When Did the Eye Doctor Become Scarier Than the Dentist?


There used to be nothing I feared more than a trip to the dentist…but the eye doctor has definitely stepped up efforts to terrify.

On the day that this post is published, it just so happens that I have a dentist appointment.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret that might help you better understand the angst I’m writing about in this post: when it comes to the mouth and the eyes, I have some sort of bizarre phobia. I don’t like things near my eyes or poking around in my mouth. And unlike most childhood fears that most of us have the good sense to outgrow, these fears, in my case, seem to only get worse as I get older.

When I was a kid, I had a pediatric dentist who I really didn’t like. He was gruff and didn’t seem to care whether pain was involved. Then there was this one visit where, after it was over and he was talking to my mom about how the visit went that I happened to notice his hands: there was some flaky, scaly reddish skin around his fingers…some sort of rash or eczema. The rational part of my brain immediately reassured the irrational part that he surely wore latex gloves and that he wasn’t putting that in my mouth.

The irrational part of my brain, however, wouldn’t let that go. It developed, before I realized it, into a deep-seated psychological terror of the dentist. In fact, I had dreams about going to the dentist and seeing him putting ungloved, rotting hands into my mouth.

I’ll stop there…because the dreams, though rather rare, were disturbing enough that I don’t want to risk restarting them.

I went about 14 years dodging the dentist. I was lucky: I managed to not have any cavities despite this streak, but at the same time, I developed periodontal disease that now requires that I visit the dentist every three months rather than every six.

Fortunately, I have a very good hygienist who gets my fear and is very gentle. And instead of that horrible metal pick (officially called a scaler), they have this high-pressure supersonic water-spritzing device called a Cavitron that does the majority of the unpleasant work pain-free. Seriously, if they’d had that thing when I was a kid, I never would have minded the dentist.

As I’ve slowly come to terms with my fear of the dentist, another medical professional has quickly overtaken the most terrifying spot on my list: the eye doctor.

Seriously: What’s the eye doctor trying to do to our nerves?

It used to be that the worst thing that would happen to you at the optometrist or ophthalmologist (or eye doctor) was the intraocular pressure test in which you place your chin on this little shelf and this fancy torture device shoots a puff of air straight into your eyeball.

I always hated it, but since it was the worst thing at the eye doctor, I just dealt with it.

How times have changed!

Once you get through the IOP test, you go and stare into this giant machine that scans the back of your retinas looking for heaven knows what (though you get the sense they’re looking for some sort of horrible cancer or something), then various other things you have to peer into while they take a bunch of readings.

And don’t get me started on that ridiculously-bright light they shine in your eyes and move slowly across from one side to the other, a light so bright, in fact, that it makes you see a reflection of your own retina! All anyone who’s ever experienced that level of brightness has to be told about the upcoming total eclipse is that the light that will still be visible from the sun will truly still be worse than that piercing light at the eye doctor: trust me, that little tip alone would be enough to guarantee no one looks up at the sky during the event!

The pressure in my eyes is near borderline, so I have to be tested a little more in depth to make sure I don’t have glaucoma (and I don’t). But because I’m at the “red line,” they put something in my eyes to deaden them — I can still see, but I can’t feel anything touching my eyeball — and they then touch this thing directly to my eyeball and do further pressure readings.

By the time all the testing is over and I’m waiting for the arrival of the eye doctor — who, by the way, isn’t present for any of the actual testing — I’m a nervous wreck, wondering what horrible news they’ve learned that they’ve left to her to break to me gently.

I get it: they’re doing important testing that could potentially save your vision. But it’s not the most relaxing atmosphere.

If we’re talking about a lessor of two evils, I’m almost ready to say I’d rather go to the dentist than the eye doctor. And that’s something that’s really hard for me to admit!

And by the time you’re reading this, and I’ve actually been in the dentist’s chair, I’ll probably deny ever having said it.

Which doctor do you fear most these days and why?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.