Friday, June 06, 2008

Toddlers, Dentists, and YouTube

Last year, before going to India, we took Grasshopper to a highly recommended dentist in Houston who told us that we needed to put our one-and-a-half-year-old under anasthetic so he could put a filling in her front tooth. He said the tooth was decayed because she breastfed at night. I had never heard breastmilk causes cavities, but I guess it makes sense since it does have a lot of sugar. (Wipe the baby's teeth if you're night feeding!) Three women in the office had to hold an hysterical Grasshopper down during this visit in which the man just looked into her mouth and did nothing else.

Greendaddy strongly felt it was too risky to put such a young baby under, and opted, against that dentist's strong urgings to do otherwise, to bring her in for regular checkups. The dentist seemed angry and genuinely certain it was a bad decision, which made it hard for us to follow through on visits to his office: and so we never went back.

We did, however, become vigilant tooth brushers. I stopped night feeding, and eventually, weaned Grasshopper. We inspected her tooth regularly, to ensure it wasn't decaying further. But this April Grasshopper seemed to be having a toothache. I thought: that dentist was right! What a terrible, terrible, parent I am. How could we have let so much time go by? But at Greendaddy's urging, I got the name of another dentist, Dr. Rita Camarata, who practices with a Dr. Sringam who is whom we got the appointment with.

The first dentist's office was kid friendly, but this one was out of this world. They have a waiting area for kids outside of the dentist's office. Even better, about five minutes before seeing the dentist the kids are brought into a second playroom, with lots more toys and books, and it's right in the same room where dentistry is performed, so kids can see other kids being worked on and feel less nervous themselves.

There are televisions with favorite kid-videos playing above every dental chair. The assistants in the office go out of their way to make friends with the kids once they're brought over to the examining table. Best of all to a girl like Grasshopper, patients get to wear cool sunglasses so their eyes aren't bothered by the harsh lights.

Still, while the dentist just looked into her mouth and brushed her teeth, Grasshopper screamed like every single one of her teeth was being ripped out with pliers, promptly assuring all the other kids in the office would have nightmares for years to come.

"Next time, I think we'll schedule her for her own room," Dr. Sringam, said, gesturing to one of five or six soundproof rooms they have.

But there was good news, too. Dr. Sringam suggested we bring Grasshopper in for monthly floride treatments, and assured me that the baby didn't have a toothache. She didn't even mention anasthesia, and when I told her another dentist had suggested it, she said, "No way, this girl is too young. It's better to wait and watch carefully." Her hope was that the floride might heal the decay already there, and if not, it would at least slow down decay so that her tooth can be taken care of when she's older.

We came back the next month, to our appointment. When the assistant showed my girl a toothbrush she started screaming, and Greendaddy, me, and Grashopper were whisked into the sound proof room, where Grasshopper used it to its full potential, though all anybody did was brush her teeth and wipe floride on them.

Grasshopper has never liked the doctors or the dentists. I alway tell her where we're going, and I've read her books about visits, but her fear of having an adult try to look in her mouth or put a stethoscope on her chest was too much for her.

After the last visit, while she was napping, it occurred to me I should search You Tube for videos about the dentist, and realized there are dozens, ranging from a classic Sesame Street video, to the ones parents have posted: Chloe's first visit to the dentist, Jojo's dentist visit, etc.

Grasshopper was immediately entranced by them. The first time she watched the Sesame Street video she turned to me and said, "That baby didn't cry! More dentist!" So over the course of a month we watched dentist videos almost every day, especially the Sesame Street one, which she would ask to watch four or five times in a row.

We supplemente the video by acting out what was going on in it. Every night when I brushed her teeth, I pretended to be the dentist and said, "Okay, now, open your mouth like a tiger at the zoo. I'm going to count the teeth on the bottom of your mouth. Now the ones on the top. Now I'm going to brush your teeth with my magic brush." Grasshopper loved the game.

Wednesday, the moment of truth came: time for another floride treatment. I told her that morning: we're going to the dentist, and she said she didn't want to go. In the waiting room she said again she didn't want to go. But when she went to sit for her appointment, in my lap, I said, "Open your mouth like a tiger in the zoo," because that's what the man in the Sesame Video did, and she did!

She let her teeth be brushed and florided, while she sat in my lap. Then Dr. Sringam inspected them. I told her our regular dentist worried Grasshopper's tooth might abscess, so she asked us to wait for Dr. Camarata to give a second opinion.

When Dr. Camarata came, Grasshopper had to lay on the examining chair, which she really wasn't fond of the thought of. But I held her hand, but my other hand below her neck to cradle her head and said the magic words, "Open your mouth like a tiger..."

And she did. She layed there bravely while Dr. Camarata scraped out some of the softness on Grasshopper's tooth and put in some cement for a temporary, toddler-hood fix: and my little girl didn't shed a tear!

Better for me, even, was the car ride home. "Grasshopper went to the dentist," she said, over and over again, clearly tickled with herself, "Grasshopper didn't cry. She's tiger."

It's like those You Tube videos were magic. I only wish I'd thought about using them sooner!

Grasshopper's Favorites:

A Trip to the Dentist, Sesame Street
A Doctor's Visit, Sesame Street
Anya's First Dentist Visit
Sealions Get their Teeth Brushed
Jade's First Trip


Brigindo said...

What a great story and good for Grasshopper. It reminds me of when my Boy was little and I tried to bring him for a kid-friendly first haircut. He cried and screamed like your Grasshopper. I had my hairstylist make a home visit but that didn't help either. Finally his Dad took him to an old-fashioned barber shop and that worked like a charm.

jp said...

i miss my lila!


Anonymous said...

What a great idea! My son is only 5 months old, but I will definitly be using this technique!!! Great parenting tip.

Lynnie said...

Wow, I never thought of using YouTube for this kind of thing! My older daughter was fine at the dentist. I was thinking that it was natural to be nervous and that she'd scream, so when she didn't I was surprised. Then I took my second daughter a couple years later. I thought she'd be okay since older sister was, and lo and behold, she was screaming! I'll try YouTube.
Love your blog!

Bobbie said...

I really appreciate this post. I'll probably be taking Ezra to the dentist in the next six months, and I am pretty sure he will freak out. Maybe watching videos and role playing like you did with Grasshopper will help a bit.

Also, I don't want to sound too militant about breastfeeding, but I believe recent studies have disputed that there is any correlation between nursing and cavities.

GreenStyleMom said...

What a great idea to find YouTube videos! Everytime we are near a recliner, we "practice" going to the dentist. Glad you found a great pediatric dentist. They are worth their weight in gold!

Bit's Mommy said...

I had the same experience (one dentist recommending sedation or restraint to fill my 15 month old's teeth). They were horrible and guilt tripped me beyond belief. I got a second opinion and we are doing the painless flouride treatment instead. I'm so much happier with Dentist #2. It breaks my heart that people are forced into thinking they HAVE to put their babies under (or do "behavioral management" aka restraint). They are TOO young! No wonder people don't take their toddlers to the dentist till they are well over the recommended age for first visit (12 months).

aimee said...

I did the same thing when my 4 year old had to have blood drawn. We watched two videos on YouTube over and over, going over each little thing - the special string on the arm, the alcohol prep, the little needle, the small container of blood, how the people didn't cry or even flinch. It worked like a dream.

Yay for YouTube!

Anonymous said...

That's a great idea! My son might have to get a tooth pulled this Friday (he's getting his first adult tooth, but it's coming in behind the baby tooth) so I'll check it out. He has been to the dentist once for a cleaning, so at least he knows where he's going.

It's never inappropriate to look for another physician if you're not getting along with the one you have. When we picked a pediatrician for my son, she pretty much told us to find someone else because she couldn't support our anti-vaccination views. So we did, and everyone was happy.

Valerie said...

Every time I pass by the Kroger I see Dr. Camarata's office and wonder about her, since I have been looking for a dentist for my toddler. I'm so glad I found your post, I will call her immediately. Do you happen to have her number? You can email me at valerie at cohenup dot com.

Thanks, Valerie