Say Aaaaahhhhh!

Yesterday was our dentist appointment.  In the past we’ve generally scheduled our dentist appointments on two separate days, having Matt and Brendan go to one, Cameron and I to the other.  That way we wouldn’t end up spending the entire day at the dentists office and someone was always available to stay home with Kaylee since she’s kindof a pain to keep entertained for that long.

Well things worked out a little different when we were scheduling this appointment and they ended up scheduling all four of us on the same day.  But, as they explained it to me, we’d be seeing two different hygenists so two of us would be having our appointments simultaneously and we wouldn’t be there any longer than usual (they usually try to keep you with the same hygenist at every appointment).

So we packed everyone up and headed for the dentist’s office.  We were only in the waiting room for a few minutes when they came to get the first of us.  Cameron and Matt were scheduled with one hygenist while Brendan and I were scheduled with the other.  Cameron was the first name on their list so they took him back first.

When Brendan has his appointment we generally send him back by himself.  He’s old enough that we trust him to follow directions from the dentist and don’t feel we need to watch over him.  Brendan has always been really good at the dentist.  From his very first appointment when he was three he cooperated nicely and did everything the dentist asked with no fits.  Cameron is another story.

Even though he’s now 5 and should be able to handle a trip to the dentist by himself, we always go back with him.  Cameron refuses to follow any of the dentists directions and it takes everything Matt and I have within us to get him to cooperate at all.  This is his 5th time going to the dentist and prior to this appointment the furthest we’ve ever gotten (before the dentist and his staff give up) is a visual inspection of Cameron’s teeth.  The very first time we went he wouldn’t sit in the chair at all.

As parents we should be firm and force Cameron to follow our directions and cooperate with the dentist but up to now we’ve been hesitant to do so.  Matt has a strong dislike of going to the dentist and we are trying not to pass his uneasiness about the process on to the kids (which is why I usually took Cameron instead of Matt).  Recently we downloaded an iPad app called Ed Meets the Dentist.  It’s a cute story book app in which Ed the bunny visits the dentist for the first time.  Kids are introduced to all the dentists tools and get to use them to clean Ed’s teeth.

All our kids love the app and have viewed it dozens of times.  We were hoping that it might help Cameron get over his fears of the dentist.  On Friday it seemed that might be the case.  On our way home from pre-school he was talking all about how he was going to tell the hygenist the right order to make his teeth all sparkly.  But as he actually went to climb into the dentists chair he changed his mind.

I was the parent back in the room with him and used a combination of comforting, cajoling, and some parental firmness to convince him to open his mouth.  We got through the visual exam and using the tool to “count” his teeth.  Next she wanted to polish his teeth with bubblegum toothpaste.  Cameron refused because he wasn’t allowed to chew bubblegum.  He asked for mint instead.  The hygenist got a good chuckle out of that and switched out her flavors.

We got him to open his mouth again after tickling his hand with the polisher to show him it didn’t hurt.  But she only got about a quarter of his teeth polished before he freaked out burst into tears and refused to allow her to do any more.  She was barely able to rinse the stuff out of his mouth.  After about 10 more minutes we decided it was time for a new tactic and Matt and I changed places.

During all of this it was my turn to sit with the other hygenist but seeing how much I was needed in Cameron’s room she skipped over me and went to get Brendan.  The down side to this was that it meant at one point Matt and I would most likely both be in the dentists chair at the same time which meant no one would be in the waiting room with the kids.  So Matt packed up Kaylee and came back with Brendan, that way we’d have all the kids back in the exam rooms with us.

So Matt went over to Cameron’s room to work with the hygenist to get him through the rest of the cleaning.  After another 10 minutes or so they decided the best way to go about getting Cameron over his fear would be to have him watch daddy get his teeth cleaned.  Which at least meant that we only had one adult in the chair.  I went back and forth between the two exam rooms keeping the kids under control.

Cameron was still somewhat tearful watching daddy go through his appointment.  I have to give kudos to Matt’s acting ability.  For hating the dentist as much as he does he did a fantastic job acting like it was his favorite place in the world while trying to convince Cameron to do his own teeth cleaning.  Meanwhile over in Brendan’s room they were talking to him about his brushing habits.  He, in typical nine year old fashion, is rushing through his teeth brushing and they were lecturing him a bit about the importance of taking his time and getting every tooth nice and clean.

I also reminded Brendan that he had a question for the dentist.  Almost a year ago Brendan lost his four front top teeth really close together.  His two center ones have grown back in fully (it took a while but they did come in) but the two next to them haven’t come in at all.  I wasn’t too worried about it, but it’s been bugging him, so I told him to ask the dentist about it.

The first thing they did was check his last x-ray to make sure the teeth were showing up on it (they were).  Then the dentist asked me how long it had been since the teeth fell out.  When I told him how long it had been he took a closer look at the gums around where the teeth should be.  What he told me was that the teeth are there, just under the surface, but they have no room to grow in.  He also said that Brendan has a lot of crowding in his bottom teeth where the few adult teeth that have come in.  He recommended that we take Brendan to an orthodontist for a consultation.

Sigh…I knew this was coming.  I had braces, and my first foray into them was right around when I was Brendan’s age.  Over the years I had pretty much every appliance you can imagine.  Braces themselves, two types of headgear (boy was that an attractive sight), retainers, rubberbands, and a wire strung across the roof of my mouth (to expand my upper jaw if I recall correctly).  Matt didn’t have braces but he had a great many teeth pulled as a child and I’m guessing that helped him avoid the same fate as me.

So, like knowing that the kids would likely all need glasses, we knew there was an above average chance that braces were in our future.  We got the name of the orthodontist that our dentist recommends, and Matt will check to see if he’s covered by our insurance this week so I can schedule the consultation.  I suppose we could go back to the same guy that did my second set of braces, but after 20 years I’m not sure if he’s even still in business.  His office isn’t on the corner by my old house anymore anyway.

After that lovely revelation it was my turn to get my teeth cleaned.  All three kids were in my exam room by then, entertaining themselves with video games and cartoons.  Matt finished up his exam and came over to try and talk Cameron into finishing his.  The discussion was not going well until the hygenist started handing out everyone’s take home bags, the ones that have the toothbrush, floss, mouthwash, etc in them.  She didn’t give one to Cameron and when he started to complain she told him that only people who finish their teeth cleaning get to have a bag.

That peaked his interest a little, but he was still unwilling to get into the exam chair.  He went back to his video games, and then Matt was struck by an inspiration.  He took the iPad from Cameron and talked him into walking into the other exam room.  He told Cameron he could have the video game while getting his teeth cleaned.  As long as Cameron kept his mouth open and let the hygenist do her work he could play his game and he wouldn’t even have to pay attention to what the hygenist was doing.

It worked.  A couple of times Cameron started to get upset and not want to open his mouth, but Matt would just take away the iPad and refuse to give it back until Cameron cooperated.  Cameron’s desire to play games outweighed his desire to not have his teeth cleaned and in the end he always opened his mouth to get the iPad back.  Matt’s thinking we really might be onto something and plans to use the same tactic the next time around.

During all of this Kaylee was good as gold.  In fact she was mad that we didn’t let her get into the chair and get her teeth cleaned.  At one point, while I was in the exam chair, she asked to get up in the chair with me.  I told her no and said the chair only held one person at a time.  She proceeded to pull on my hand and say, “then get out mommy.  It’s my turn.”  We’re hoping this means that Kaylee won’t give us nearly the hard time that Cameron has about cooperating with the dentist.  I guess we’ll find out when we head back there in early November.


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