When It Comes To The Dentist, Third Time’s A Charm
Today was Ella’s third dentist appointment.
We’ve been taking her every three months instead of every six in the hopes that she would become comfortable going. Our first two visits were not very much fun.
No, that’s not a good enough description.
The first two were absolute torture.
Ella cried all the way through them. Freaked the f*ck out.
The first time, everything was too new and happened too fast. We put her in the chair and that bright light shined in her eyes without sunglasses on. So she was immediately scared of two things: the chair and the light.
For visit two they took us to the private room and closed the door.
Great, I thought - they’ve taken us to the “screaming, crying, kicking,” kid room. This is the room where they take these kinds of kids so they don’t terrify the other children. Great.
She sat on my lap and bawled her eyes out again, but did manage to quiet down just enough to let the dentist count her teeth. All 10 of them. Hooray! Now let’s get the hell out of here!
Couple these experiences with the fact that our kind but extremely naive pediatric dentist has “by the book” knowledge about the relationship between breastfeeding and cavities and tried to give me bedtime nursing advice and I wanted to leave and never. come. back.
Before this visit, (which I had been dreading since the middle of last week) we told Ella well in advance to try and prepare her as best we could. We talk to her about exciting events coming up all the time, and thought throwing the dentist trip into conversation would help.
Well, it did.
Or something else helped. I have no idea what helped to tell you the truth.
But whatever it was, it was a miracle. Ella is a miracle.
First of all, she was looking forward to going. She told me, “I like going to the dentist. The dentist is nice. Really nice!” This was just before brushing her teeth.
When we got there, she seemed to be behaving normally - not talking to the receptionists, walking over to the train table to play quietly.
Then the dental assistant came in the room. She walked halfway over and said, “Ella?”
Ella sort of jumped, startled back to reality from a world of imaginative play.
She looked up at the woman but didn’t say a word. She didn’t look very sure of herself. Uh oh.
I stepped in.
"Ella honey, it’s time to go back to see the dentist now." BIG smile on my face, hand outstretched to hold hers, which she grabbed, and also smiled.
Yes. Good. She smiled. Phew.
We walked back and the assistant said, “Okay Ella, you see that big blue chair? You get to sit up there today!”
I held my breathe.
Ella said, “Uh huh!” and climbed up.
I suddenly felt like I was going to throw up.
Not because I was nervous, but because I was in complete and total shock. It was the kind of feeling I get when tipping upside down on a swing and sitting back up really fast - like my stomach just flipped over. I couldn’t believe it.
And then it just kept getting better.
The assistant, (damn, I wish I knew her name!) put the little apron on her, explaining all the while what she was doing and why. I added that the apron was like the one she wears at Nonna’s house when she eats.
From the chair, came the apron, and then the sunglasses, the bright light, the reclining and lowering of the chair…she sat, no, she happily sat through all of it.
It took every ounce of my energy to hold back the tears.
All I could do was wildly grin. I mean, I couldn’t stop smiling. My cheeks burned. My eyes were perpetually watering. And then I thought, geeze, look at me now and it’s just the dentist. I’m going to be a freaking mess when she goes to school.
So the dentist counted her teeth, and then the assistant cleaned them.
Yes, Ella got her teeth cleaned - and not just a little ‘ole toothbrush, but with the real deal tools.
The assistant was so great at describing everything to Ella. She treated her with respect and kindness. I’m sure her attitude had a lot to do with helping Ella feel at ease. I couldn’t thank her enough.
Today’s dentist visit was one of the first of Ella’s major accomplishments.
She got over her fear and experienced something so new. Good lordy I am SO proud of her. I can’t fully express it in words. I thought about it all day today.
Ella learned a lot today, and so did I.
I realized how good it was to stick it through - to keep going back to the dentist even when it was so hard those first two times. It really paid off in the end.
I’m sure it won’t be the last time that we grow through something difficult.