Tuesday 27 October 2015

Dentophobia - Fear of Dentists - #OctoboPhobia short story

The light is glaring into my eyes as I sit back in the chair, my mouth open, while the dentist prods and checks through my mouth.

“Okay, you’ve got a bit of an infection,” he says. “Just here…” He touches the end of the small metallic stick against it and a jolt of pain jumps through my mouth like electricity.

“Ah!” I say, involuntarily.

“You’re going to need a root canal,” he says, pulling his fingers away from my mouth and angling the light away from my face.

I’m relieved at the light being moved, but immediately apprehensive about the root canal. “I’ve heard they’re painful,” I tell him.

“They used to be” he says, looking at my x-rays. “Now, though, we can kill the infection before we extract the root, so it’s not as bad. Back in the day, they used to go ahead with it when it was at its most painful.”

“Oh,” I say, stupidly. I’m still nervous, the hairs on my arms rising.

I’m getting married next month, which is why I’m here. I promised her that I’d come and get the full check-up. Even though I’ve not been to the dentist since I was 16. I avoid them.

It’s easy enough to avoid, most of the time. For the most part, tooth pain doesn’t last. It’s more an irritating twinge, without serious pain. Even when it gets properly painful, a mixture of painkillers and alcohol not only usually helped, but they also meant that nights out were fun.

But I promised. We want the wedding photos to be perfect and she wants me – for just one day – to be perfect as well. So I’m here, proving just how much I love her.

Before I met her, I was a mess. Drinking every night to get through to the next day, and just going out of my head at the weekends on anything I could get my hands on.

And the women. I never thought I’d be able to be satisfied with one woman. Every night, if I wasn’t drinking, I was doing my best to make sure I woke up in someone else’s bed.  Most nights, I failed, but every now and then, I’d reach one of the few times I didn’t utterly loathe myself. Some I saw more than once, but most I never saw again. I just treated them like bodies. Warm bodies, with presumably some past and home life, but not ones I ever cared about.

But then her. The one least likely, with the quiet demeanour, the brain I could never match and even the daughter that I loved just as much. The one who made me change everything. Eventually. I’d strayed once or twice, but even that had fallen by the wayside. A few problems here or there, but I’d decided to make it work.

And eventually, that brought me here. I’d been given a family, and even if I didn’t want to come to the dentist, if Sarah asked me to, I did it.  

“How do you kill the infection?”

“It’s just an injection,” he said, picking up a syringe and readying it.

I tried not to think too much about it. My fear of needles was not playing well with the idea, but it was outperformed by my fear of a painful root canal.

“Then we do the root canal?”

`“No, that’ll need to be in a few days, while this takes hold. It’ll be fine though – you won’t even notice.”

“Okay,” I said, thinking of Sarah.

I open my mouth and look up at the ceiling, not looking at him hulking over me, reaching down into my mouth and pushing the needle into my gum, then pressing down on the plunger.

I know that the needle is something I should barely feel, although it pushes against the root of my tooth. I know that, but I feel the hardness of it, pushing unnaturally into my mouth.

“It won’t take long,” he says. And then he chuckles. A deep, dark chuckle.

I feel a prickling sensation spread across my face and I pass out.

I wake up, my head pounding. I try to move it, but I can’t. I can feel something against my chin and forehead keeping it still.

I’m sat down. I can feel that. I try to move my hands up to my head, but they are prevented by a large, thick leather strap on either armrest. It’s the same with my ankles.

As I struggle against them, I realise that there’s another strap – a larger one – wrapped across my waist.

“What the hell?” I try to say, but my words come out wrong. Like I can’t form letters, my tongue too big and clumsy for my mouth. “Whu hu hehh?”

“You really don’t remember me, do you?” He says from somewhere behind me. I try to turn, my eyes still taking in my grimy, dark surroundings.

“Iduhd….I duhndnuh…”

The wall is covered in something that look like egg containers, but black. Lots of them, covering from floor to ceiling.

“No reason you should, I suppose,” he says. His tone is conversational. He could be describing what’s gone wrong in the engine of his car.

“Wuh… wuh…”

“To you, I suppose, she was just a one night stand in some hotel somewhere. A one night willing fuck that wouldn’t leave you alone.”

“I… I duhn….”

“I wonder if that’s why you chose her. From watching you over the last few months, you have enough going on in your own house, with Sarah and little Lizzie. You don’t need another relationship, do you?”

“I.. inevuh….”

I can hear something metallic behind me, grinding against something else.

“I mean it’s all good for you, obviously. You get to have your fun and then walk away from it all.”

He walks in front of me, across to another table, but doesn’t make any eye contact with me. 

“Pluh….” I say.

“Maybe she told you her real name. Maybe not. It doesn’t really matter. Because she left me.”

“I dih… dihn” He starts rummaging around the table and the drawers next to it.

“But I found her again. And I made sure that she’d never do it again.”

“Nuh! Nuh! Pluhs!”

“And that just meant that I had to find you. This took a long time, you know.”

With his back to me, he makes a low, deep noise. I realise he is laughing.

I try to speak, and try to shout, but all I can make is grunting, incoherent noises.

He turns to me, the dental drill whirring.

“You’re underground. I had this room soundproofed, just waiting for you.”

He laughs again, it becoming more high pitched as he moves towards me, or maybe that’s just the whine of the drill.

“Don’t be afraid to scream.”

He moves the head of the drill against my tooth, and pushes down slowly. The vibration in my skull is as deep as the noise is high.

Somewhere I am screaming. Somewhere he is laughing. But the whine of the drill is all I can hear.


  1. Yikes! This was pretty scary! I’ve always had a fear of dentists, not the unnatural, scared of I-don’t-know-what-is-coming kind of fear. The kind of fear that’s rooted in the fact I know exactly what is coming and I hate it. The scraping, the poking, the drilling. Will I be able to think of anything else after reading this?

    Justene Doan @ A+ Family Dentistry

  2. The first time I read this, I thought it was like a dream. You described my experience to the letter when I was getting a root canal. The day of the procedure, I whipped myself into an anxiety frenzy. Like you, I found that the procedure was painless and within a half hour, I was back on my way to work without any discomfort.