I seem to be the last of my mum friends to actually take their toddler to the dentist. This is for a number of reasons…
- I’m not really a fan of the dentist myself, so know that taking James is likely to mean I am going to have to make an appointment for myself at some point.
- I am pretty sure he won’t open his mouth.
- He will scream and not want to be there, which will make it hard work for me.
- I have to find an NHS dentist after my husband has told me I am not allowed to go private, as I have illusions of grandeur.
My friend recommended a local NHS dentist that she takes her son to, so I sent off the form to register us as a family. A few months later I still hadn’t made an appointment, partly because I didn’t see the point of putting James or me through something I envisaged as a traumatic experience for us both. Luckily, last week they rang me to make appointments for the three of us as new patients. I ended up just making one for James, and said I would arrange mine and my husbands later on when I had managed to sort out childcare and find out when is convenient for my husband. They rang me on Wednesday and had James booked in for the Friday, which didn’t really give me too much time to worry about it. I told the lady on the phone that he was unlikely to open his mouth and would probably scream, to which she reassured me that they have plenty of children that do the same and not to worry it was just about getting him used to going, and that the appointment would be about 20 minutes long. She hasn’t met my child, there is no way a dentist appointment with James was going to take 20 minutes, they would be lucky to get 2 minutes.
Conveniently James woke up earlier than normal on the day of his appointment, meaning that by the time it came around he was starting to get over tired and irritable. I told him he was going to the dentist, where a nice lady would have a look at his teeth. I doubt he understood me but I thought I would try, just in case.
The last time I went to a dentist was when I chipped my front tooth. I went privately where there was a lovely waiting room, comfy chairs, a nice atmosphere and an iPad to check me in. It did cost me £150 to get my tooth fixed and for all these little luxuries but I really appreciated them. It made me feel more relaxed in what I found quite a stressful situation. The NHS dentist was very different. The waiting room was soulless with plastic chairs and a hatch to speak to the receptionist. Luckily there was no one else in the room so the fact that James was running around and trying to escape out of the doors didn’t really matter. When we arrived I had to fill in a form to say that James was entitled to free dental care and then I was given a clipboard to fill in a health questionnaire for James, which was quite difficult to do as he was trying to tug it out of my hands. I gave the receptionist the form and made an appointment for myself and my husband, while I could just about hear what she was saying over James’ protesting to being there.
The dental nurse soon came to escort us to the dentist’s room. At this point James was crying and I was feeling rather flustered. When we got into the dentist’s room James went straight to the dentist’s chair and decided to try and use it as a slide. I thought maybe we were actually off to a good start. Was my child going to really surprise me? I was able to talk to the dentist and answer her questions about James’ dental health. She seemed very happy with everything we were doing. She wasn’t bothered that he chewed his toothbrush rather than brush his teeth with it. She also wasn’t bothered that we were using a toothpaste that although is for 0-3 year olds has under the recommended amount of fluoride in that the health visitor had told us James needed. The dentist informed me it was far more important for him to have a toothpaste that he likes and for the brush to go in his mouth than not at all, which was the attitude I had about it anyway, but was pleased she had the same opinion.
The dentist was lovely and if James understood more I think he would have liked her. She tried to talk to him but it went straight over his head, so she asked me to sit in the chair and for James to sit on my lap. Now this didn’t go down well as I was ruining his game of dentist chair slide. He started screaming and struggling to get down, but this did mean that he opened his mouth so the dentist could have a quick look inside, albeit for only about 2 seconds but it was enough time for her to see he had all of his teeth through. That was it then, she said she didn’t want him to feel traumatised by the dentist so she knew not to push him opening his mouth anymore. The idea is that children get used to going to the dentist and seeing it is not a scary place, rather than forcing their mouths open for the dentist to do a proper check.
The whole appointment probably lasted about 5 minutes and the majority of it was the dentist asking me questions about James’ dental routine and whether he drank juice and when he drank it. She was able to give me advice and reassurance on the things that we already do, which definitely made me feel more positive that we are doing a good job looking after James’ teeth. Looking in his mouth definitely wasn’t a priority and the appointment wasn’t about actually checking his teeth, it was more about giving advice and ensuring we were following recommended dental practices.
The dentist offered James a sticker which he had no interest in, ironically it said “star patient” which he certainly wasn’t. We then made a quick exit, where he decided that the car park was a place to run away from mummy and then cry all the way home so mummy had to put nursery rhymes on.
Anyway, we did it and we survived his first dentist appointment. I no longer have the feeling of guilt for not taking him when my friends talk about taking their children to the dentist. I can’t say I am looking forward to the next, or even my own appointment, but I do know what to expect a bit more now.