There are few things I dislike more in the world than the dentist. As a small child I had a traumatic first experience at the dentist; it ended up with the dentist getting bit and my views of dentistry have forever been negative since. Every time the dentist would leave a message on the answering machine about making another appointment, I would delete the message before my mom got home so I wouldn’t have to go back. The dentist I had growing up was very critical, despite the fact that I’ve never had a cavity to date. And after growing up in an already critical household, I didn’t want to deal with more criticism. So as soon as I got older, I shunned the dentist like the plague.
Needless to say once I became a mother, I didn’t want to create the same bias in my children because dental health is important. Since dental needs have always been a bit upsetting to me, I admit I got off on the wrong foot when it came to caring for Drake’s teeth. I started to try brushing Drake’s teeth when he was around 18 month, long after he had already gotten most of his teeth. It never occurred to me try earlier, though I’ve read that you can start even before babies have teeth by just wiping their gums to get them used to the sensation of cleaning and brushing their teeth.
Drake often resisted my attempts at brushing, so sometimes I wouldn’t bother as I didn’t want to traumatize him into hating brushing his teeth as I hated going to the dentist. Sometime around 2- 2 1/2, I decided that regular teeth brushing should become a routine. But by then Drake was hitting his own independent stage, and every night brushing became an all out battle. At times Mr. Chocolate and I would literally have to hold him down, and he would still thrash, scream and kick the entire time. Part of me knew that this was probably my fault for never keeping at it when he was younger. Over time Drake has gotten used to the brushing, and some days he is willing to let us brush without much complaint and some days it’s still a battle that ends in frustration and tears.
Recently I decided that it was probably about time for Drake to see the dentist for the first time. I had put it off probably longer than many parents simply because of my own issues. Since teeth brushing had never been an easy task in our home, I wasn’t confident that we were actually doing a good job because he struggled so much. I wanted to start off Drake’s first dentist experience off on a good foot though, so I did a lot of research looking at local pediatric dentists and asking friends who they used. Eventually I found a dentist that looked promising and called to make Drake’s first appointment. Since it was the holiday season and we were new patients, I assumed it would be a while before we would get seen and I would have time to get Drake excited about the idea of going to the dentist. So imagine my surprise (and a little apprehension) when I was given an appointment the next day.
When we first walked into the dentist office we were greated by what I can only describe as a child’s paradise. There was a Duplo table, a train table, a climbing structure, video games, and a puzzle area all in the waiting room alone. Drake took off as soon as we walked in to explore. While we were waiting and he was playing, he came up to me to say how he loved the dentist. I think he thought the dentist meant all these toys and games! When it was our turn we were greeted by a hygienist who brought us back into a wonderfully bright and colorful back area with different colored seats. There were a small grouping of stuffed animals (with teeth — all toys at dentist office have teeth) and tooth brushes by them. Drake immediately grabbed the dragon and wanted to play with it. The hygienist told him to put the dragon in the seat and got him one of the large tooth brushes and let him brush its teeth. Drake loved it.
Brushing the dragon’s teeth
Afterwards she asked if he would sit by her so she could show him some of her fun tools. She showed Drake the mirror, her tooth counter (the pick thing) and counted his fingers with them, the water spray (she put some water in his hand), and the straw that sucks (it sucked up the water in his hand). Next she showed Drake his new toothbrush, an electric one shaped like a big Crayola marker, and let him feel the spinning bristles on his hand. Afterwards she told him she wanted to look at his teeth and count them. Then she let him pick out a flavor for his fluoride treatment.
Drake sat in my lap with his head leaning back into her lap and had his teeth counted (he has 20), brushed with his new toothbrush, and had a fluoride treatment applied. He did fuss at first while I held his hands, but as she explained everything, talked about silly things with him, and allowed him some breaks where he could just lay there and talk freely without any instruments in his mouth, we got through the entire session with little resistance (or bodily injury) and tears. Best of all — no cavities! I was so relieved as I was worried that my late start and poor brushing would have affected Drake’s teeth but luckily we were good (maybe due to the fact that Drake eats very few sweets and doesn’t drink juice).
After the treatment she gave Drake 3 prizes to choose from, of which he took two — a small frog and whale toy. The hygienist and I discussed a few things like Drake’s diet, the use of floss and toothpaste later on. Then we met with the dentist who also counted Drake’s teeth. She complimented Drake for having no cavities. He also got to pick a sticker, and because he was so brave, she gave him two.
The dentist shared some cleaning techniques to try with Juliet for now and when she gets teeth, and gave her a small teething brush to play with. Before we left Drake got a little certificate and we scheduled his next appointment in six months, as well as Juliet’s first appointment. Drake went home beaming and proudly showed Mr. Chocolate his cavity-free sticker when he came home. At night we had no fuss as we brushed his teeth with his brand new toothbrush. Drake even asked for the strawberry flavor he had at the dentist that we unfortunately didn’t have.
A few general notes the dentist told me I thought I would share:
- Even though Juliet currently has no teeth, it’s fine to wipe down her gums after each feeding (milk and solids) with a wet washcloth just to keep them clean and to get her used to having something in her mouth. After my experience with Drake, I am totally planning on getting Juliet used to having her teeth cleaned earlier so I won’t have as much of a battle later on (hopefully)
- Like most dentist,s they don’t recommend a lot of sweets; even fruit snacks, raisins, and dried fruit are frowned upon as they can get easily stuck in crevices.
- Cheese is a good snack as it can help clean the teeth naturally as well as some fruits like apples.
- Fluoride toothpaste isn’t recommended until children know not to swallow it. She said to use non-fluoride toothpaste for now and to teach Drake to rinse and spit first before switching over to fluoride.
- Drake’s top teeth are spaced together more closely but his bottom ones have a little space between them, so she said when possible to try flossing at least the top to free up plaque that can get into the tighter spaces.
All in all I have to say I am pleased and relieved that Drake’s first experience at the dentist went so well. The hygienist even said that she felt I was more nervous than Drake, and I was admittedly. I am happy that Drake’s teeth are healthy and that he seemed to really enjoy his trip, which will hopefully make taking him again a lot easier than it was to take me when I was younger.
So proud of his Cavity Free sticker