Dental Phobia and Sexual Abuse

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.

How to Traumatize Your Kid

Lovely thoughts of Christmases long gone fill my mind. Pierogi and fried lake perch. Snowballs and kolachy.  Midnight Mass.  Big family dinners at grandma’s house.


We’d walk across the alley back to our house, all excited for Santa to come. Dad would get his gun out and start teasing that he was going to shoot Rudolph. He was a deer hunter and he needed more freezer meat.  “I’m gonna have my gun ready for the first click, click, click up on the housetop. St. Nick better not land here!”

And we thought he was joking. Teasing. He wouldn’t really shoot Rudolph.

Bullets in. Coat on. Boots on. Door open. Door slam.

“Mommy is he really going to shoot Rudolph?”


Faces pressed to the picture window. His body just out of site. Gun barrel raised.



Ears covered. Tears streaming down hopeful little cheeks. A mama’s heart broken. Kid’s hearts torn to bits. Blown up.

Every Christmas Eve, falling asleep crying.

One Christmas, though, I woke to go to the bathroom and saw mom putting the Atari under the tree.  My heart raced, ran to my brother, woke him, brought him in the hallway.

Dad saw us. Mad. Yelled, “Get back to bed!!”


No more killing Rudolph.