Dentist Fail.

dentist mirror

So, um, here’s the thing.  My three year old has a hole in his tooth.  I don’t know if it was one of the many party-bag lollies I irresponsibly let him eat or one of the many times I forgot to make him clean his teeth, but somewhere along the way, my extreme maternal neglect resulted in a tiny hole in his tiny tooth.  And he’s scared of the dentist.  And I think that might be my fault too.

A couple of weeks ago, I took him and his brother and sisters to the dentist for a check up and clean.  Harry didn’t want to sit on the special chair, didn’t want to wear the special glasses and only opened his mouth for long enough for the friendly young dentist to ascertain that we would need to make another appointment and that, in the meantime, I would need to feed him lots of pro-dentist propaganda (and, um, no lollies).

Which brings us to yesterday.  I had worked as hard as I could to engender pro-dentist sentiment in the heart and mind of my son.  Harry sat solemnly on my lap as I showed him this bizarre youtube educational video the dentist had recommended.  I chatted happily about friendly dentists and their special chairs and did you know the dentist can put a tiny little train in your mouth that can run over your teeth?  Just like Percy!  And best of all: little boys who open their mouths for the dentists get to have McDonalds for lunch!

I gotta tell you, I was feeling a little conflicted about this.  I know this fast-food giant pours billions of dollars each year into the targeted marketing of children.  I know there’s a clear strategy in their meals with toys and play equipment and children’s birthday parties and red stripey clowns.  And I know the very reason I was turning to this multinational corporation to provide a treat for my little boy is because of the subliminal messages their glamourous ads and marketing placed in my brain when I was a little girl.  In providing fast food as a “special reward treat” to Harry, I am programming him to become a lifelong consumer of this nutritionally bereft product.  I am doing just what their billion-dollar marketing department wants me to do.  But desperate times call for desperate measures.

As we walked into the waiting room, I exclaimed in joy with Harry over the colourful fish in the little aquarium.  “This place has got everything!  I love going to the dentist!”  I tried my best to exude upbeat, cheerful anticipation with an undercurrent of calm, reassuring all-is-well.  I think I might have strained something.

It wasn’t long before we were called into the little dentist’s room.  No, I think that should be “dentist’s little room”.  The dentist herself was of average size.  Our first job was to convince Harry to sit in the special chair.  But Harry wasn’t buying it.  “It’s a fun chair, like a rocket!” and “Just like the girl in the video!” had no effect.  Harry crawled nervously on to my lap and suggested that Annie sit in the chair instead.  In the end, I sat on the chair and Harry sat on my lap.  But I could tell he didn’t like it.

As the dentist handed Harry his “special, cool sunglasses” and tilted the chair backwards, I talked to Harry of the wonderful Happy Meal he would earn when he opened his mouth for the dentist.  Did he want nuggets or a burger?

“I would like a burger!”  Harry exclaimed with characteristic enthusiasm, “and Annie wants some nuggets.  And you can have a chip, Mummy.”

“OK, now, Harry.  It’s time to open your mouth.  Why don’t you pretend you’re about to take a big bite of your hamburger?”, chirped the dentist.

Harry pressed his lips tightly together.

“Come on, Harry” I said, “if you open your mouth, I will even buy you an ice cream at McDonalds!”

“I love an ice cream!” Harry whispered excitedly.  But he still wouldn’t open his mouth.

I think it was at this point that the nurse chipped in with promises of stickers.  She needn’t have bothered.  If Harry wasn’t budging for a happy-meal-all-to-himself, no adhesive picture of a Looney Tunes character grasping a toothbrush was going to change his mind.

It was time to pull out the big guns.  “Harry,” I said solemnly, “if you don’t open your mouth for the dentist, you’ll get no McDonalds and have a plain sandwich for lunch instead.”

“I want a sandwich!”  Harry interrupted suddenly.

“No, you don’t understand, you -”

“WHERE’S MY SANDWICH?!”  Harry flung off his special sunglasses. “I need to get out of here!”

“Come on, Harry,”  the dentist coaxed, “just let me put this special mirror in your mouth…”

Then she stopped and scratched her head.  Harry had pulled his t-shirt over his face.  “I want to go home.”  a muffled voice said stubbornly.

In the end, after I’d promised every item on the McDonalds menu and a few shiny new toys, all to no avail, the dentist and I had to concede defeat.  As the dentist printed off a referral letter to a paediatric dentist in the expensive part of town, Harry stealthily located the aforementioned plain sandwiches and, after giving one to his appreciative baby sister, sat munching it contentedly in an orgy of crumbs on the otherwise spotless floor.

Ten minutes later, I stalked out of the dentist, making a long mental list of all of the things I could have bought with the thirty dollars I’d just paid.  What am I going to do?  How on earth am I going to brainwash my son into thinking the dentist is his friend?

If only I could hire a McDonalds marketing consultant…


12 thoughts on “Dentist Fail.

  1. the mmmmm family

    Oh you poor thing I really feel for you. It’s amazing and headstrong a child can be once they have made up their mind especially if it is something they really don’t like. Your story reminds me of a book called ‘Eat Your Peas’ by Kes Gray and Nick Sharratt where a mum offers more and more things to her daughter in a desperate bid to get her to eat her peas, until she practically offers the world to no avail. It really is a funny book, and whilst it won’t help you with your dentist problem it might make you smile 🙂

  2. Monica

    One cavity does not make you a neglectful parent. Six-year-old Mr L just had five fillings, a partial root canal and now has a silver tooth. Thankfully done under a general, but I still found the whole experience quite traumatic. And to think… both my kids hate soft drink. Where is the fairness in that??! At the follow-up appointment they said that he is an excellent brusher and flosser (that’s a story in itself), and that his teeth are just an unusual shape and it’s just one of those things. I still feel guilty somehow.

    Good luck at the paediatric dentist. The place we went to was fantastic.

  3. Kathleen Walter

    I can only imagine what it must have been like. You make what must have been a very painful and frustrating situation into an hilarious story. I can just see that adorable little boy calmly informing you that no, he doesn’t want to open his mouth and yes, he would like a sandwich.
    By the way, you are a great mum, hole in little tooth or not💖😍

  4. whatthemom

    My kids hate going to the dentist, and they have all had a ridiculous number of cavities. The dentist says some of it is genetic too. They brush 2x a day and don’t get candy very often. It sucks! Good luck to you.

  5. sourdoughkaty

    I’m pretty sure Toddlers have a special fake cheerfulness detector (at least mine does). Sometimes hunger is a good motivator. Nothing makes my daughter more meek than spending time in her room minus her snack/lunch/dinner. I also find it helps my headstrong almost 4yo daughter not to know about the possibility of treats until the moment of. Once we’re in a situation where we need her to cooperate, we let her know that cooperation=treat and defiance=no food at all. Sometimes her indecision is enough to get started.

    I find she can handle neither the anticipation nor the overwhelming amount of attention that comes from “special treat worthy” events, so often it’s best to treat it like a normal occurrence–something big kids do.

    Every kid is different. Good luck!

  6. mathairfiona

    My ped suggested that not take Nev to the dentist until he is three because his teeth are doing great. However, after reading this exceedingly frustrating experience, I think we’ll go early and “get a feel for things”. Sorry about that! At least you didn’t have to pay for McDonald’s.

  7. wiscomom

    I am afraid of how my daughters are going to like the dentist! I hate the dentist! I can’t stand the smell or the way they do things!! Freaks me out!! So I will probably be right where you were today when I have to take them!! Yikes!! Hope it goes better next time!

  8. Gratitudenist

    I feel your pain! Getting kids to cooperate at the dentist or doctor, especially if those kids are especially stubborn, is really tricky. When my son was three and we went to our first dentist appointment, he found the taste of the flouride so shocking that he spit it right in the hygienist’s face! And then demanded to leave. It was mortifying. They still remember that at the dentist and he is now 14! The good news is that your son will eventually grow up and the tooth with a hole in it will fall out. In the meantime, the pediatric dentist will be a good option. Good luck!

  9. deliciouslynell

    That sounds like a stressful trip! I’m sorry to hear you had a hard time! 😦 From the time I was little my parents would take me to the dentist for play-check-ups, where we would just sit in the chair, chat to the dentist, and he would often just get to play with the mirror, do a rinse (even though nothing had happened to us), etc. Sometimes you just need to make these things routine by making them seem normal, even a little boring, I think. But unfortunately by going out of your way to point out things about the dentist trips to try and make them seem fun or normal it can actually give the opposite impression. By pointing out specific aspects of something, drawing a child’s attention to them, it makes them seem novel, stand-out and even strange, otherwise they wonder why you would be pointing them out in the first place. I’m sorry to hear your son has a cavity, if that’s the hole you’re talking about. Sometimes they happen because teeth are so close together it’s hard to brush them, so please don’t beat yourself up. I can see just how much you love your children, and really that makes me happy. There are so many kids in the world who don’t know that sort of love, so keep up the good work! :3


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