As I sit in the waiting room with my daughter, listening to a child moaning and occasionally screaming, my stomach clenches. I glance at my daughter, who is nervously picking at her nails, and I anticipate her screams and tears. This is not our first visit to a dentist, but it will be our third attempt to get both X-rays and cavities filled. Our original dentist was unsuccessful at filling the first cavity, and recommended we take her to someone better equipped to deal with “challenging” young patients.
You know, with drugs.
I grew up with relatively healthy teeth. A few cavities when I was little, but nothing too extensive. I didn’t need braces or a retainer either, so my experiences at the dentist were limited to regular cleanings. Then, my wisdom teeth started making themselves known, and I had an extraction scheduled, at age 20.
It was pure hell. I’m not sure whether my dental surgeon was partially to blame, or whether it was my body betraying me, but the anesthesia didn’t fully work. My wisdom teeth were also gigantic and difficult to extract. My memory of this procedure, 20 years later, is of a dentist hammering away at one of my wisdom teeth, chipping it out, and me calling out through the dental instruments that I could feel everything still, tears streaming down my face.
When I finally healed up, I encountered a different problem altogether: extreme sensitivity at the back of one of my molars. After a year, I decided this wasn’t an acceptable state to remain in, so I went to my regular dentist. After a brief exam, we discovered the issue: the dental surgeon had chipped so hard at my wisdom teeth, he had actually exposed the root of the neighbouring molar. A root canal was necessary, and thus began my aversion to dentists.
Needless to say, when we discovered that my daughter had at least one, possibly several cavities that needed to be filled this year, I cringed. And when she sat in the dentist’s chair, tears streaming down her face and refusing to open her mouth, as a team of dentistry professionals tried to cajole her into getting X-rays, I began to get worried. Two failed appointments later, and we were being referred to a pediatric dentist to deal with all my daughter’s “issues.”
Here’s the thing about pediatric dentists: they’re often the last line of defence for kids who just can’t handle the stress of having dental work done. That means you see and hear kids who are fully and completely freaking out, when you’re there. Kids who have had to take the heavy-hitting drugs for a procedure walk out into the waiting room with their parents holding them up by the armpits, unable to put one foot in front of the other. They’re made to stay in the waiting area, babbling nonsensical things to their parents as they “come down,” in order to be monitored for safety.
Let’s see, listening moaning kids, watching incoherent kids who are unable to walk, combined with a fear of dentists? What could possibly go wrong?
Thankfully, laughing gas worked its wonders on my daughter and she relaxed, once she was coached to breathe through her nose and actually inhale the stuff. We’ve now gotten through several appointments to fill cavities successfully. I only wish they made it available for stressed-out parents as we looked at the final bill, as well.