Growing up, I actually came to like the dentist. My first dentist was a friend of my dad's from high school and I remember my very first visit -- especially the drawer full of prizes. My first tooth brush was light purple with a yellow duck and my first prize was a ring. I remember very little about the actual cleaning experience except that I was told I shouldn't have a pacifier anymore. That was devastating.
Fast forward a decade and I still really enjoyed getting my teeth cleaned. Its true, I hated the fluoride treatments and the sealant process, but I loved how my teeth felt afterwards. Then in high school I got braces on my lower teeth and even that wasn't terrible.
But now, it makes me nervous. It's not the dentist, but the tools. There is a newer tool, I'm not even sure what it looks like, but the sound is irritating enough that I've actually had to stop the cleaning halfway through. I could not stand the sound. It's some sort of pressure washer/water pick and it drives me nuts. Even when I ask if they can clean without it, they usually say no. (As if they forgot what tools were used a mere 5 years ago!) But I'm learning to deal. I still love how my teeth feel afterwards.
And now, as a parent I get to watch my son experience this process of teeth-cleaning. It's interesting. We usher our little people to a stranger and tell them to open wide and sit still. We expect them to obey as their mouth is poked, prodded, polished and flossed. And then we (I) get frustrated when it turns into a scream fest and nothing actually happens except paying the bill.
William has been to the dentist three times. The first was right before he turned two. I found a pediatric dentist that promised all the bells and whistles. And William did love the giant TVs everywhere, but he refused to sit in the chair even when they gave him 20 stickers. He screamed and thrashed about, the hygienist looking at me like this isn't normal. I ended up holding him in my lap and the dentist skipped the cleaning and wiped fluoride on his mouth and looked at his teeth for 30 seconds (or less, literally) and declared him "just fine." William still picked out a prize and I still paid the bill. I was so mad. Why is this even necessary?
His second experience, right before Stephen was born was a little better. I had found a different pediatric dentist which seemed calmer - no big screen TVs, private rooms, quiet. He still sat in my lap an still fussed a bit, but they gave him a dragon with big teeth and a 12" toothbrush and told him to brush the dragon's teeth while the hygienist got ready. She explained everything and showed him all the tools. When the dentist arrived, he had said "all done" but sat a few minutes for her anyway. It was a success although a lot of work.
Last week, I took him to his third appointment; we went to the same dentist as the last time. Prior to the appointment we borrowed dentist themed books from the library and talked about teeth each time we brushed. He is very impressionable right now and play/acts out most of his books. William even brought one of the books to the appointment and told the hygienist about it. He climbed up on the chair (I was holding Stephen and wasn't able to be much help) and laid back, opened his mouth and sat there for 30 minutes without moving . . . seriously. They scraped, polished, flossed and put fluoride in his mouth and he didn't even complain once. I sat there with Stephen in amazement. He was perfect.
I'm not sure if he actually liked the experience, but he knew exactly what was going on and put up with it. He was excited about the chocolate toothpaste and the new toothbrush and the prize at the end. He loved the toys in the lobby and the magazines and didn't want to leave. He may not do this well ever again, but I felt so blessed by this little boy's ability to sit so well for it all. Maybe he'll learn to like it!