Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Having Your Child's Cavity Filled: A Survival Story
My youngest doesn’t just hate going to the dentist--she loathes it. So at her regularly schedule cleaning when the dentist said she needed to have a cavity filled, I just laughed. “Good luck,” I told him.
“No, it’ll be fine, I’m really good with needles,” he explained. “We don’t use gas here, I just give her a quick injection to numb the area and then she’ll be fine.”
I knew better. I tapped into all my inner mom readiness strategies to prepare for the big day. I bought an inexpensive new stuffed animal to bring along, then I promised myself I wouldn’t mention the shot until after the fact. Normally, I’m all about explaining to my kids exactly what’s going to happen. But with my youngest I knew if I told her about the shot there was no way she’d step into the dentist’s office...ever.
I’m not sure exactly what triggered her fear of dentists. At one of her regular doctor’s visits there was some sort of backlog on her vaccinations and she ended up getting three shots in each leg. Ouch. Understandably, she’s been sore about visiting any kind of doctor since. But this time, I planned to bribe her into submission—if she could make it through her cavity filling, she could have her stuffed animal.
Well, when we arrived at the dentist’s, as promised he was quick with the numbing shot. But not quite fast enough. My youngest hollered and nearly shaved one finger off his right hand. To be fair he was really good at explaining what would happen in a fun, kid-friendly way, “We have to go in and chase out all the little monsters that are eating away at your teeth.” He described five levels of "little meanies" that he’d have to drill out. Before he could get through one level (I think he said they had wings)--my youngest would have none of it. She started to cry uncontrollably. You know, those fits where once your child enters into that cry zone it’s nearly impossible to shake them out of it. I tried everything to bring her out of her fit--mentioned her favorite books, movies, stuffed animals, family vacations, anything to get her mind off the drill.
The dentist suggested coming back another day. I knew I’d be hard pressed to ever get my youngest to enter the office again. Now or never. I think he saw the resolve in my eyes. He called for another assistant. She distracted my youngest with the overhead lamp while I made her stuffed animal do dances above the dentist’s head. He moved fast and filled the cavity. Whew! The dentist didn’t say much after he was done; I wasn’t much for conversation either. My youngest, however, bounced back quickly. “Do I still get to pick something from the treasure box even though I cried?” she asked, her face filled with red splotches.
“Sure,” I said. “But make sure to brush your teeth better so that we don’t have to do this again, okay?”
And maybe that’s our silver lining, since her filling, my youngest has been meticulous about keeping her teeth clean. No more arguments about brushing! She's even flossing.