Are you afraid of the dentist? I’ve noticed with each dentist we’ve had, the questionnaire’s are getting more and more detailed regarding a patients feelings towards the dentist. “Do you feel anxious when you hear a drill?” “Would you prefer to be knocked out when getting your teeth cleaned?” “Will you be able to have happy thoughts here?” I know I’m exaggerating a little, but that’s what it seems like.
I remember when dental day rolled around in my family growing up and the chill that would enter my spine the moment my mom mentioned an appointment. I only remember going on sunny days, but the building was always dark and ominous, I’m sure of it! The structure itself was definitely built pre 70’s, dark brown on the exterior with little gold windows, and we had to walk through a dark breezeway to get to our particular dentist. Once inside the green-carpeted, wood-paneled office we were greeted with a sterile smell, the assistant welcoming us with latex-gloved hands folded together, and a too-cool waiting room. It wasn’t freezing, just cool enough to make my already tense muscles spasm in shivers. When my turn came, I’d slowly walk to the cold, blue-leather exam chair where Dr. Wilson would pry into the depths of my mouth, barely making more than a mumbled whisper to Carol about his findings, making me more nervous trying to understand what it all meant. He was a nice man, but he scared the bejeebeez out of me because he had the power to make my experience miserable. And really, any trip to the dentist for me ended in pain…my parent’s couldn’t afford to take us more than every two years or so, so I was pretty much guaranteed to need some sort of work. Back in those days, there was no laughing gas or pre-numbing for the needle, no happy chair visits, no fun pictures to look at. It was all bright light in your face, big needle, loud drill, and big grey fillings that hurt for days afterwards.
Fast forward 20+ years to my own children’s experience. Back when we were in the big city, we actually had a pediatric dentist who’s entire office was an under water experience. Kids got to sit in a little cubby hole fishtank playroom before they got called. They could watch a movie, play games, read books, etc. About 30 minutes before they went back, they were given a sweet drink that would make them groggy. Laughing gas, a surfboard chair, fun music and the sweetest, prettiest assistants made the experience go oh so easy.
So, here we are in small town, USA. There are no pediatric dentist’s anywhere near. Most dentist’s work on retiree’s, not seven-year olds. We had no idea where to go for an obvious cavity, so I called the first referral I’d received. They could get my oldest in right away for a great price. Unfortunately, the office was from the era of my childhood dentist, and they didn’t understand kids, or didn’t care. Either way it was a FAILED attempt. Oldest left terrified and ready to hurt anyone who tried to put something in his mouth.
Attempt number two: Next I tried a really nice looking office we drive by every time we go shopping up North. They were super friendly and said they do a happy visit for kids. SCORE! Only problem was my child. He did NOT want to go into the building much less sit in a chair. He finally worked up enough nerve to watch Dad get his teeth cleaned, but when it got to be his turn, the jaws of life couldn’t have moved him to sit in the chair. After much sweet talk, firm talk, pep talk and
bribery negotiating rewards, he finally was convinced to sit in the chair for one and only one hygienist, but that was all.
The next visit was to get x-rays, but that didn’t go so well. X-rays turned out to be too scary so only the teeth got cleaned. But, thankfully he did that! We were making progress.
Finally, for the third visit, and same hygienist (the front desk knows to schedule him only with her now), he sat so bravely – albeit breathing quite heavily – and let them do x-rays, an exam, and finally even got shots and a filling. WOW!
He’s so confident now, him and his big white filling.
We could not have asked for a better, more understanding dentist and staff. They have been so patient, flexible, and gentle with our kids. It makes such a world of difference when the people working on your kids have kids of their own. It has been quite a ride, and I sure hope it’s over for Oldest . Now for the next child – our big girl who says she’s ready, even though last time we went she wouldn’t open her mouth one itty bit for the x-ray card.
Check out this brave boy!