Keep those hands out of my mouth!

It has been well documented that a lot of things make me nervous: speaking in public, a spider dangling over my head, running out of Fritos – the list is endless. And yet every day is a marvelous adventure, a tale of tribulation and triumph.

The adventure begins as soon as my eyes open in the morning. I smile and thank God for another day of life.  And then it hits me: I have to figure out how I am going to live it. I start doing the math in my head until I have a reasonable equation (which always changes because life is NOT a math equation – it is more like a raging river filled with rocks and you are riding the rapids in a raft that is leaking air – you pray that you can hold on long enough to get to calm waters – or a repair shop.)

In previous blog entries I have discussed “issues” which may or may not be common to most people.  Today I am going to talk about something that is more frequently found in our file of fears: the fear of the dentist.



Now, I am not afraid of my dentist per se.  In fact, I may have the nicest dentist on the planet. He’s a friendly guy who bends over backwards to put up with my particular needs. Everyone loves him. I wouldn’t want anyone else poking around in my mouth. (There, that covers the potential law suit.)


Okay, I will be totally honest.  I don’t much care for people placing metal things in my mouth, especially when those things look like they should be used to jackhammer the concrete sidewalk outside my house.  Those pointy hooks and rough-edged scrapers make me cringe.  And the sound of the drill sends my blood pressure through the roof.


These are the most common fears associated with a visit to the dentist.  But I have one more:  I have a small mouth and my dentist has BIG HANDS!

I have of course pondered this unfortunate situation in my head a million times over. For some reason, my mouth is small and won’t open wide.  I have often thought that I was destined to have a small mouth because I don’t like to talk; and through non-use it never developed to be as big and loud as everyone else’s.  This usually does not affect me on a day-to-day basis.  I can mutter a few words when necessary. Eating and drinking also are not a problem – I can shovel in Fritos with the best of ‘em. But when they tell me to “open wide” I spiral into panic mode. My chest tightens, beads of sweat appear on my brow, and my hands grasp at the unforgiving arms of the dentist’s chair like a convict about to be electrocuted.

And then it starts: the checkup and cleaning. Hands apply force to my jaw, desperately trying to wedge it open wider – into positions and angles it will not go. Cold metallic objects clank and clatter off the fragile enamel inhabitants of my mouth. A device reminiscent of a plumber’s tool applies saliva suction, invariably sucking half my tongue into it until pliers finally pull it loose. Spit and water spray about until the wallpaper is tinted to a light pink hue.  It’s too late.  I am strapped in for the long ride to dental cleanliness.

So how do I endure this? I close my eyes and try to “go someplace,” most often to a nice, calm beach where the crashing of waves drown out the drone of the dental machines.  The blinding light that they use to look into my mouth now becomes the warm, soothing sun, the spray becomes the surf.

I try to distract the physical sensation of the experience away from my mouth and to another body part: my hands. I tap my fingers on the arms of the chair and try to feel that instead. Sometimes I run my fingers up and down the arms to further distract me. (NOTE: running your fingers up and down the arms of the chair is acceptable practice – running them up and down the dental hygienist is NOT.)

Before I know it, the cleaning is over and all I can feel are huge, burly paws inside my mouth. Unfortunately, this is the time when the dentist decides to start a conversation.

“So, how are you?” he asks.

“Umfumm mumfumm lummma” I answer, trying my best not to bite his fingers.

“Everything looks good,” he says. “See you in six months.”

My heart rate returns to normal.  My vision returns.  I pay my bill as fast as I can and run out of there at breakneck speed.  I am safe – for six months.

The question remains: is it worth the added stress and panic just for proper dental hygiene?  You decide:


Don’t I look good?

About Joe

Freelance designer and writer whose goal is to help others by writing about my experiences with fear and anxiety (agoraphobia), health struggles (cancer) and my wonderfully-happy life as a husband and stay-at-home dad. I want to empower everyone to have a happy life.

7 responses »

  1. bpnana says:

    Very entertaining and at the same time, quite realistic! I found myself scrolling down the paragraphs quicker than I normally do because you described a visit to the dentist so vividly, I couldn’t wait to “get out of the chair”. Oh, how I hate the dentist!! Thanks, Nana

  2. KidazzleInk says:

    I certainly identify with the feeling of peace that settles when you know you don’t have to return again for another six months. Its fresh as I truly felt it just a few days ago after my last visit….well I’m safe for another 6 months anyway!

    • Joe says:

      I dread going, but I never avoid it. I guess that is kind of my philosophy of how I approach things I find unpleasant. Hang in there!

  3. Joe, I can’t thank you enough for this article! I too suffer from fear of dentistry! I went 4 weeks ago and I was literally crying at one point in the dentist chair. People don’t understand what it’s like to have this fear. It’s not the fear of pain, that I can take. I accidentally bit the hygienist and the dentist. I didn’t mean to! I’m just so tense in the chair. Anyway, thanks again Joe for making me feel not so alone in dealing with these anxieties.

  4. […] into my car, and waited for the light show in my head to stop. As soon as it did, off to see “Dr. Big Hands” I went. (Check it out if you don’t […]

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