Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Teething troubles

A few of us mothers were discussing the issue of teeth and how to get our kids to visit the dentist without fear. Afterall the fear of dentists is one of the most prevalent phobias, right up there with the fear of public speaking.

I think in Singapore, the fear of dentists can be attributed largely to those very fierce female dentists at the Institute of Dental Health. I remember lying prone in the chair, bright spotlight blaring in my face and a very sharp implement in my mouth. All I could see was a face with a white mask over the mouth and eyes that narrowed with disapproval every time a cavity was found. This would be accompanied by an endless verbal onslaught of how carelessly I'd neglected to brush and floss, making me wish I just could spit out all the gunk and make a run for it (I probably would have if I wasn't so terrified and immobilised).

Going to the dentist during my childhood was a dreaded yearly ritual for me, so I was determined not to let my kids undergo the same ordeal. My current dentist is a super nice guy - he's soft-spoken, gentle and reassuring. Upon his advice, I would bring Lesley-Anne and Andre to him when I went for my checkup, just so they could get used to going to the dentist. They both started going when they were about 3 and he would chat with them, get them to open their mouths and take a look, maybe squirt some water to show that there was nothing to worry about.

But despite all that, Lesley-Anne still developed a fear of dentists. When she was 6, she had to have a little filling and I could see her clutching the side of her chair the whole time. I blame it squarely on the scary, ear-piercing drill. Come on, it sounds like it can penetrate your skull, hard to imagine what it's actually doing to a little piece of enamel!

Once your kids hit primary school, their basic dental problems are taken care of by the school's dental clinic and nurse. This is great news for me as they usually handle all the small stuff like extractions, polishing and minor fillings, so no need for private dental visits. Or so I thought. When Lesley-Anne had a shaky tooth and the permanent one impatiently on the way, we still had to bring her to our dentist, who sweet-talked her and slathered on strawberry flavoured anesthetic before gently extracting the culprit. That'll be $30, thank you.

Andre, on the other hand, surprised me. He has no such qualms about dentists. He didn't understand why all his friends feared the dental checkup and volunteered to go first. In p1, he had two shaky teeth and was whining about how difficult it was to chew his food. I made a passing comment that he should go to his school dentist to have them taken care of. That evening when he came home from school, I was startled when he handed me his two teeth in a little bag. It seems he had nonchalantly made a trip to the dental clinic at recess and said, "My two teeth are shaky, please pull them out for me." Whaaa...t?? Even Kenneth was impressed. Best part, it's free!

I'm resigned to my kids having a long-term relationship with the dentist. Both of them have large teeth and small mouths, never a good combination. Their teeth also seem to be free spirits, sprouting from wherever they feel like it, so braces are inevitable. Ah well, we've still got a few more years, so time to start saving up now.


Alcovelet said...

Sigh, I don't remember my visits to the dentist too fondly, horrors!! And Rk's teeth, well ... Wonder what happened to the days of yore when teeth sprouted happily without asststance? Surely not so mythical, right?

monlim said...

You're telling me, man! Maybe it's another urban legend :P

Lilian said...

No need to extract what, just let it fall off naturally, can? I have a fantastic dentist, super funny guy, whom I've been seeing the mid 1990s. Brian started going there for simple scaling when he was 3+. Sean went for the first time last year. When we're abroad, don't ever see dentist, too expensive. Till now, no cavities for both of them yahooooo. Some more never brush teeth at night, are we lucky or what? haha.

Brian's teeth have all fallen by themselves, we never extract, not one. He leaves them alone till the last dangling bit...and once I think he swallowed a tooth while eating! I was told you should try not to extract a loose tooth, cos the permanent tooth needs to be guided out by that tooth so it won't be crooked. Something like that. Sean's teeth are all still intact, nothing loose yet.

But Andre is fearless. Truly.

monlim said...

Usually can let it fall out by itself, but according to my dentist, you'll need to extract if you can see the permanent tooth coming out and the milk tooth still hasn't dropped. Otherwise the the new tooth will look for another gap and may grow crooked.

Great that Sean's teeth haven't dropped yet. In this respect, I think the later the better!

Alcovelet said...

Yeah, apparently the later the better cos the permanent set doesn't have to last as long. Lucky Sean!

Anonymous said...

I was one of the few girls in school who had removable braces. They were like dentures and gave you a lisp !

Nowadays braces are so funky - I bet they don't hurt as much too. I used to dread my return from each dental appt - ouch...please don't tighten them so much.

DD1 recently came back from her first school dental visit and proudly proclaimed that she got her very wobbly front tooth removed & it didn't hurt ! Sometimes that highly sensitive child surprises me with how brave she can be ! With our family dentist we all have to rally around her and hold her hand just for a simple checkup.

monlim said...

Jo, hooray for your little girl! Yup, sometimes they can be so mature they surprise us :)

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