Yesterday, my youngest had a dentist appointment. He loves to go to the dentist. He's been going since age three. Twice a year. For a cleaning and a fluoride treatment and a complimentary toothbrush and a goodie from the treasure chest. He hasn't learned to fear the dentist like some adults who have had a number of bad dentist experiences, like root canals and extractions.
But yesterday wasn't a routine cleaning. He was there for his first filling. Actually, for his first fillings. Two. I was nervous going in. I knew what was coming. He didn't. I've always been conflicted about how much to tell the kids in advance when something like this was coming. In a way, you want them to know what's coming and what to expect. In another way, you don't want them to know what's coming and have it cause them fear and anxiety. I've done it both ways. Years ago, I'd tell the kids before we went to the doctor visit that shots were coming. It works with some kids. With others it doesn't.
With one kid, I can say, you're going to get some shots today, but it will just be two and it will be quick and when it's over the nurse will give you a sucker. Then there's no complaint or anything. They go with the flow. With another kid, I can say that shots are coming and it instills terror in them. I can't get them out the door and I can't get them into the doctor's office without a big ordeal. So, what's a parent to do?
Well, I told him he had a cavity and we were going to the dentist so that he could fix it. Kind of middle ground. He knew it would be something out of the ordinary. He didn't know it would involve Novocaine shots or a drill.
As usual he was eager to go in. The dentist came out right away as he was in the numbing process and told me how amazed he was that he didn't even flinch. At the end, the assistant came out to tell me how well he did and the dentist followed. The he came out with a big swollen cheek. He kind of had a bewildered look on his face as if he was thinking "I didn't know that was coming up. You duped me." But, he was excited to get to pick out three things from the treasure chest. And he even seemed genuinely excited about the experience. He was fascinated with his numbed face. "I can't feel my mouth," he said. Then "I guess it feels like my mouth is getting a massage." Then, "Hey, feel my face." Then, "It feels weird. I think I feel like I have vampire teeth."
He was a trooper. He took it way better than I expected. But...he has one more to go on the other side. This time he'll know what's coming.