My Mommyology

Learning from Motherhood.

What I’ve Learned About Pediatric Dentists

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I learned a lot of new things today when I took Sam to her first pediatric dentist visit here in Chapel Hill.

My Mommyology Finding Nemo Dentist

Even in Finding Nemo, the dentist is hilariously scary too!

First of all, I’d have to say my perception of dentists growing up was not the best.  It may have come from my own very first visit (at least the one I can remember) to my grandmother’s trusted veteran dentist (he was pretty much her age – go figure).  The room was dark, the chair was big and the tools looked scary.  Worst of all there were whizzing and drilling sounds coming from the other cubicles, which can make any child’s imagination run wild.  I guess it didn’t help either that back then, the “young once” would use scare tactics to keep your oral hygiene in check.

Haunted by these memories, I waited until the very last instance that I possibly could to take Sam on her first visit (Our pediatrician had to tell me on our 2nd year check-up, “it’s about time you went.”).  As it turns out, it wasn’t half as horrifying as I’d anticipated.

Learning #1:  Pediatric Dentists exist! That’s something I never really knew; to me a dentist is a dentist is a dentist.  Apparently there are a pedia-dentists in Manila too (I thought it was only here in the states), and for some reason it is not common knowledge.  In fact I think a lot of my mommy friends take their children to their personal dentists.  Which brings me to my next point…

Learning #2:  Pediatric Dentists are not a common topic amongst moms. Strangely enough I feel that with the many discussions I’ve had with my contemporary mommies, the topic never came up.  That baffles me since we normally talk about everything and anything when it comes to our kids.  Is it because we think there is no difference between our dentist and one for infants and toddlers?  But… (next point)

Southern Village Pediatric Dentistry Waiting Room

A shot of the waiting room

Learning #3:  There is a difference. The experience alone says it all. So we went to the Chapel Hill Southern Village Pediatric Dentristy, and their office had a waiting room filled with toys and a tree with colorful things hanging from it (Their office website pictures don’t do it justice — I must make a mental note to bring the camera next time). Then they took us to a private room, which was filled more with toys and books than dental instruments.  It looked like a playroom with toothbrushes and a computer, instead of a dentist’s office with toys.  It was the friendliest set-up I’ve seen.  You couldn’t hear what was happening in the other rooms too, so it wasn’t scary in the slightest.

There wasn’t even a dentist’s chair.  When it was time to brush Sam’s teeth, the office assistant made me sit on one ottoman while she sat opposite me on the other, and she put this nicely soft smaller version of a changing mat on our laps.  We were suddenly a makeshift dental chair for people 3ft and below (I wish I had a picture!).  Sam didn’t complain — in fact she willingly opened her mouth to get it brushed, and then flossed.  Apparently, we must floss toddler teeth at least once a day (did you know that?).

Then the dentist came in to count her teeth, check for cavities and put a fluoride coating with what looked like a paintbrush.  They constantly engaged her in what they’re doing in an effort to keep her calm.  Sam cried more because her playtime was disrupted, than from anything they did to her.  After, we were declared cavity-free, and Sam received her toothbrush, toothpaste, a sticker, and a rubber toy fish.  She also got her name on a leaf — which she hung on the office cavity-free tree as we walked out.

I think I only started to have a good experience with my dentist in 2005.  I was 28, and I never took home a rubber toy fish.

Learning #4:  Positive associations last. I was told that a pediatric dentist in Manila said it’s okay for a child to scream after being pinned down on a first visit.  According to my source, her daughter was traumatized by the experience.  Of course it’s not okay!  There is something in that little brain of theirs that will re-trigger the memory or the feeling, and then you are screwed for life.  I think that’s what happened to me.  Conversely, Sam said to me as we paid the bill, “did you have fun at the dentist Mommy?”, which by her sentence structuring standards, meant it was a pleasant experience after all.

I realize that here, the doctors, dentists and nurses make such a conscious effort to ensure the children aren’t anxious or scared from their visits, no matter what procedure is done.  It is light and fun and easy and not just a routine on another client.  They treat the kids like little people (as it should be!), and don’t just talk above their heads to their parents, which is how I feel a lot of the practicioners back home do it.

There is a lot to be learned from a pediatric dental visit, even for mommies like me.  Well, there’s always a first time for everything.

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Author: mymommyology

I am the mom that I am because of my two wonderful little girls. They teach me everyday.

12 Comments

  1. My daughter didn’t even want to enter the dentist’s clinic when we went. It’s like there was an aura of terror around it, even if she didn’t have any experience yet? Could it be that she had a sixth sense of all the trapped children’s screams?? I am never going back to that pedo-dentist we went to before. My daughter is traumatized. So every time we have a cleaning, we just bring her along to get her familiarized with the environment. Hopefully, one day, she will be ok to sit down in the chair.

    With pedo-dentists (i’m not exactly sure of the spelling) here though, it still looks like a normal office. I haven’t tried the one in Mega Mall though. It looks like a playroom.

    • It’s so hard to un-traumatize them when they’re already traumatized to begin with! The dentist chair and the tools palang are a lot to take in, what more pa the way you’re treated. Well maybe that’s why pedo-pedia? dentists there aren’t very different from the regular ones, when they should be!

      Someone also mentioned the megamall office to me. The playroom helps – but the toys have to be clean!

  2. hey jen, what a coincidence! julia is also a new patient at southern village and we have an appointment for next tuesday! 🙂

    just to share my experience with pediatric dentists in the philippines. in 2006, before we left manila and knowing we were going to a country with less than ideal medical and dental care, i took julia to a pediatric dentist in manila (somewhere in the fort; dentist came most highly recommended by my gum doctor and the internet) for a very thorough cleaning. it was great because they had a lot of toys in the reception area and let her play there for a while even though her appointment time had started to run. they tried to build trust with her talaga. and then, while they have a dentist’s chair, they had her sit on my lap the whole time they cleaned her teeth. they warned me that if she did not seem ready, they’d stop because the most important thing is that she should not be traumatized. they did not give her a toy afterwards, though. ha ha ha. we’ve gone to other dentists since then but julia has always enjoyed every one. i agree with you, that first visit is really critical in shaping the kid’s perception about dentists.

    • Hi Karen! I think I did see that group in the Fort on the website when I was looking. It’s good to know there are offices (and doctors!) like that too at home.
      Actually this one had a dentist’s chair miniature version — for bigger kids, but it was in the bigger kid area so we didn’t use it. =)

  3. I love it! That’s the way to go… and the office without the dentist chair is awesome! Btw MY own dentist specializes in pediatric dentistry and I still go to her upto now! Haha! Great post!!!

  4. How I wish pediatric dentists already exists during my childhood days! lol!

    At some time of my life I develop a “fear” on dentists that makes me hate visiting their clinic, I know that its because of that very bad experience that I got back then.

    I am already at my mid 20 when I finally overcome the fear…haha although sometimes the bad memory still visits me. Huh!

  5. Our smile is the first thing other people will notice in us. We can change other people peoples moods and cheer them up when we smile because it;s contagious. So, smile is vital in interacting people around us.

    That is why proper attention to our oral health is very essential. We should be more concern on our teeth to be more confident to smile and to make it more sincere. Visiting a dentist on a daily basis is needed to achieve it. If we notice that there is something wrong with our teeth, immediately consult a dentist for actions, thus, avoiding complications.

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