D. Dental Dilemmas
4/5 Tirabassi children agree, going to the dentist is no big deal. Then there is that one child, the one who is a dental dissenter.
Number 3 has not liked the dentist since the first time he visited. He then had a bad experience when a cavity needed to be filled. It took us two years working with a new, pediatric dentist for him to recover from that. Since then, his visits have been up and down, some times they go well, other times…let’s just say we both leave traumatized.
And the visit 6 months ago was one of the worst.
We got to the root of the problem
This week it was time for another trip to the dentist. Number 3 is older now, too old for this pre-school like behavior, my strict, New England, no-nonsense upbringing says. He should just buck up and get it done like the rest of the world.
But the other part of me knows that Number 3 has some quirky sensory issues. Certain tastes and textures bother him. He doesn’t like things applied to his body or clothes, like stickers or tattoos (the promise of a sticker at the doctor’s office makes him more anxious). And he is impulsive, easily frustrated and highly emotional.
And since he is getting older, we’ve been able to talk through some his problems*. So I thought we’d give talking a try.
It turns out, even though he freaks out at the thought of the dentist (I can’t tell him about an appointment until the morning of or he worries about it too much), it was only one part that really bothered him. He said that even though it was hard, he could keep it together for most of the appointment, but he couldn’t stand the taste or feeling of the fluoride varnish at the end. And one time, the dentist tricked him and put it on when she said she was just going to count his teeth. So now he is jumpy the whole time he is in the chair.
A successful dentist appointment
I thought about this and the fact that I grew up on non-fluorinated well water, never took fluoride pills every night and never had a varnish treatment, and I decided that maybe this treatment wasn’t worth the anguish. I asked Number 3 if he would be able to tolerate an appointment if he knew he wouldn’t have the varnish. He said yes, so we made our plan, and crossed our fingers.
At the appointment I told the hygienist, a bit trepidatiously (because I’m a rule follower), that we didn’t want the fluoride varnish at the end.
Guess what she told us? There is an alternative. It’s a foam, doesn’t leave a residue on the teeth and has a minty flavor similar to toothpaste. Really?! After years of frustration and tears? He opted for the alternate.
Needless to say, Number 3 had a great appointment. The. Best. Ever.
In fact, the hygienist gleefully told us he was so good, they might even try x-rays next time. Slow down, one hurdle at a time.
My hints for dental success
Over the years I’ve come up with some tricks to avoid dental devastation. They are certainly not a complete list, but they are the ones I find most effective.
Choose your battles
Talk to your child to find out which part of the procedure really bothers him/her, then work with your dentist to see if you can modify that treatment. Do this well beforehand when your child is calm and can think rationally. You may even want to call your dentist before your appointment to come up with a plan.
Give your child control
Children (and adults, for that matter) deal better with difficult situations if they feel in control. So whenever possible, empower your child. Number 3 holds Mr. Slurpy (the tube that sucks liquid out of your mouth) while they are cleaning his teeth and gets to choose the flavor of toothpaste (unflavored). The power to choose between the fluoride varnish and the foam tipped him into a more comfortable zone.
If you have more than one child, try to take the one that has dental distress to his/her appointment alone. This will allow you to focus on him/her and prevent any behavioral domino effect. If he/she is older, it will save them from embarrassment.
Bring ’em along
Whenever you go to the dentist, let your child come with you. Show him/her how you deal with the appointment. It will also allow your child to become more comfortable with the equipment.
And finally, drink some wine the night after the appointment and congratulate yourself on surviving another trip to the dentist.
*I highly recommend reading The Explosive Child, by Ross W. Greene, to learn strategies for talking to a behaviorally difficult child.
Blogging my way from A to Z as part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge. Come blog through the alphabet with me.
Photo courtesy of Love_Haight.