Totful Tuesday: A Tale of Two Dentists

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The photos showed an arcade, playhouse, and several video screens showing popular kids’ flicks.

There was light streaming in the windows, and the dentist looked oh-so-friendly.  Plus they had a TREASURE BOX with prizes.

From the website, I KNEW that I’d found the perfect place for Noodle’s first trip to the dentist– so I booked the appointment, arranged childcare for the Bee, and onward we went to the happy dentist place.

It was, of course, a disaster.

From the moment we walked in I knew I’d made the wrong choice.  At 9AM, the waiting room was a zoo.  But wait, that was just the children’s waiting room.  Turns out there was a separate adult side, which meant twice as many patients.  Forget the arcade and playhouse, there were easily a dozen children swinging from the windows and doors and Noodle wouldn’t leave my lap.

When they finally called our name (yelling it above the roar of the crowd) we were led through a maze of hallways and doors.  That’s when Noodle began to panic.  We sat and waited for the dentist as she started to cry.

I didn’t blame her.  She hates doctors, thanks to the cruel things we’ve had to do to her there– blood draws, cath draws, shots.  When he sat down to see her, I explained this was her first visit and she had sensory issues related to feeding due to reflux and being tube fed during her first year.  His solution?  He laid her down in my lap and scrubbed the h-e-double-hockey-sticks out of her teeth for two minutes straight.

vintage Noodle feeding tube photo

“That’s what you’re going to need to do, hold her down and scrub her teeth every day even if she cries.”

After the five minute visit (literally, he spent 5 minutes with us) we ran out of there.  She didn’t even want a prize from the treasure box.  I apologized to Noodle profusely, and decided it would be a long time before we set foot in a dentist’s office again.

we use the toy medical set to get her emotionally ready weeks ahead of doctor appointments

A few months later she fell and hit her front tooth, which started to turn dark.  Darn it.

Choosing a doctor or specialist is an important decision, but when your child has special needs it becomes critical to make the right choice.  I wasn’t sure where to turn.  My friends didn’t need a pediatric dentist with a light touch because thankfully none of their kids had the same issues as Noodle. Oh, and most of them live at least 30 minutes away making it hard to find someone local to us.  Finally it occurred to me to turn to my daughter’s OT/PT service coordinator, and she handed me a list with names of local dentists.  Next to one special name was a star.  Desperate, I called him.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE THAT ONE STAR MADE.  My heart was in my throat as we walked up the ramp to the office, but immediately upon entering we both sensed a difference.  The waiting room was calm; in fact, it consisted of several small rooms with different “themes.”  One was a media room with television and video games, one had just toys, and one was filled with a jungle mural.  When they called us back, the dentist sat with us and introduced Noodle to a frog puppet with teeth.  She “brushed” the teeth.  Before poking things in her mouth, he checked her socks/wrist/belly button with the instruments.  By the time he got to her teeth she was enthralled.  The rest of the visit was perfect.  As I packed her into the car she turned to me and said, “Mama, thanks for taking me to the Fun Doctor!”

The Fun Doctor.  He’s the one that changed her entire aversion to doctors.  When she started having headaches last month, we took her to an eye doctor (recommended by her pediatrician).  She felt so comfortable there she smiled as they put in eye drops, laughed during the glaucoma screening, and told Bee the eye doctor was her doctor, not his.  She acted like the eye exam chair was a throne, and for her, it was.

So that’s my cautionary tale.  Websites can make anything look good, that’s the last time I Google “pediatric dentists” and expect to find gold just by browsing.  So, where can you turn?  Here’s a few places I thought of, please add more that I’m missing:

friends or family
pediatricians
preschool/ daycare teachers or coordinators
if your child had Early Intervention services, ask the coordinator or therapists
Angie’s List has a health list for members

Thank you, Dr. E, for being the Fun Doctor and changing our lives for the better thanks to your kindness and patience.  It’s estimated 75% of adults experience a fear of dentists, and it means the world I can sow the seeds of comfort with dentists from the start for my kids!

{Note to local readers: if you’re looking for a pediatric dentist, eye doctor, or pediatrician in the Philadelphia ‘burbs email me and I’ll send you the names of the ones we use.  I’ll trade you for a pediatric neurologist if you know of one!}

Do you have a fear of dentists?  Any secrets about finding excellent health care providers?  How do your kids handle seeing specialists, and any tricks to getting them relaxed and comfortable?  Did you have an experience with a medical professional that changed your thoughts of them for the better {or the worse}?

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6 Comments

  1. Love that picture of her brushing her teeth!! I recognize that shirt!! 😉
    Glad you found a good dentist!!

  2. As an adult I am super anxious about the dentist, I go for my regular cleanings but totally stress about it for weeks leading up to the appointment. My kids however, one with anxiety issues, have adored their dentist since day one. It makes life so much easier when they have that “feel good’ relationship with a medical professional that will be their lives for a long, long time. Your baby is precious, love the pictures.

  3. Emailing you! I need a new dentist for the boys. Also bad experience with the glitzy Pedi dentist I saw online.

  4. The first time my son went to a pediatric dentist, he completely flipped out. I switched both my kids to our regular family dentist and it’s been wonderful!

  5. First – I just have to say that your little daughter is adorable!!! And it cracks me up that you call her noodle! 🙂
    Second – I’m so glad you found a “fun doctor” – that makes such a big difference and I know it must be a HUGE relief to yoy!
    Third – Have I said how cute your daughter is? OMG 🙂 I hope my future kids will be that cute!!

    Brie @ BreezyPinkDaisies

  6. Wow, now that’s what I call a life-changing experience! It’s a good thing you found “The Fun Doctor!” It’s important for children’s first few visits to dentists and doctors to be fun so that they don’t develop a fear of them. Let’s hope future visits to the dentist will be much easier and much more fun too.

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