Afraid of sedation dentistry after being sexually assaulted

I need to have my wisdom teeth taken out and there’s no way I want it done without dental sedation. The problem is that I was sexually assaulted a few years ago and I’m afraid of being medicated now too. The idea of things happening that I won’t be able to remember, or of not being able to react if something happens to me, is absolutely terrifying. I have known my dentist for most of my life. I know he’s a good guy and I trust him, but I can’t get rid of the nagging fear that something could happen. I don’t think I can tell him why I keep putting off these extractions though. First, I don’t think I have it in me to explain this in person to anyone. Secondly, I don’t want him to think I’m accusing him of anything. I understand that my worry isn’t exactly rational, but I can’t get over it. What should I do?

-Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

I’m very sorry to hear this happened to you. Whether rational or not, this is an unfortunate, sometimes long-lasting, side-effect that many sexual assault victims face. Your thought process is not only perfectly understandable, but also natural.

For the sake of your long-term health, counseling is a good idea, if you haven’t already started. There are a few things that you can do that might help you feel more comfortable with sedation dentistry in the meantime. You don’t necessarily have to tell your dentist why you’re apprehensive, but it’s quite likely that he’ll be very supportive and understanding of your situation if you do. You’ll receive more comfort, hearing directly from him, what makes his practice safe. If you can’t approach him, consider speaking with female staff member. Yes, she will tell the dentist what you have said, but as medical professionals, they will use any information you give, to help provide you with better care, and you may feel more comfortable speaking with a woman.

Aside from that, you can ask questions in advance, too. For instance, if the office utilizes open-bay operatories (door-less), you may feel better knowing that people in the office will continually be aware of what’s happening. If they routinely close doors, it’s generally for your privacy, and you may request that it be left open. You may also feel better scheduling your appointment for a peak time of day, so there will be lots of people around. Many doctors who practice sedation dentistry also have safeguards in place, so that their actions are never called into question. They may assign a single assistant to remain with you the entire time you’re there, or they may have an office policy that requires an additional staff member to remain in the room at all times with them. If you choose not to explain why you’re concerned, you can simply ask, “Who will be with me while I’m sedated?”

You may also discuss the possibility of having a trusted friend or family member accompany you throughout the treatment. Typically it is required that someone be there to drive you to and from the appointment. But under the circumstances, your dentist may be willing to accommodate this request if it is a comfort to you.

This post is sponsored by Atlanta dentist Flax Dental.

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Posted in: Sedation Dentistry