Does anyone remember ever going to a pediatric dentist as a kid? Such things didn’t exist for my generation growing up. I think we all went to the same type
of dentist – whichever one mom and/or dad were already seeing (or insurance covered). I remember the dentist office I visited for years in Concord, California was anything but kid-friendly – except for the cheap plastic toys they would give us when the appointment was done. There was nothing fun about going to the dentist in those days and there wasn’t much thought given to creating practices specifically around children’s dental care.
Well that has (thankfully) changed and there are now such options for our kids.
First a confession: Renee and I were so freaked out about how much work/trouble it would be taking Stone to a dentist we procrastinated the inevitable first visit for the twins until this past October. I just knew it would be an ordeal and even though I like my local dentist in Edmonds, I just didn’t know how it would go if I brought the twins in. I mentioned this to my hygienist and she mentioned that there was a pediatric dentist practice here in Edmonds – a place designed specifically for kids. I had never heard of such a thing – but it sounded ideal for the boys. So I made the appointment and brought the boys in for their initial checkup.
I was immediately impressed with Pacific Pediatric Dentistry. The waiting area is bright and has lots of toys (and large screen TVs with “Cars” playing non-stop). The boys were excited to be there – which was great. After getting set up with insurance, etc. we were then led to the patient area and again, I was impressed. The staff sets up each examination chair/table for each child – pillow pets with “Welcome Stone and Ty’s” name written on the paper dentist bibs greeted each of them. I stayed with Stone while Ty got settled into on of the exam chairs with one of the assistants. They leaned him back and put on cool sunglasses and headphones and he was thrilled to be watching an high definition TV on the ceiling! His examination went very well and they discovered a couple of small cavities which would require a follow up appointment.
Stone was a challenge (as expected). He didn’t want to have anything to do with someone looking into his mouth and was very unsure of the whole situation. But the staff was obviously very well experienced with difficult/scared kids and they remained calm and upbeat throughout the examination. We eventually had Stone sit on my lap (facing me) and he then could lean back into Dr. Sun’s lap where he was able to look into his mouth and do a quick check up. Unfortunately, the news was worse for Stone – he has major cavities and decay in his lower molars. Dr. Sun said this was probably due to Stone’s non-stop snacking habit. Since he consistently was eating, it was very easy for bacteria to build up and remain – even though we were diligently brushing his teeth daily. The cavities were severe enough to require silver fillings and given Stone’s condition, would also require anesthesia for the procedure to be performed.
Ty’s follow up appointment was easier to schedule since he only had a couple of minor cavities that needed repair and they told me they would only give him laughing gas to help “take the edge off.” Even though Ty wasn’t too excited about going back to the dentist again so soon, he actually was a real trooper once we got there. Again, the staff did a great job and customized the procedure for kids. The gas mask they used was dressed up like a clown’s nose and he was able to pick the “funny smell” he wanted (he chose bubblegum). Again he got to don the cool sunglasses and headphones and watched TV as Dr. Sun performed the 30 minute procedure. It went off without a hitch.
Because Stone’s next visit would require the anesthesiologist, we had to book it out in advance. Originally it was scheduled for January 10th but we were able to move it to December 9th. We could tell that Stone was clearly in some pain when chewing some food (or gum) and we wanted to get his teeth fixed as soon as possible. Both Renee and I were very nervous heading into the procedure. Naturally we didn’t like the thought of Stone getting knocked out with drugs but we knew and understood this was the only option available. But we were mostly nervous about one key logistical issue: Stone couldn’t eat or drink *anything* for 12 hours before his procedure (due to potential complications and issues with anesthesia) – and his appointment wasn’t scheduled until 12:30 pm. We didn’t know how we were going to keep him from eating or drinking all morning up until that time. A few days before the appointment, the dentist office called and said they now had an 11 am appointment and we jumped on that – anything earlier would be that much easier. The day before his appointment they called again – they had an 8 am appointment open up. Excellent! Suddenly the no eating/drinking challenge didn’t seem so daunting.
At 8 pm the night before his appointment we took away all his cups and snacks and he went to bed without any problems around 9 pm. We were ready for the big day until Stone woke up at 2 am – and couldn’t go back to sleep. Suddenly we were faced with keeping him occupied/busy for a number of hours – and to do it without giving him snacks or anything to drink. Renee and I tag teamed staying up with him so we both could get some sleep and even though it was a challenge (he kept asking for snacks) we made it through 8 am and both brought him in. Dr. Sun and Dr. Lee (the anesthesiologist) both came out to talk to us and explain what to expect throughout the procedure. They were very thorough and informative. Stone would get a shot in the waiting room and fall asleep on my lap and they would then bring him back to the patient area. Due to the level of medical equipment neccesary, they ask parents to wait in the reception area. After the procedure is complete they would bring us in back to one of the exam chairs, and they would bring Stone out and place him in our arms so he’d wake up as he fell asleep.
It was a little hard seeing Stone get knocked out so quickly by the first shot and watching them carry him to the back. But both Renee and I were very confident that he was in good hands. After the procedure was complete Dr. Sun came out to debrief us. He said everything went as well as expected but unfortunately he found more decay in the gums and this required him to perform a couple of root canals on Stone. This meant he would be a little more sore than usual and would impact his recovery a bit. He said it wasn’t that unusual to have to do this with kids (although it was the first time I’d heard of such a thing) and said this will hopefully allow us to buy enough time with one molar in particular – for the permanent molar to properly grow behind it and replace it eventually.
Stone came out of his slumber and we brought him home. Since he had woken up at 2 am he was especially tired (and cranky) for most of Thursday as he recovered. But by that evening he was back to his usual happy self – dancing and laughing while watching TV. It was great to have him back – and the experience and trauma of our first dentist visits behind us.