Recently, a 15-minute pediatric dentist visit took about 4 years off my life.
The dentist… The. Dentist… where teeth go to shine but children go to melt down.
Mikey has been going to the dentist every six months since he turned 1 year old. He had almost a full mouth of teeth at age 1. In fact, I remember him walking around eating a slice of pizza at his first birthday party, like a teenager.
Anyway, the first few visits when he was just a baby, all the dentist really did was confirm that he had teeth. I think he got a finger in Mikey’s mouth, felt around for molars, and sent us on our way.
Still, Mikey cried the whole time and I had to act as a human straightjacket so the dentist could get a look, but I figured he would grow out of his fear as he got older and the more he visited the dentist.
It has only gotten worse. And now the dentist actually attempts to clean Mikey’s teeth, so it’s really quite the circus.
Last time we went, I anticipated the meltdown and decided not to tell him we were going. Instead, I told Mikey we would go to the bakery to get a treat, but first we had to run an errand. When we got to the dentist, he wasn’t too upset… until we were called back to a room.
Mikey wouldn’t sit in the chair by himself, so I was forced to hold him on my lap, chest to chest, and dip his head down into the dentist’s lap while he did his work on Mikey upside-down. During that visit, Mikey cried so hard he vomited all over me.
Perhaps the surprise approach wasn’t the best tactic.
This time, I spent the weekend before his Monday appointment telling him we were going to the dentist and that it’s not a big deal, the dentist just wants to brush his teeth and “see what a good job you do at keeping your teeth clean.”
Then he woke up Monday morning with a fever and we had to reschedule.
I spent the following weekend telling Mikey we had to go to the dentist Monday and that it’s not a big deal and the dentist “is just going to make your teeth shiny.” He called my bluff and whined all morning until it was time to go. Then he whined all the way into the office, and when we were called back to a room, he clung to me like a koala bear.
Again, he wouldn’t sit in the seat by himself. The hygienist and I tried to push him down and hold his head back, to no avail. I warned him we were going to have to do it the way we did the last time, which he didn’t like, but the little bugger gave us no choice.
Finally, the dentist came in and helped me get Mikey into position. A hygienist had to stand behind me and hold his feet that were wrapped around my waist, while I held his arms down and the dentist worked as quickly as he could.
But the darn kid – who is freakishly strong – wouldn’t open his mouth. Even his lips the dentist couldn’t pry open!
Then the dentist asked a hygienist to get him “the wedge” and I started to panic.
I’m not adverse to tears when it comes to doing things you have to do… like visit the dentist. But in that moment I debated telling the dentist to just scrap the whole thing. However, deciding that I trust the dentist, I let him stick the metal circular clamp in Mikey’s mouth that prevented him from closing it so he could work.
It was kind of a lose-lose situation: If I threw in the towel, he would only fight harder the next time because he would know he could fight his way out of it; however, I’m not really sure how I’m ever going to get him to go back to the dentist after this visit.
To be fair, there was no other way the dentist was going to be able to get in there without “the wedge.” And I knew it wasn’t hurting Mikey, and the dentist worked very quickly.
But, dang, that kid thrashed and wailed the whole time.
As we held down the mini-Hulk, I assured the dentist that Mikey brushes his teeth at home. I swear he does! He has various character toothbrushes and his own little rinse cup, and I don’t know why he loses his mind at the office.
He assured me that Mikey isn’t the only child to freak out, and hopefully he will grow out of it.
As soon as the dentist was done – which was about 4 minutes after he started – Mikey sat up and hugged me. He caught his breath, and the hygienist gave him some stickers, and he calmed down. Then she gave him two tokens for the toy machine in the lobby, and he practically jumped off my lap, grabbed the tokens and ran out the door.
And just like that he was completely fine – like the whole thing never even happened!
I, on the other hand, will be traumatized for a long time.
We went and got him his treat, and he was happy as could be. And later that night when my husband got home from work and asked how the dentist visit went, Mikey informed him, “I didn’t even cry.”
I just laughed. I laughed and laughed and laughed.
Holly Crocco is editor of the Putnam County Times/Press and mother of an almost-5-year-old. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.