Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Dental Appointment from Hell

Yesterday was one of those days. You know the kind. Starts bad, gets worse, ends with you flinging your exhausted body into bed on top of the unwitting cat, unable to move another muscle. It was a busy day at work yesterday. Lately, every day has been a busy day at work, and I am not really sure why. After work, I rushed home, grabbed Sophie and Nicholas, flew to Lucas' school to pick him up about a half hour before school let out to his great delight, and headed to Eagan to Metropolitan Pediatric Dental Associates. All three of my children had an appointment yesterday afternoon for their routine dental cleanings. This was not their first time there. Lucas should be an old pro by now, and Sophie and Nicholas had their first dental appointment about 7 months ago. All afternoon, the kids had practiced their wide-open mouths. Sophie had a wide-open mouth I could have easily parked my Camry in. I expected that we would have a perfectly pleasant dental experience just like we did the last time when I bragged about them for days. Unfortunately for all of us, that was not to be.

Our appointment began with the nurse painting that nasty pink stuff on their teeth to demonstrate to them (and mommy) exactly how poor a job we've been doing with brushing their teeth. Then they asked me how often we brush and floss their teeth. Ummm....what is the correct answer? Twice a day? Three times a day? In actuality, we never floss their teeth. I rarely have the energy to floss my own teeth, much less wrestle my kids to the floor to floss theirs. And really...they all have so much space in between their teeth at this point, what is there to floss? They barely have two teeth in their entire mouths that touch! Yes...I realize this is me trying to justify my laziness, but you know...some things just have to be let go and flossing didn't make the cut. Feeding and clothing my children made the cut..barely. Flossing did not. When he looked in the mirror, Lucas became instantly alarmed by his pink teeth. He did NOT think it was "cool," regardless of my exclamation of such. I believe he was afraid his teeth would remain forever rose-tinted. I tried calming his nerves, but when Lucas gets anxious, words seem to have little effect. By the time he was seated in the dentist's chair, he had worked himself up into a full-blown panic and had tears welling in his eyes. Eventually, the hygienist was able to calm him by explaining everything they would be doing. He needed no x-rays yesterdays. He only required a cleaning. Lucky for me, he calmed himself quickly and relaxed enough to allow me to focus on my other children.

Nicholas was amazing. He volunteered to be the first one to go...though ultimately, all three kids were getting their cleanings done at the same time in the same room. He happily climbed into the chair and opened his mouth wide. He never showed a moment of hesitation and charmed the hygienist with his dimpled smiles and nods. He was the perfect patient. He was utterly amazing.

Lucky for me, the boys did wonderfully because Sophie was another story altogether. When Sophie was at the dentist seven months ago, the hygienist who worked on her was amazing. She told Sophie she looked like a princess, said she had beautiful teeth, and commented on how much she loved Sophie's shirt. In other words, she did a master ego-stroking job on Sophie. And Sophie, of course ate up this attention and did amazingly well during the exam. Yesterday, however, was a different story. We had the perfect storm of a young, inexperienced hygienist and an extremely tired little girl who had slept very little the night before wedged between her other mom and I. The hygienist went right to work on Sophie without taking the time to explain exactly what she was going to do. She was nice enough, but she wasn't nearly as polished at working with small children as the previous hygienist was. Sophie immediately went into defense mode and refused to open her mouth. The hygienist managed to get her top teeth cleaned, but Sophie refused to allow her access to her bottom teeth. I tried reasoning with Sophie, but she was not listening. My daughter can be stubborn like no child I have ever seen before. I could sense that the hygienist was getting frustrated with Sophie. I held Sophie's hands in her lap while the hygienist pried her mouth open and finished cleaning her bottom teeth. Sophie screamed and grabbed at me as though she were being tortured. I am sure it felt that way. At one point, the hygienist said, "Do not spit, Sophie!" Sophie wasn't trying to spit at her...Sophie has never spit at anyone in her life. She was simply gagging from trying to fight, scream, and spit out the excess saliva in her mouth all at once. I wanted nothing more than to scream, "Get your hands off my daughter!" I wanted to grab my baby girl away from the young hygienist, cradle her in my arms, and run out of that dentist's office. Rather, I had to reason with Sophie and coax her and beg her to complete the cleaning. I couldn't confirm her belief that the dentist office is a terrible, scary, institution of torture....regardless of my own inclination to believe that. I didn't want my daughter to grow up terrified of the dentist. After the cleaning was completed, I thought we were done. But no...the fun was just beginning. Sophie needed x-rays. Not a big deal at all, right? X-rays are in no way painful and shouldn't be a reason for alarm. That is, unless you are a four-year-old little girl sitting in a huge chair in a strange room surrounded by ominous-looking instruments of torture and a frustrated hygienist who just forced your mouth open to insert said ominous-looking instruments of torture. So yea....Sophie was a wee bit terrified. Again, she refused to open her mouth so the hygienist could insert the x-ray film into her mouth. Again, she had to pry her mouth open. I was practically in tears, begging Sophie to please comply. "Just open your mouth, honey. This won't hurt at all." She was crying, "But mommy, it hurts." It only hurt because she was refusing to open her mouth and the hygienist was trying to wedge it in there. In the end, we finished the x-rays. Sophie was draped in a lead apron protecting her from the radiation of the x-ray machine. The hygienist was covered top to bottom in a lead apron and even had a lead scarf that protected her neck. And there I was...riding the bucking bronco that was my daughter, completely unprotected. Completely vulnerable to the radiation's tissue-frying effects. Nice.

When all was said and done, I quickly scooped Sophie up and held her tightly as she snuffed and whimpered. The last thing the hygienist had to do was paint the fluoride onto Sophie's teeth. She did that as I was cradling Sophie in my arms. The hygienist gave Sophie a drink of water, as the fluoride was not a pleasant-tasting substance. Sophie took a big drink of water and then proceeded to let it all dribble out of her mouth all over the front of my shirt. My punishment for being an accomplice?

In hindsight, perhaps I should have stopped the exam. Perhaps I should have rescheduled it for a day when my daughter was less tired. A day when she was less fatigued and less susceptible to emotional outbursts. A day, perhaps, when my favorite ego-stroking hygienist was working. I should have stopped the exam when I saw the look of terror in my daughter's eyes. However, logic dictated that we continue the exam. Logic said that it had taken us months to get this appointment and we were the dentist's the exam chair. We had to finish the exam, right? She wasn't really being tortured, correct? I do not want my daughter to grow up harboring an irrational fear of the dentist. I don't want her to be like me, avoiding the dentist for years for fear of bad news and uncomfortable procedures, at the expense of her dental health. I want her beautiful smile to be nurtured and protected. Then again, I don't like being the accomplice in her dental persecution. I am damned if I do and damned if I don't.

Dentists suck.

(Disclaimer: I say that with the utmost respect for the dental profession. I know there are many fine human beings who just happen to have chosen dentistry as their life's vocation. I mean no disrespect to these upstanding, albeit mildly sadistic, citizens.)

P.S. I would like to issue a special thank you to my mother who graciously accompanied me to our horrendous dental appointment and managed to keep the boys occupied while I physically man-handled my daughter. As always, thank you mom!

And on a positive note...we were cavity-free all around. Woo-hoo!


Kelly said...

Oh, that really stinks. It sounds like the dental hygienist needs some tips for helping kids through their cleanings. :(

Shari said...

You should request that Sophie always get the hygienist that she liked. I did that at Mikaela's dentist and it's worked perfect. Now if she ever leaves we're in trouble :) It's probably not the actually hygienist but just different personalities don't always work well together ya know? Good luck for her next appointment. I hope this didn't ruin things for her :(

Anonymous said...

so sad...

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