Dental Phobia and Sexual Abuse

*A note before you read this. After doing an audit of my blog in 2022, I have decided to leave content that speaks to the Christian I was at the time this was written. I no longer identify as Christian (and haven’t for a very long time.) I chose to leave these posts because it is who I was then and it is important to me to be honest and true with every iteration and evolution of self that I experience. I may decide to add comments to the end of posts like this as well

I was stunned. Going into this healing after sexual abuse journey, I had no idea how much of my life was touched by this. Like a candlestick, the wax drips down and covers everything until what’s left is a big pile of wax and no flame to light the way.

It’s one of those things I would’ve never connected. I don’t really even know how I connected it.


I was reading Not Marked  and the author was explaining  how sexually abused people sometimes try to put off anything to do with the healing process. She was saying if she had a bad tooth, it wouldn’t just get better by ignoring the pain. You need to go to the dentist and get it taken care of.

In that moment, I had this wave of emotions mashed with memories wrapped in shame and covered in fear. There was not a specific recollection of an incident, more like a culmination of all of them layered like a Greek baklava.

I put the book down, went to Google and typed in “dental phobia sexual abuse.”

I didn’t need to read any more than this:

How could a visit to the dentist trigger memories or feelings of past abuse?

Many aspects of dental treatment have been found to symbolically represent sexual abuse for many survivors. The following conditions may trigger a repetition of earlier trauma:

  • being alone with a person more powerful than oneself,
  • being placed in a horizontal position,
  • having someone nearby and touching you,
  • having objects placed in one’s mouth,
  • being unable to talk or swallow, and
  • experiencing or anticipating pain.

Many dental experiences may remind the patient of their abuse experience in that they produce awkward sensations of suffocation, such as in the use of rubber dams, or gagging sensations, or feeling restrained in their movement.

It makes perfect sense, but I was completely unaware.

What to do with the knowledge, though? I don’t know. Process it. Try to pour the wax around a new wick? Find a dentist who doesn’t scare the shit out of me and give me panic attacks like the one I am currently (not) seeing out of fear?

The uncovering of all of this fear is…scary.

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