Here unedited is Peter's story
For many people, being scared of going to the dentist is a bit irrational -
they're scared, but don't really know why. For me, I can pinpoint exactly
when I went from being ok about dentists, to total dislike.
I was 7 and living in Manchester. I'd been to the dentist for a checkup - a
horrible drab building, with a fish tank in the waiting room which was also
drab and dark. Nothing bad came out of the checkout, or so I thought. But
then, a few days later, my mum was driving me to school and drove right past
the road the school was on. It turned out I was off for a surprise visit to
The next thing I knew I was having injections to numb my mouth in
preparation for having a couple of teeth out. I know my mum was doing what
she believed was the right thing, and if she'd told me I'd probably have
only worried myself sick about the appointment, so maybe it was the right
thing to do. After the initial injection and wait, the dentist tested to
see if I still had feeling, which I did and so had to endure more injections
and waiting. Finally, I had two teeth out. Not the nicest of experiences
and I nearly passed out, due to fear or loss of blood, and so I had to be
fed a sugary tea to keep me conscious.
After that experience I never liked the dentist. I went regularly until my
early 20s when I left home, although I was always uneasy when I went and
very glad that I never needed any work doing. Upon moving to Oxfordshire I
occasionally went for the odd check-up, although conveniently forgot most of
the time. Although every time I visited my parents my mum would give me a
reminder. As time went on, the fear became bigger and bigger to the point
where I felt faint when I had a simple check-up. I was prescribed diazepam
(Valium) by my doctor, which didn't help at all. So I decided to bury my
head in the sand and wait for a dental problem to occur that was so bad that
I'd have no choice but to overcome the fear.
Fortunately I didn't have to wait for that to happen. I attended a
Twitter-based networking event at Fallowfields hotel near Abingdon in 2011,
and ended up sitting next to Richard Charon at the dinner table. I found
out that he was a dentist who specialised in nervous patients, and when I
mentioned by phobia he explained how he had various techniques to help
people like me. We kept in touch via email and Twitter, but I still wasn't
brave enough to visit Richard. Then, about three months later a girl in the
office where I work was in floods of tears due to tooth ache. She said is
was so painful, but was too scared to go to a dentist. I told her about
Richard, and said that whilst I hadn't been, he specialised in nervous
people. By the next morning my colleague had been squeezed in as an
emergency patient and sorted out with the help of Richard's 'happy air' and
she was beaming ear to ear that her pain was gone.
Another couple of months passed and I finally decided to pay Richard a
visit, just for a checkup. Richard asked why I'd finally chosen to come in.
My answer was simple, "I promised my mum I would go to the dentist this
year". Richard's wife, Chris, who runs the reception greeted me warmly and
kept me chatting until it was my time. The chatting took my mind off things
and made the time fly. Then I was taken down to Richards room and the
Richard explained what he was going to do - using no scary tools, using just
his hands he was going to look around my mouth to see how it was. He said
there was a few areas of concern, and recommended another trip in to see a
hygienist to clean my teeth up so he could spot any areas that needed work
doing. At this point I had no fillings, and figured that my daily brushing
and use of mouth wash was doing a good enough job.
Because I had to travel about twenty miles to see Richard, and was still
very nervous, we agreed that for the hygienist I'd trial the happy air. So
on my return Richard popped a small device over my nose which allowed me to
breath through my nose to inhale the happy air. He started me off with a
low dose and gradually increased the dose until I felt the nervousness
subside. The happy air fully kicked in and it felt like I'd had a few
glasses of wine, at which point I honestly didn't care that I was in the
chair or that someone was about to start prodding around my mouth to give it
a proper clean. Richard was playing some Jean Michel Jarre music in the
background which helped the relaxation and spaced out feeling. I was awake
the whole time, and conscious of what was happening, I just wasn't scared.
At all. When the hygienist was finished Richard turned off the happy air
and fed me oxygen for a while to bring me back down to earth, which took
about ten minutes.
The outcome of the hygienist session was that I needed a few fillings - some
which he recommended getting done soon, and some that would need doing over
coming years if they got any worse. I decided to get it all out of the way
as quickly as possible, meaning seven fillings in total, but I felt this was
the best way for me rather than dragging it out over years. So I was booked
in for four sessions, one for each corner of my mouth.
Having never had a filling before, I didn't know what to expect, other than
all the horror stories I'd heard about the drill noise. For the first
session I booked the whole day off work in case I was in pain afterwards or
needed time to relax afterwards. I popped down to see Richard and
immediately got onto the happy air, as Richard knew how much I'd need from
the previous session, it was all set up for me and quickly took effect.
Richard explained what would happen - first some anaesthetic, then drilling,
then filling. As well as dentists, I also have a needle phobia, and luckily
the anaesthetic was not administered via a scary syringe but via a machine
that fed the anaesthetic slowly and without much pain. Under the influence
of the happy air I could feel this, and it did send my heart rate racing,
but I was nowhere near the fainting I'd usually be.
Once Richard confirmed I was suitably anaesthetised, the fillings began.
For me, the drilling was fine and not at all scary - I didn't feel anything
and the happy air meant I didn't care about the noise anyway. The actual
filling felt cold, although not uncomfortable. Before I knew it I was done,
and on oxygen to flush out the happy air. My mouth ached for the remainder
of the day, but with paracetamol it didn't stop me eating, drinking, or
The remainder of the sessions went the same, and I was all finished in time
for Christmas so I was able to proudly report to my mum that I had a clean
bill of health by the time of my festive visit.
My next check-up is in June, and having survived all the fillings, being I'm
more familiar with the dentists environment, and trusting Richard, I've no
fear of returning. At the moment I'm pretty sure I can do the check-up with
whatever tools Richard feels are necessary without the help of happy air.
Although it's great to know that if I do feel I need it, it will be there on
There's no better way for me to thank Richard than share my experience here
on his website, hoping he'll be able to help others. I've already referred
about a dozen people to his website and twitter account, it's amazing just
how many people are as scared as I once was.
If you'd like to know any more about my experience, feel free to tweet me at