Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In Search of a Dentist

I am in the market for a new dentist for my kids. I am probably over-reacting. I am likely being one of those moms. You know...the overprotective, clingy type who won't let their kids handle anything on their own. Regardless, I am going with my gut on this one.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the utterly hellish experience that was Sophie's recent dental cleaning. For the most part, Sophie was to blame for the hellishness. However, the hygienist really rubbed me the wrong way in how she handled Sophie. Yes, Sophie was being unreasonable. But she was a terrified four-year-old. She has only been on this earth four years. Getting annoyed with her simply didn't help the situation. However, I blew it off. I told myself everyone is allowed to have a bad day once in a while.

Yesterday, I had to take Lucas back to the dentist to get sealants put on his molars. Let me preface this by saying that Lucas was tired. He had a hard time getting to sleep the night before. Then he spent an entire day in school and was expected to go to the dentist after that. He was a bit fatigued, to say the least. As a matter of fact, he fell asleep in the car on the way to the dentist. Very unlike Lucas.

In addition to being tired (yes, I am full of excuses), Lucas was a bit emotionally distraught before we headed in to the dental appointment. He has Media (library time) at school on Tuesdays. Apparently, he had picked out a book that he was pretty excited about...a book he had been waiting to be able to check out for quite some time. Once he picked his book, a kid came up to him and asked him to trade books. Rather than saying, "No. I am happy with the book I picked," Lucas traded with the kid. He ended up with a book he was not at all interested in and didn't even bother bringing home. When I asked him why he traded, he said, "Because he asked me to." What the hell?! We then had a long conversation about how Lucas does not have to do everything his buddies ask him to do. I explained the concept of standing up for himself and voicing his own wants and needs. Lucas spent the entire conversation moaning, groaning, and covering his ears. Regardless, I think I made my point....whether he heard it or not is a different story.

Anyway...when we arrived at the dental office, Lucas was tired and emotionally drained. Not a good combination when you are seven years old. He was also nervous that the sealants would hurt, despite my numerous assurances to the contrary. The minute he sat in the dentist's chair, he turned to the hygienist and said, "Excuse me? Is this going to hurt?" The hygienist also assured him that there would be no pain involved. She explained what they would be doing to him and then went about the task of prepping him for the sealants.

All was well and good until she placed a device in Lucas' mouth that cranked his jaw open wide. Lucas immediately began to panic and gag. She removed the device and told him that they had to open his mouth wide in order to reach his back teeth. She then reinserted the device and cranked his mouth open again. Lucas began to cry and gagged again. She removed it a second time, but was obviously annoyed with Lucas. He was crying that he wanted to go home. Huge crocodile tears were rolling down his cheeks. I was rubbing his face and trying to comfort him, explaining that this would be a quick procedure and would not hurt in the least. The third time she inserted the device and cranked his mouth wide open, Lucas reached up to grab it....a perfectly normal response for a seven year old (or anyone, for that matter) whose jaw is being pried open wider than feels normal or comfortable. The hygienist became extremely irritated when Lucas grabbed at his mouth. She called over a "helper" to hold Lucas down and mumbled something about how she can't have anyone grabbing where she is trying to work. She also told him that I would have to leave the room if Lucas did not cooperate. Lucas was beside himself at this point. He has a hard time dealing with anxiety, anyway, so he had worked himself up into quite a tizzy. He was behaving, however, aside from crying. He wasn't being aggressive. He was really trying to cooperate to the best of his ability.

When the assistant came over to essentially restrain my son, I interceded and said I would sit beside him and hold his hands. I did exactly that, and Lucas relaxed noticeably. There was no need for anyone to hold him down. He simply needing reassurance from his mommy that all was okay. The hygienist became friendly again once Lucas had calmed and even chit-chatted with him about Halloween and school and friends. Regardless, I was pissed. There was no reason whatsoever for the hygienist to threaten to make me leave the room. There was no reason for her to get annoyed with Lucas for grabbing at his mouth when that is a perfectly reasonable response for any person. These actions only fueled Lucas' anxiety. This is a pediatric dental clinic. I would think that hygienists working there would have a bit more compassion for scared little kids.

There have now been two separate occasions when two separate hygienists have perturbed me with their treatment of my children. My terrified, young children. The hygienists were not outwardly hostile, but they weren't exactly warm either. They were friendly enough, but they rubbed me the wrong way. I realize that our appointments are typically late in the afternoon, as I prefer to schedule them after Lucas gets out of school. I understand that, by the end of the day, the hygienists have probably had their fill of bratty kids. However, my children weren't being bratty. They were simply frightened. I think a little more compassion was definitely in order. This isn't baseball. They don't get three strikes. These are my children we are talking about. Two strikes and you are OUT. The irritating thing is that I really like the dentist. He is incredibly sweet. However, I can't get past the hygienists in the office. They are the ones who do the majority of the work on the children's teeth. So it looks like I am going to go dentist shopping.

Anyone know a good pediatric dental clinic in the Twin Cities metro area?


Jessica said...

I just want to say that Audrey got sealants on her molars when she was four or just five and I don't recall them using any form of apparatus to hold her mouth open. They simply instructed her to hold her mouth open.

I think you are reasonable to change dentists. And you might want to bust out your letter writing supplies to tell the dentist why you are leaving.

Also, please note that you don't have to find a pediatric dentist. We go to a family dentist who sees the entire family. His office isn't decorated crazy for kids, but he and his staff are wonderful and patient and have been great with our kids! Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jessica. I'd write a letter to your dentist about both experiences. He probably doesn't know how the staff is acting and he might be able to meet with them and tell them to shape up. They really should know how to work with kids...especially when the dentist specializes in peds! Sorry you had two bad experiences.

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