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We recently took another trip to the dentist. As a child, I never minded the dentist. I even liked the dentist. As a mother, I hate the dentist. Our pediatric dentist is a nice man and the kids love him–so no, it is not him. It is the juggling of crying children and trying to talk them into having their teeth cleaned or at least looked at.
One of the worst days of my life as a parent happened about six months ago. I took Brayden and Kaitlyn to the dentist with the help of my mom. Brayden had had surgery on his thumb about 9 months earlier, and ever since had been terrified of the dentist. I don’t know why. He didn’t show fear of the doctor, but something about the dentist reminded him of the surgery experience.
Both children just cried the entire time and we were unable to do anything other than brush with a toothbrush. Now, I don’t really mind that aspect. We have insurance, so I wasn’t out any more money than we already pay. I also am not terribly concerned about good cleanings at this age. What I didn’t like was the crying and not listening to me.
But I understood. Brayden was terrified and Kaitlyn looks up to Brayden and follows his lead. He was scared so she was scared.
While we were there, I noticed I was literally the only mom having more than one child visit the dentist that day. Not the only one with more than one child there, but the only one with more than one child having a check up. I wondered if I was crazy to try to do them both at the same time. And what would I do when McKenna joined the ranks?!?!?
I decided then and there that we would take separate visits to the dentist.
But as the day approached for our next visit, two sides came out. Side one is logical me. Logical me thought about all of the wasted time I would spend driving there, being there, driving back, driving there, being there, driving back, driving there, being there, driving back. Whew! That was time wasted just typing it out 😉
Side two was stubborn me. Stubborn me said I could do this. Sure, Brayden was scared. But I have the tools to make this a pleasant experience for everyone. I didn’t want to take the route of making it one long miserable day for our family [especially me] twice a year. If it was going to be miserable, it could be miserable for 1-2 hours total instead. My driving time alone back and forth for three kids would be about 1.5 hours….we could do this.
So, as usual, logical me and stubborn me won out over whoever that other me is. I set the appointment for all three children at the same time. Oh boy.
But stubborn me does not go beyond my own limits. Logical me informed my husband of the date and told him to take the day off. We were having a family dentist trip.
In the weeks before the appointment, I talked to Brayden about it. I told him he would be going to the dentist. I employed ideas of training in times of non-conflict and also ask & tell. I reminded him of what would happen there. I told him how I wanted him to behave and how I didn’t want him to behave. I told him I knew he got nervous, and I understood, but that they wouldn’t hurt him and he needed to let them clean and look at his teeth.
We marked the date on his calendar in his room. We practiced on him and let him practice on me.
About a week before, I started the same process with Kaitlyn.
Another good thing we did is my neighbor got in on it. She talked about how great it was to go to the dentist. Her children go to the same dentist, and her son a little more than a year older than Brayden talked about how he thought the dentist was cool because you get a prize when you are done “if you are good.”
Brayden was ready.
He was awesome. He hopped up all brave. He opened as big as he could and he let them clean his teeth. He was perfect. I have zero complaints about the whole process. I think that from this point forward, he will be at a point where an adult presence will not be necessary for him, which is great since there are two adults and three children currently.
Kaitlyn acted brave until it was time. She started off amiable, but then she clamped shut and refused. It might have been the hygienist. She was fine until they switched on her. She also might have just reached her breaking point. She was also fine for the dentist. Kaitlyn still has room for improvement, but she was far better. I think next time, I need to do more prep work with her like I did for Brayden this time.
You can practice with a one year old, but you can’t mentally prepare a one year old with talk. Just by doing. She did as well as I would hope. She cried, but I think that is actually best because then she opened her mouth 🙂 She didn’t cry for the dentist (do you see why I like him? He has a magic touch).
So you can see how well ask and tell as wel as training in times of non-conflict can work. It just takes a little bit of forethought.
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