Friday, July 9, 2010

Attachment Dentistry?

I took two of my kiddos to the dentist today to have some cavities filled. Apparently they inherited their dad's cavity-prone gene. Poor kids, this is my 7 year olds 2nd cavity. Her first was about a year and a half ago. The day I took her in for the filling, she was happy and unaware that going in to take care of her "sugar bugs" was any big deal at all. She climbed into the dental chair and was really doing okay until the dentist said, "now, I don't want you to be scared.." Great. What a stupid thing to say! She immediately began to cry and reach out for me so I sat at the edge of the chair and comforted her and reassured her. The dentist immediately started to say "if you keep crying, your mommy will have to leave, you don't want to make your mommy leave do you"? That woman was so anxious about filling this child's tooth that she spilled it all out all over my daughter! I told her, the dentist, in no uncertain terms "I'm not going anywhere. She just needs to be reassured". I still kick myself that I didn't walk out of there right then but we didn't and she got through the appointment. We never went back.

Since then, I've found a really wonderful pediatric dentist who takes the time to show the children all of the equipment, lets them explore, etc... until he sees that they are okay and comfortable. He's a relationship-based practitioner rather than a distraction practitioner, which I really appreciate because that's hard to find! (He's a little bit of eye candy for momma too, so bonus) I told him and his assistant today about what had happended with the last dentist threatening her with making me leave. The dentist took extra time and was great.

Just before starting the procedure he stepped out of the room for a minute and the assistant apparently felt the need to defend her unknown colleague . "We've done that too here, the kids usually stop crying. Lots of time they just cry because their mom/dad is right there, once they leave they are fine. And this one (the dentist) doesn't like the wrap either (some sort of child straightjacket) but once another dentist found out that you have to use them because the kid moved and she cut his cheek real bad".

My exact response: Please don't ever do that again then. A cut cheek will heal but, as you can see with my daughter, fear and anxiety from being threatened with the violence of abandonment, or worse, subdued and physically held down at the moment when a child needs security the most is emotional blackmail at best and abusive. Children don't cry or cling to their parent for no reason, or worse, as a way to manipulate you. They are scared for a reason and that reason should be honored and discovered. Don't ever do that to a child again. Please.

The dentist came back in then and she buried her head in her tasks and never said a word to me. My daughter willingly and happily had her tooth filled. The dentist said "I'm so proud of you" over and over. It was beautiful. I thanked the doctor and told him I appreciated that he had respected my daughter enough to give her his time and attention. I thanked the assistant too. I don't know for sure but I think a little seed of knowing took hold in her - I doubt she'll ever threaten a child again without at least thinking twice.

As a mother I see it all too often how deeply society believes the worst of children and how quickly violence is enacted upon children as some sort of solution. It is very insidious. I'm glad that things went well for my children today and that I also had a chance to maybe make a difference for another child in the future. I'm going to write a letter thanking the dentist for his compassion, he likely needs the support and encouragement to continue on this path. I'd like to also add in some references for him to share with the staff about being mindful in their work with children. Any suggestions?

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