Me or morphine -- you crack me up, simonee!! :LOL
LadyBlue, the first and most important thing is that you realize the importance of preventive care, AND that you recognize exactly what's been keeping you from getting it. I've heard a lot of denial, excuses, etc, because folks just hate to admit that they're frightened of anything, especially seemingly unreasonably so.
I admit, dentists can be frightening. We are literally inside you, it's quite invasive of personal space. It's noisy, and you don't know what's going on. You are very astute to compare it to birth, and the more I think about it, the more parallels I can draw. Birth is invasive and frightening, too, but you can manage it if you educate yourself.
My assistant is actually excellent at being a dental doula -- I see her all the time holding someone's hand, rubbing their shoulder, getting them a blanket, etc. So staff is important, too, but you can also bring a friend, or an actual birth doula. The duties are very much the same.
There are tips on how to find a dentist who is sympathetic to your nervousness in the dental archives under "finding a good dentist".
One thing that works very well with children, and in keeping with the educated patient analogy, is to use what is called "tell, show, do." Any dentist will be familiar with the term, they just might not connect it with adult care, and they should. It can be very helpful to say, "I am going to use a small instrument to feel how solid the tooth is. It won't hurt at all, and if you feel anything at all, just raise your hand and I will stop. This is it right here ... (show tiny instrument) ... ok, here we go ..." It's time consuming to do for each step, but some folks need that, especially at first, until they've built some trust.
My experience has been that once you have several *good* dental experiences under your belt, the not so good ones fade in your mind. You are at last able to give them to the past, or to assign them to a yucky person, etc.
Of course, there are drugs, herbs, oils, etc, even "sleep dentistry" available, but I'm assuming you want to work through this fear. You can also go in, go to sleep, have it all done, wake up, and be done with it except for cleanings and checkups.
There's a thread in the dental archives titled "sedation, oils, homeopathy, hypnosis" that will help in this regard. You might really consider some oils or homeopathy to help out on your first few visits.
Good luck, honey, I know you can do this.