Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dental Twilight Zone

Before I post this, I would like to acknowledge to the world at large that I realize I'm not getting any parenting awards this year at the annual convention. I'm okay with that. I take full responsibility for my parenting failures.

That being said . . .

Today was Casey's first visit to the dentist. Yes, I know. He's seven. His first visit should have been at something like three days old if you believe the American Dental Association's recommendations. Or he should at least have gone by the time he turned three, if you believe any of the parents of the children who are actually parenting proactively. I personally believe I have an excuse for not taking Casey to the dentist at the appropriate age: I hate the dentist and all that he or she represents (i.e., shots in my mouth).

When I was Casey's age (possible a year or so younger, but I haven't checked with my mom yet), every single one of my yearly visits (back then the American Dental Association had not convinced the insurance companies that six month cleanings were critical to maintain good dental health) was fraught with fear because the annual visit for the cleaning was always, almost without exception, followed soon thereafter by an appointment for filling cavities. And I use the plural intentionally. My adult mouth is full of fillings from my youth and therefore it could not bring itself to even ask a friend for a referral for a pediatric dentist until this year, when I noticed that our well water was starting to stain Casey's new permanent teeth.

So I asked around and was referred to a dentist who does not allow parents into the exam/cleaning room while the children are with the dentist. His name is Dr. Gerald Copeland. My friend told me that she hates the dentist, too, and she didn't want that experience for her kids, so somehow she found this dentist and her kids love him. She told me they always come out of their appointments smiling. So I put off making the call for a few more weeks and finally succumbed to mommy guilt last week sometime and called to make appointments for both Casey and Mace.

Here's the bottom line regarding our experience with Dr. Copeland's office today:

This ain't yer momma's dentist.

The waiting room at Dr. Copeland's has a bright red VW Bug sitting in it. When Casey and Mace saw the Bug, they immediately forgot why we were there in the first place (to be fair, Mace had no real concept for what a "dentist" is and probably thought the Bug was the dentist) and started playing in the car. We were a few minutes early and there was only one other person in the waiting room -- a grandmother waiting on her granddaughter who was getting a tooth pulled.

We might have waited five minutes or so before an assistant of some sort came out, smiled (I know! Right?? She works in a DENTIST'S office, does she just not know???), and called the kids back. I sort of halfway got out of my chair before I remembered I was supposed to sit there and act cool and relaxed while the children were led away by the nice lady, but it didn't matter because they both just went on back without even looking at me.

So while my children were in the back, I chatted it up with the grandmother. At one point, the dentist himself came out to the waiting area, sat down with the grandmother and updated her on how the granddaughter was doing. And get this -- her granddaughter had fallen asleep while getting her tooth pulled (or possibly immediately thereafter, but still . . . she's at the DENTIST'S office, how could she not notice???).

After what seemed like only ten minutes, but had to be longer, a different smiling assistant/tech came out and summoned me to the back (again with the smiling employees . . . they work in a house of pain . . . what's wrong with them??). I knew now that my day of reckoning had come and I was about to get what I deserved. They were going to tell me what a horrible mother I was for waiting so late to bring Casey in and he already had eight cavities, etc. My children, I was sure, were huddled crying in a room somewhere, gums bleeding, waiting to accuse me of abandoning them to Dr. Pain.

The assistant led me to a room full of oversized stuffed animals, where I discovered my children, covered in stickers, almost bouncing off the walls with happiness, while they rummaged through their goody bags. What the heck? They were at the DENTIST'S! How could they not know?

The assistant then talked with me for several minutes about the kids x-rays and gave them both brushing grades (Mace got a B -- so that's really me getting a B, since I'm the one actually brushing his teeth these days; Casey got a B minus and that's all him; I was fine with these grades while I was there, but then later I wondered: do they ever really sit in that room and tell a mom that her child gets a D minus for brushing? I'm doubting it, and I'm thinking that B minus just might be as low as they go because it's low enough to get your attention, but not so low that you'll be humiliated and not come back). She then informed me that Casey did not have any cavities. I was shocked -- how was it possible that I was not being punished for my failure to properly parent? What kind of game were these people playing at?

And then the dentist himself came in and he was . . . cheerful. And really really nice. And he kept smiling. How is that possible? Does he not know that, as a group, dentists make up a very large percentage of suicide deaths? What is wrong with these people? He answered all my questions and spent quite a bit of time with me and the boys. I don't think he stopped smiling the entire time. It was absolutely surreal -- nothing like the torture chamber I remember from my childhood.

I suppose it's possible that there may be a liberal use of nitrous oxide among both the staff and the patients at this office . . . but even if that is true, I'm okay with that. It doesn't seem to be interfering with anyone's ability to do their jobs -- my kids' teeth were quite clean -- and no one was laughing uncontrollably, so what's the harm, really?

When we left, I didn't even have to take the kids to get ice cream or a toy as a reward for being so good at the dentist's. They just wanted a few more minutes in the waiting room to play on the Bug -- they weren't at all afraid that the dentist would come out and get them again and drill some holes in their teeth.

That's just weird.


  1. I love going to the dentist and having my teeth cleaned! I would do it every couple months if I could afford it. Leah likes going too!

    p.s. I have at least 6 fillings and two root canals and two crowns. I did NOT like those dentist visits!

  2. I told you Dr Copeland was wonderful!! Your Blog is hilarious. I was laughing but also tearing up nervously about what I was going to read next. Yes, anything to do with dentists does that to me :) You should print your Blog post and give it the Dr. It is great! I am glad you had a good experience !

  3. Now I know why you can't watch the movie "Novocane"...

  4. Just thinking about that movie makes me nauseous.


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