Hi katiesmom...I can certainly relate to your fear of going to a dentist..you are definitely not alone in that!
It sounds like you are really concerned about the condition of your gums and teeth. You can't do anything about not having gone to the dentist in the past, but you can
change what you do from this day on if you really want to. You could start today by regularly brushing your teeth each day and by putting a plan in place for regular
visits (once a year?) to a dentist in the future
You don't mention in your post if you're experiencing any toothache right now. If you aren't, that is a good sign, in my opinion, that your teeth are not in that bad shape. You could make an initial trip to the dentist just
to have xrays and an assessment done of your teeth. You could then make any decisions after
that appointment about your plan of attack, if necessary. Remember, it's up to you what work you have done on your teeth...if you do have cavities, couldn't you arrange to have one cavity done per month to save on cost, for example?
If you're concerned about your former dentist yelling at you (which would not be very professional of him, imo) then maybe you could choose someone else and start over with a new dentist.
Have you thought of buying supplemental dental insurance if you think you will need costly procedures in the future? It might pay off in the long run?
Anyway, keep in touch..and I hope you find the courage to make that first appointment