Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Irrational Fears and... Part 1: A Vist to the New Dentist

In the last week or so, I've dealt with a barrage of Sammi's pretty irrational fears that I decided warranted a whole series of blog posts.  Samantha is full of irrational fears.  There are triggers everywhere.  I don't know if they're true fears most of the time, as sometimes I suspect her reactions are OCD-based and the idea that something in her world did not just go exactly as she had wanted it to go...  But one that seems to have remained consistent over the years has been the fear of the dentist. 

Welcome to the first installment of my "Irrational Fears and..." series. 

We all have had a fear of the dentist at some point or another in our lives, many of us still holding on to it long into adulthood.  And often, we call it fear, when it's really just that we don't like to go to the dentist.  There is a vast difference.  If you say you're afraid of something, it gets elevated into a whole new category of things that should not happen without a whole lot of preparation.  If it's that you just don't like it, then you'd darned-well better suck it up and deal with it.  You get me? 

But for a kid who has been going to the dentist every 6 months since she was 12 months old, for a kid who watches no TV other than cartoons geared towards her age group or younger, for a kid whose mother champions the dentist as a necessary thing to do to keep her strong and healthy (nevermind that her father has a massive phobia of the dentist - thankfully, he respectfully keeps that fact under wraps around her), for a kid whose favorite game since she's been 2 years old has been to play doctor, who has absolutely no problem with having her teeth brushed at home and even having mommy floss her teeth, or with reading books and social stories about dental visits by kids, there's absolutely no rational explanation for her absolute, numbing petrification at the mere mention of going to the dentist. 

Oddly, we can get to the dentist's office with relatively little issue.  She tells me she's going to be brave, that she'll let the dentist look in her mouth, count her teeth, brush them with an electric toothbrush.  She walks through the door like a pro, plopping herself down in a seat, exploring the children's waiting room and its toys. 


And then the nurse comes in to call a child back.

And Sammi loses it.

Did I mention that Sammi has been going to the dentist since she was 12 months old?  Well, she has.  And there have been absolutely no traumatic experiences, from what we can recall.  And she has never allowed the dentist to do a cleaning or take x-rays, and has only barely opened her mouth long enough to have her teeth counted with the promise of nothing else being done (and mouth opened only after incalculable minutes of cajoling and bribing positive reinforcement). 

Two weeks ago, after 4 unsuccessful years at one local pediatric dentist, after a disastrous appointment last December in which a frightened Samantha lashed out at the dentist's gloved hands with her own, tearing through the latex and drawing blood, we visited a new dentist, one that I hoped would be more patient with her, would ease her into the appointment more successfully than the last doc, with whom we never fully felt comfortable.

Again, the waiting room visit was just fine.

And then the nurse came in to call Samantha into the Back Room of Doom, her face mask pulled down below her chin, a lovely smile and perfect teeth revealed. 

And Sammi lost it

"No mask!  It's scaaary!"

Okay, I can get on-board with that.  And so could the nurse, careful to remove said mask before coming any closer.

And, even with the sweet and smiling nurse without a face mask, the Back Room of Doom was only reached after nearly 15 minutes of relentless begging reasoning with her, promising nothing more than a tour, and a bit of strong-armed picking-up-and-hauling-the-child-while-tickling just so it seemed like a game and got her laughing. 

But trust me, I was not laughing.  Actually, I was just a mere second or two from giving up by that point, but eventually we got in.

But can I just tell you how amazing the nurses were at this new dental office?  Omg, the one assigned to Sammi on Wednesday was fabulous and more patient than I could ever, in this lifetime, hope to be.  I let her work her magic, and Samantha eventually warmed up to her.  The dentist was equally patient (oh, and did I mention young, foreign, handsome and super-stylish?  I noticed his Prada belt buckle right away - Hey!  Get your mind out of the gutter!  You seriously couldn't have missed it if you tried...) and Sammi actually looked at him and spoke to him, shocker! (smart girl...)

She wouldn't tolerate actually going into the exam room, which was in a fairly open space, but she sat with me just outside the space in a hallway, close enough for the equipment to reach, and, after nearly an hour, actually let the nurse clean her bottom teeth, actually opened her mouth with the light shining into it so the doctor could have a quick look, actually seemed to enjoy most of the visit, even if we didn't get too far into the process (do you know how much sheer willpower it took for me to not to risk destroying the moment by running to get my purse on the other side of the room, grabbing my cell phone and snapping a picture?)

Baby steps, right?

So, while we've been invited back for another interim visit to maintain her comfort level, we may be okay waiting for the next 6 months.  But seriously, this office is a keeper.  If you're local, I highly recommend Dr. Skordalakis, in Sterling, and they take Medicaid, too, which makes them extra awesome. 


Stephanie said...

Oh, the dentist! Owen can't take it at all and we have a really great office. They are kind, quiet, smiling, everything you want and it still doesn't work. We go and I have to hold him down. So I'm hoping soon he'll get over it. Oddly the dentist is the only medical place that I personally don't feel scared every time. I'm terrified of needles so I'm always worried about getting poked.

Angel said...

Oh Sammi, I hear you girlfriend!! I am making myself sick over my 2 root canals today!! We finally had to sedate Coop to get his teeth cleaned. Maybe the fear is hereditary? ;) Ugh. Dentists.

Thanks for your words of encouragement. I can't wait to have today over with!! I might kick and scream my way back to the room and see if it makes me feel better. ;)

Michelle said...

Kayla hates, or maybe it's a fear of, anything medically-related as well. She doesn't like the blood pressure cuff on her arm or finger, she doesn't like laying down on the table. I can't think of any traumatic events for her either. My only thought with laying down on the table is it feels like a loss of control for her. She makes a nervous whimpering type of sound and you can tell she's very uncomfortable and hard to relax.
We found a dentist office here that said they have experience treating kids w/special needs and they have been awesome! They even managed to get I think, 4, sealants on her. Although she finally gave in to her fear and was in tears by the end. They were also able to get a full mouth xray. They are so patient and kind and explaining everything and showing everything to her. It's wonderful to find an office like that and I hope this is a turning point for Sammi!

Stacey Nicole said...

Hooray for finding an awesome dentist! Our son only has sensory issues, but exams of any kind are hard on him. His dental exam this past December did not go well. It was his first time with the electric toothbrush, which terrified him. He was screaming much like Darla in 'Finding Nemo'. The tech got his teeth somewhat cleaned, but he refused to open his mouth for the dentist, who then decided not to mess with an uncooperative kid and sent us on our way without so much of an exam. I put off finding a new dentist until this summer. I did not have high hopes, even though the dental office I chose has a reputation for being great for kids like my son. How did he do? fantastic! His little brother had to go first to show how it was done, but Thomas got up there like a big boy and let them clean and examine his teeth! The tech was kind and told the dentist that Thomas had done so well, that she did not want to push him too far by making him do x-rays. Oh, how happy that made me. We no longer have Medicaid, so we will have to pay for exams out of pocket, but I don't care how much this dentist costs -- we are sticking with him!!!