Dental Help For Survivors

by Kate F. Hays, Ph.D. 730 Yonge Street, Suite 226, Toronto ON M4Y 2B7, Canada,(416) 961-0487

Is it extremely difficult for you to call for a dental appointment for yourself? Do you put off making dental appointments even though you've got dental problems? Do you space out or become excessively fearful while in the dental chair? Were you sexually abused as a child or adolescent? By the age of 18, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys will be sexually abused. Not only is the abuse traumatic at the time it occurs, it often has long-term disruptive consequences for the adult survivor. For example, medical procedures can be difficult to tolerate. For many survivors, going to the dentist is traumatic. They avoid visiting the dentist, have trouble making or keeping appointments, are more likely to have stress-related dental problems, and have severe distress symptoms while at the dentist. What is the connection between these symptoms of dental anxiety and childhood sexual abuse? There are a number of symbolic parallels: being alone with a person (often male) more powerful than oneself; being placed in a horizontal position; being touched; having objects put into one's mouth; being unable to swallow; and anticipating or experiencing pain. If you have some of these concerns, please know there are a number of ways to help alleviate your fears. Also, dentists are becoming more sensitive to dental anxiety triggered by early trauma.

What You Can Do for Yourself:

The following are strategies survivors of childhood sexual abuse have found helpful in reducing dental anxiety:

What Your Dentist Can Do to Help: