so far is that being conscious of your conscience is a really, really healthy thing. Don’t just think – listen. How do you talk to yourself? What kinds of things are, and aren’t, you blaming yourself for? Do you hold yourself accountable for your life? Are you making excuses? Do you feel helpless? I thought I was an internal-locus person, I thought I had high self esteem, but by becoming more aware of my own thoughts, I’ve realized that I am not as good at thinking as I thought I was. And that’s a good thing,¬†because now I know what areas I need to grow and improve in, and that’s really what this whole thing is about.


Breathing through your nose. Supposedly it helps with your gag reflex. Personally, I don’t trust it, and I much prefer to remove the source of the gag – for example, the x-ray contraption, the toothbrush, or whatever grossness I just witnessed. I have a habit of bolting from rooms where gross things are, and leaving other people to clean them up. I also have a habit of doing things with my eyes closed, if they involve a close-up view of something gross – sink drains, for example. It’s not very practical, but it works. I guess. (It doesn’t really.)


Graininess: The feeling that your entire stomach is filled with sand. It’s not heavy, it’s just grainy and sandy. Like it’s sliding around inside of you. Sometimes it coincides with Throat Nausea and the grain is in your esophagus. I have no idea what this feeling is, but it is very, very unsettling.

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6 Responses to Special Dentist Edition: The Emetophobia Story

  1. Pingback: Julie's Notebook | Today I’m proud

  2. JulieRoo says:

    Hiya. I linked to this as its a great post, better than my post in honesty, but I really appreciated your comment. ;-) I hate phobias but I try to beat them.

  3. Marci says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. I don’t have a bad gag reflex, but I do hate the dentist; it’s not a fun place to visit. Also, I have occasional nightmares about my teeth falling out – they are the WORST!!! <3

  4. S Stull says:

    I can relate very much to this! I suffer a terrible gag reflex thanks to a too-large tongue (and genetics, I guess), and was incredibly lucky to find a dentist who works with my phobia, instead of berating me. Why they do that when you’re paying them, I’ll never understand. My regular dental hygienist there once told me two tips: swab your tongue with salt water on a Q-Tip (I’m dubious on that one), and not letting your tongue touch whatever’s in your mouth. Anyway, good post!

    • icedcappp says:

      Good thing you found a good dentist! Mine has new hygienists every time I go in, and it’s so rare to find one who doesn’t lecture me the entire time. Thanks for commenting :)


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