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Fighting Fear of Dentistry

Big Girl inherited many of my positive traits, but just as many of the negative ones. One such trait is the inability to let others help her. She seems to want to carry the world on her slim little shoulders. Another that goes hand-in-hand with the first: Projection. She is always thinking those what ifs. What if something bad happens? What if I can’t handle it? What if everything goes wrong?

In the past, those what ifs have gotten her kicked out of two dentist chairs. She’s so afraid that something might hurt her that she doesn’t even give the dentist a chance. Granted, the last time she was in a chair she was having a baby tooth pulled, but even that experience is a perfect example of trait one and two taking over. Big Girl wouldn’t let the doctor help her by giving her a needle, and she wouldn’t let me help her relax (until the end). She was also quick to think that it would “really, really hurt,” setting herself up for failure. She shrieked every time the doctor tried to put an instrument in her mouth — even the so-called Mr. Drinker suction tube. (I blogged all about the solution and it’s positive outcome: Me doing Reiki on her while the dentist finally did her stuff. But I digress…)

The tooth pulling was quite a while ago, and since then she’s refused to get her teeth cleaned or checked. Oh, yes, we tried a few months ago, but it just didn’t work. The new dentist wasn’t willing to listen to her hysterics, so we left with dirty teeth (hers) and heavy hearts (mine and hers). Not wanting her teeth to fall out of her head, I recently made another appointment with the old dentist — the one who was Reiki-friendly. Despite the fact, I might add, that the guy who runs her practice charged me an extra $25 for all the Big Girl screaming during the tooth extraction. Why go back to a stupid asshat’s practice? I trust the female associate. I like her. She likes me and trusts me, even agreeing to drill my tooth without Novocaine. (The ability to use meditation instead of medication meant I still felt nothing but I wasn’t numb for hours afterward.) Besides, I don’t ever have to see said asshat again since the female dentist told me to come in on Fridays when she’s the only one in the office. This time, however, we’re going in more prepared.

Since our last visit Big Girl has been seeing a behavioral therapist who — using the pack of tools the nice dentist gave me to “practice” at home with — is helping to minimize Big Girl’s anxiety and acting out. She’s hitting the problem from all sides. First, she actually donned sterile gloves and played dentist with my daughter. She showed her what it would feel like to have the polishing tool touch her teeth and gums. She practiced putting the suction tube under her tongue. She talked about what the instruments would feel like. Then they found relaxation techniques to help with anxiety. They listened to classical music, and the therapist created a ten-minute guided relaxation. She even burned the music and the spoken relaxation onto a CD so we could put it on Big Girl’s iPod and bring it along on D Day. (Dentist Day, of course.) Finally, she encouraged Big Girl to let me give her Reiki as soon as she sits down in the chair since it relaxes and calms her. So far, the plan is on track to work. Even Big Girl is feeling positive about the upcoming appointment. She bounced out of the therapist’s office the other day looking and feeling confident.

The dentist is still a few weeks away, but I feel confident, too, that this proactive, behavioral-based plan is going to help us make it through a cleaning  and check-up with little screaming and crying. After all, Big Girl also inherited my strong willpower and imagination — the same characteristics that got me through two labors using meditation alone. I know she’s got it in her to tackle a little dental work.

Are you afraid of the dentist? How about your kids? How do you handle the anxiety and fear? I’d like to know.

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