Daddy Talk: No Tears Over the Dentist
I just got back from the dentist with Lydia, our two-year old. She had a great time. The dental hygienist let her play with a few gadgets. She got to look at x-rays. They gave her a little gift bag when we were leaving and waved bye-bye. When we were riding home, she told me that she couldn’t wait to go to the dentist again. I should mention, of course, that this appointment was for me—not for her. I guess it’s easy to enjoy yourself when it’s someone else pinned back in the chair with his mouth spread open getting worked on.
I should also mention that my taking Lydia to the dentist with me is something of a “family tradition” for me and the kids, as strange as that sounds. It started when our oldest, Isaac, was one or two years old and I told my dentist during a visit that it wouldn’t be long before I’d have to start making dental appointments for my child. At that point, I didn’t know at what age kids even started going to the dentist, and I’ve since learned that the “appropriate” age is actually a point of debate with people. According to a news story I heard last week, in Mississippi, many of the adults have not yet begun “going to the dentist.”
My dentist enthusiastically told me that I ought to bring Isaac with me next time. His argument was that so many kids (and adults) are afraid of dental appointments that it would make sense to bring small kids a few times just to watch so they see that there’s nothing to be afraid of. I warned him that Isaac was quite an energetic child and that it may not be a good idea to let him loose in a dentist’s office while I was myself tethered to a chair. He seemed unfazed: “Ah, it’ll be fine.”
So I followed through and took Isaac with me, and I took an iPad for back-up in case we needed more entertainment. Like the dentist had predicted, things went fine. Isaac was really interested in all the things that they were doing to clean my teeth. He even got to watch them set up the x-ray machine and leave the room with the hygienist when she pushed the button to activate it. Months and months later, when Isaac had his first teeth cleaning appointment, he marched in and climbed up in the chair as if he knew exactly what to expect. And I guess he DID know what to expect. His dental appointments have never been a source ofdrama for us—even the time when he had a cavity, though he admitted that there was some discomfort with that one.
The same pattern happened for Tanner when he became close to “dentist appointment age.” He, too, has never experienced dentist anxiety, and seeing Isaac get a cavity that one time has prompted Tanner to be a bit more vigilant than others about brushing his teeth properly. Even if he’s really tired some evenings, he’ll drag himself to the bathroom to brush his teeth: “I don’t want to get a cavity, like Isaac did.”
I was actually a bit more concerned than normal about taking Lydia with me because she’s the child who, more than the others, prefers to be held or wants to sit on her parent’s lap. I wondered if she would actually let me sit in the chair myself to get worked on. As it turned out, she was just as taken with all the machines and screens as the boys were and left me to myself during the entire cleaning. She only wanted in my lap when the dentist himself came in for a quick evaluation, so he let her sit there with me on the chair as he raised it and lowered it for his exam. I guess the kids experience the dentist office the first time in the same way they’d experience an amusement park—rides, big machines, beeping sounds, prizes, interesting people wearing masks.
All in all, getting the kids started at the dentist has been a lot smoother than I expected it to me, and I attribute nearly all of that success to my dentist’s prompting me to get them there “for fun” before there is any kind of problem to speak of. I’m also grateful for a staff of dental professionals who encourage such family involvement.
Tim Krason lives with his family in Clinton. He is aware that not all dental trips are fun and games…but wouldn’t it be great if they were?