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

Although for many survivors of sexual abuse have a fear of needles and pain amongst other very real anxieties they have, 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.