Preparing for Dental Work
In the world of ‘scary things’ for your kids, nothing elicits quite a response like going to the dentist. It can be quite a nerve wracking experience for your child despite your best intentions to lower the anxiety levels. The good news, though, is that you can do some things ahead of time to help prepare them and set expectations as well as educate yourself so you make the best decisions possible for your child.
Prepare Financially and Mentally
As that parent trying to make the best decisions possible for your child, you are going to have to pull from both financial and mental reserves at some capacity.
Financially you may be buying books, changing your diet to help stop tooth decay, buying holistic products to try to help prevent further cavities or reverse the cavities in your child’s mouth. You may also be scheduling consults with multiple dentists, getting x-rays, getting consults from holistic dentists or joining classes online to learn more about caring for your child’s teeth.
It can be expensive, so prepare to explore options and decide what fits your budget and time constraints, but recognize you may have to stretch your wallet a bit to get everything you need to feel confident about the decisions your making and the pediatric dentist you have selected. The year we had Pickles dental work done we maxxed out our Flexible Spending Account (FSA) and got the dental work and some of the dental products covered that way.
Mentally you will need to prepare yourself for your inner guilt trip. As you read and learn you will inevitably find out that there are things you are doing that have unintentionally contributed to your child’s teeth decay. Maybe it was the gummy snacks they ate regularly or that a lip tie caused breast milk to pool in their mouth during naps which caused decay. You will have to learn to fight that inner chatter, recognize you are doing what you can now and that you can do better going forward. First things first, however, you need to deal with the situation you are currently in.
You will also need to mentally prepare yourself for information overload. Recognize your limitations. Allow yourself to browse books and information, look at specific information related to your specific circumstance, and to not know everything there is to know. Separate information out into ‘information I need to know now’ and ‘information I am interested in looking at in the future.’ Allow yourself to focus.
There is a lot of information waiting to be consumed. Focus on expanding your understanding of dentistry to holistic dental care. Learn about PH levels, Xylitol, Tongue and Lip ties, myofunctional mouth guards, filling options, ozone treatments, silver diamine fluoride, diet changes etc. There is much more to dental work than tradition silver or white fillings or getting teeth pulled and root canaled. See the end of this blog for resources.
Find a ‘Good’ Pediatric Dental Practice
We have gone to three different practices and have driven various distances to ensure we find the right fit. A ‘good’ pediatric dental practice will:
- Answer their phone
- Spend time with you on the phone to answer any and all your questions
- Be compassionate and will not shame you of belittle you
- Have a variety of ways to make your child comfortable (some have themed rooms, give the kids sunglasses to wear, have TV’s on the ceilings with cartoons, allow your child’s favorite stuffed animal, have therapy dogs visiting the rooms, and/or have balloons or a toy chest at the end for the kid to pick out a toy)
- Have a variety of options for your child’s dental work (for example, there are SMART fillings, temporary filling, traditional silver fillings, white fillings and ceramic fillings – each having their own pros/cons)
- Focus on minimally invasive dental work
Once you have found ‘good’ pediatric dental practices, schedule consults in tandem and meet the practices. Do they give you a sense of confidence? Do you trust them? Or are you questioning what they say? Unsure they are suggesting the right course of action? Get as much information as you can from the practices, ask all your questions, and trust your gut intuition as a parent. Get second and third opinions to validate information that you are trusting. Check in with other parents who have had similar work done for the children and get validation that way as well.
Prepare Your Child
Once you have a pediatric dentist identified and have confirmed and validated the work that needs to be done, you can start preparing your child at home for the dental work. This can be done through:
Use the opportunity to engage in imaginative play. Sit on the floor and let your child lay into your legs while they open their mouths and you use different types of toothbrushes to poke around, brush their teeth, floss, count their teeth, etc. Do this multiple times daily. At the end pretend to pick out a toy and make sure they know they did a good job!
At one point we had Bliss Energetics Super Remineralizing Ozonated Tooth Putty that we were using on a couple of Pickle’s teeth and it has a taste to it, so that gave him the opportunity to be uncomfortable with the taste and feeling but having to sit with it and endure it.
Pickles can get anxious quickly if he does not like something and he tends to want to resolve it immediately. For example, with the Bliss Energetics Super Remineralizing Ozonated Tooth Putty I mentioned above he would beg for us to get it out of his teeth and he would use his tongue to try to get it out – or he would ask for water or something to eat to get rid of the taste. One things we found that was helpful was practicing breathing exercises.
Breathing exercises were already familiar to Pickles. We had introduced him to the idea during his temper tantrum stage when we would read Little Monkey Calms Down. Basically, whenever he is getting anxious we repeat the word “breathe” a few times softly and try to count in between breathes so he takes those nice deep breathes and can focus his attention there.
Doing these breathing exercises in preparation for dental work can be helpful because it gives you a tool you can use at home and at the dentist office; something familiar.
As noted above Pickles get anxious about anything he does not like. We knew going into our dental appointment with him that would have nitrous over his nose and numbness and pressure in his mouth (since they were putting a cap on one tooth and doing an extraction). Ahead of the dental appointment we would gently push on his teeth and the roof of his mouth to get him familiar with some of what was to come. We also bought Orajel NonMedicated Cooling Teething Gel to put on his teeth, gums, tongue and lips so that he could taste something weird and have a weird sensation of cooling in his mouth. He hated it initially, but we used the opportunity to practice playing dentist and his breathing exercises.
Within 10 minutes the cooling sensation would be gone and he would exclaim, “It’s gone! How it do that?! It just go away!” We would use the opportunity to remind him whatever he is feeling at the dental office will be like that – temporary.
As a parent you have a lot of knowledge now about what is going on and what to expect. You do not need to share all this information with your child. In fact, you should avoid oversharing. You want to be sure neither of you are obsessing about the dental work that is going to be done. Instead, focus on expectations. Constantly remind your child that:
- The dental work is necessary
- The dentist is going to help them
- You will be there with them
- They can bring their favorite stuffed animal, wear sunglasses at the appointment, watch their favorite show during the work, and/or get to pick a toy out at the end – whatever it is that your pediatric dental office does
- The weird taste and feelings will be temporary
- The process will be quick
- You can do breathing exercises during the appointment if they are anxious
- They will feel better when it’s all done
- They can eat their favorite foods again (cashews and chips for Pickles!)
- Any other positive things you can share – like for us we got Pickles a stuffed toy for after his procedure, so he knows there is a gift waiting for him when he’s finished. And we the dentist let us keep the tooth because Pickles likes gross things and wanted money from the tooth fairy
We also made sure to set expectations with Pickles that he cannot kick or move his head around during the procedure because he’s anxious – otherwise, he will need to come back to do it all over again.
Remember to just keep it positive, despite how anxious or guilty you may feel – your child needs you to exhibit confidence. It is OK to be sympathetic, but make sure that does not become pity for them. Keep it upbeat – “I’m so excited for you! You are going to feel so much better!,” “You are going to do such a great job!”, “Your tooth is getting a crown, like a king!”, “Your tooth is going to be silver like a robot! Are you going to call your nana with that tooth?!”
Preparations for Day-Of and Post-Treatment
Prior to the day of treatment, reach out for support. Ask your friends and family for prayers. We took Pickles to the monastery for a special blessing and had all the monastic communities and our friends and family praying for him.
We also went ahead and bought a special toy for when he got through treatment. He loves Curious George so we found him a Curious George stuffy and that became an incentive to do well (though we had to give it to him during the procedure as what we dubbed an “extraction distraction”).
We also knew we had to find a babysitter for Bacon, because he would turn that dental office upside down in 10 minutes tops if he were on the loose. And we both felt we needed to be there for Pickles so that he had mutual support and some muscle in case we needed to gently restrain him if he was going to kick or squirm and risk danger to himself or others.
When the dental work is done, your child will be on a liquid and soft food diet for a couple of days minimum. Make this exciting by taking your child to the grocery store and letting them pick out their favorite soft foods. Pickles picked out his favorite flavored almond milk yogurts, Jello, chocolate pudding, Go-Go squeezes (which we will use a spoon with because he cannot use suction while recovering), Enjoy Life soft cookies, oatmeal (or as he calls it “oaty-meal”), juice, etc.
Since he will need meals as well we prepared by making a big batch of lentil sweet potato soup the day before. Though it is a bit chunky, we knew we can blend it in the Nutribullet and we did.
For pain relief we picked up a couple homeopathic pain relief treatments from Hylands (Hyland’s 4 Kids Oral Pain Relief – Daytime and Hyland’s 4 Kids Oral Pain Relief – Nighttime) but ultimately decided to also pickup Children’s Tylenol, though we did not want to use it. We decided to give him the Tylenol on the way home so once the numbness wore off Pickles would not be in pain immediately. We wanted him to be comfortable for the first day or two before we switched over fully to the homeopathic treatment (which we gave concurrently with the Tylenol treatment).
Post-Treatment you and your child are going to be flooded with feelings. You are going to be feeling a mix of relief, sadness, guilt, joy, and pride (in your child). Your child is going to be crying and upset most likely. They will need lots of love and positive support along with reminders that what they feel is weird and may feel different, but it is only temporary. By the time we were checking out from the dentist practice we were already getting some laughs making fun of the gauze hanging out his mouth, telling him it reminded us of Bacon trying to eat baby wipes at home.
At home, be lax about rules – let them sit in front of the television and binge watch their favorite shows, spoon feed them as needed, let them nap and sleep with you on the couch or in your bed. Give them lots of love and snuggles! Before long, they will be feeling great and you will be wondering why you were so anxious to begin with!
Books to Consider
- The dental diet : the surprising link between your teeth, real food, and life-changing natural health
- Cure Tooth Decay: Heal and Prevent Cavities with Nutrition
Products we Used and Like
- Bliss Energetics Remineralizing Ozonated Tooth Putty
- Bliss Energetics Super-Remineralizing Toothpaste
- G.U.M. Kids’ Flossers
- Hyland’s 4 Kids Oral Pain Relief – Daytime
- Hyland’s 4 Kids Oral Pain Relief – Nighttime
- Orajel NonMedicated Cooling Teething Gel
- Squigle Jr. Toothpaste
- Spry Kid’s Mouthwash
- Spry Kid’s Tooth Gel with Xylitol
- Spry Xylitol Gems / Mints
- TEPE Angle Interdental Brushes
- TEPE Extra Soft Toothbrush
- Zollipops Xylitol Lollipops
Questions we Asked:.
- What insurance do you accept? What is the cost?
- What sorts of options are available for treatment? Sealants? SDF? Ozone Therapy?
- What types of fillings are available? Do they have resin, composite, glass and/or porcelain? Do they do SMART fillings or temporary fillings? Laser fillings? Sealants?
- Are they good with sensitive anxious children?
- Can they do extractions in the office if it is required?
- What options do they have for relaxation? Can they use nitrous along with Novocain? Are they able to do anesthesia if it was absolutely neccesary?
- What fun things are there about the office? Do they have TVs on ceiling? Therapy dogs? Toy chest at the end? Can the child bring their favorite stuffed animal?
- How long is the first appointment?
- Do they have low radiation xrays?