five steps for a successful dental filling experience

I was by no means an easy child. I challenged my parents constantly, questioned everything, and trusted no one. I remember going in for my first cavity filling. I always loved going to the dentist because it meant leaving school early, relaxing in a chair, and searching through the latest Highlights magazine.

Of course, my sister thought it was necessary to tell me what to expect for my first filling. "You know they are going to give you a shot right inside your mouth. And they will say it won't hurt, but the needle is long and sharp and you can feel it go deep." She was twelve and acting like any older sister probably should, but my poor mom had to deal with a frantic and dramatic young Kelly.

Once at the dentist, I refused to open my mouth. After trying everything, the appointment simply had to be rescheduled for another day. I can only imagine the embarrassment my mom felt.

Parker may not have an older sibling teasing him with all the gory details, but he does see Matilda go through a lot medically and, because of that, I often wonder if he will develop a fear of the medical world. So when Parker needed to get a filling, I was determined to make it a successful trip. And when the dentist suggested laughing gas, we agreed without hesitation*. We talked about his appointment in advance, told stories of when each of us had dental appointments with laughing gas, explained that it would go over his nose, and that it would be his job to help the dentist by staying really still while he fixed the tooth.

Parker is an old soul, but he is also five and rightfully acts like it most of the time – with whining, fits, and refusals to cooperate on the playlist. But, not on this day! On this day, he acted better than anyone could have expected. He was calm, comfortable, and contained the entire time. He held still, followed instructions, and didn't make a peep until it was over. He even thanked the dentist on his way out.

In this circumstance, I think we did right by these five things:

  1. We anticipated what his fears might be 
  2. We took the advice of his dentist 
  3. We spoke to him about what to expect a month before, a week before, and the day of
  4. We remained calm, normal, and supportive during the visit
  5. We thanked Parker afterwards for fulfilling our expectations by cooperating completely

Of course, this is what worked for Parker and it might not work for every family situation. It is most important to think about each child as an individual and adjust from there.

*Before everything happened with Matilda, I probably would have passed on the laughing gas. I am/was apprehensive to make use of medications unless absolutely necessary out of a fear of side effects. But, I have seen how resilient Matilda is to all the medications she is on, how helpful medical intervention can be, and it has fostered a greater trust in the medical community than I had previously. In this instance, Parker's mental health needed to be treated just as carefully as his tooth.

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