Here's where I admit yet another of my many failures as a mother, try to give you some bullshit excuse and then tell you how I've oversome it and now I'm a really awesome parent.
(When I was in 4-H many years ago while dinosaurs roamed the earth, they told us always to present a topic to your audience by telling them what you're going to tell them, then tell them it in detail, then summarize what you just told them. Personally I find that boring as hell, but a little preshadowing never hurts.)
I believe my insane fear of the dentist is well into the public domain. When I wrote that it had been two years since I had been to the dentist, what I didn't tell you is that it had also been two years for my children as well.
I know, I suck.
Its not easy to take your kids to the dentist when your own bad experiences overlay everything that's going on. Its not easy to take them when you remember like yesterday your toddler having to undergo general anaesthesia because she couldn't handle sedation dentistry. Its not easy to take them when your youngest child has been so anxious and afraid he screams whenever the dentist tries to look in his mouth. No, its not impossible. Its just not easy. And for two years I've been hovering over them while they brush, threatening them with descriptions of what they'll be like wearing dentures in their twenties as a consequence for poor dental hygeine. Oh yes, I'm a wonderful mother.
This year, though, I decided, would be THE YEAR. My daughter has mostly overcome her issues with the dentist and I was more worried about the extent of the damage from the two-year-haitus in dental care than anything else. But I was really, really avoiding having to deal with the little man and his anxieties. Not looking forward to it at all.
To put teeth in my resolve, I scheduled dental appointments for everyone in the family. SG and I both had our exams and cleanings and are still in sticker shock over the anticipated costs for the crowns we both need (gritting your teeth when you are stressed is by all evidence a very bad thing to do). The kids' appointment hit some conflicts and had to be rescheduled twice, and each time I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking, "Oh thank GOD, I can put this off a little longer."
I kept waiting for a good excuse to reschedule a third time, but life refused to cooperate, so I showed up at the dental office with a little bit of determination and a whole lot of apprehension. In keeping with our reward-based behavior mods for Race Car Man, he had been promised some DS during free time if he let the dentist look at his teeth.
Not being one to aim low, he went for the gold.
Not only did the doctor get to examine his teeth, he let the hygienist clean them and give him a flouride treatment AND he got both bite-wings and a panoramic x-ray.
It was a raging success.
While I think the kid-friendly open seating and movie screens (with headsets) helped, the most important factor was the dentist and his staff. He introduced himself to my children: "Hi, my name's David. What's yours?" And from there it was just marvelous. He said we would let my son set the pace and they would not do any procedure he didn't consent to. He then spent a good five minutes just chatting with each of my kids, asking them about their interests and their schools and their friends, and he didn't ask them to open their mouths until he had really earned the right to do so.
C: "Why are you wearing that mask?"
D: "I want to cover my mouth. I have to talk sometimes when I'm working on your teeth, and sometimes when I talk a little piece of spit might come flying out of my mouth. If your mouth is open at the same time, my spit might go in your mouth and man, that's just GROSS."
Badass. If the man wasn't already married with about 10 children, and if I wasn't so damn much in love with SG, I would have kissed him.
The hygienists were equally as badass.
They let my son feel the rubber cap on the cleaning tool. They let him watch other kids have their x-rays done so he would understand the process. They gave my daughter purple sunglasses because she's sensitive to the overhead light. When my son wanted to get up and look around the room, they allowed him complete freedom. They had screens on the ceilings above the chairs and nice padded headsets for them to watch movies. They answered their questions. They explained things very factually but in terms that were not frightening. They treated them with respect.
It was clear to see that this was not their first experience with special needs, and it was equally clear that the comfort of their patients is their number one priority.
While its still true that in my heart of hearts I'm no fan of the dentist, in this one case, I may have to make an exception.
Dentistry for kids. Totally BADASS.