Empowerment at the Dentist’s Office

The night before my son’s tooth extraction I split my time between agonizing over my failure to protect his sweet little teeth and the idea of general anesthesia for his extraction. The horrors of putting my son to sleep quickly outweighed my guilt over stringent brushing.

I googled tooth questions past midnight. I followed this with a massive dose of cute animal videos ( me in kitty format! ) until I felt sleepy.

Early the next morning, Liev became the heart of a swirl of blond hygienists. Four or five women flitted about. I could not tell them apart. They looked like sisters and aunts at a dental family reunion.

As a nurse lectured my husband about the various options for Liev’s procedure, I added my blondness to the circling extraction maelstrom. Egor came to Liev and asked him if he would like to try “laughing gas” and stay awake or take a shot to relax or have a “house” (IV for anesthesia) and sleep.

This raised eyebrows—our culture assumes five-year-olds can’t decide things for themselves. Yet, a deep part of our parenting philosophy is empowerment. Papa’s idea was to give Liev some control over what was happening to him. This would make the experience less frightening.

Liev chose laughing gas and a numbing shot.

I held Liev’s hand and talked about Grandma and Grandpa and their scuba diving adventures as they administered the gas. Liev soon released my hand and the hovering aunties took over. The tooth was removed in minutes.

Liev is now unafraid of the dentist. He made a little if-then flow chart of what will happen at his cleanings and fillings. I plan to take the same approach to tooth brushing. We will have toothbrush choices and toothpaste choices. We can brush our teeth in the bathroom, TV room or by the mailbox.

Twice a day. We can do it.

7 thoughts on “Empowerment at the Dentist’s Office

  1. Fantastic collage! and I love how the whole dental visits sounds like a fairy tale…:

    They looked like sisters and aunts at a dental family reunion.

    1. Thank you Mados! That was completely unintentional, but now I do see it! Usualyy the only way I can tell new people apart is by their hair or teeth. I took me all school year to tell Tyoma’s para-educators apart since they were both brunette with sparkly straight teeth. 🙂

      1. Their teeth;-) that’s funny too. It must be extra hard, then, to tell dental hygienists apart. I have noticed in that profession all staff tend to have unusually regular, perfect, standardised teeth. They don’t make it easy for people;-)

  2. Love if-then flow charts… my favorite lesson learned in coding and they are great for life’s situations and thinking through potential outcomes. Go Tyoma. And go mom and dad for supporting Tyoma by giving him the power and ownership that comes from choice. So glad the crucial lesson of personal responsibility won’t be lost on him like it seems to be on so many. 🙂

    1. Thank you! I was once an electrical engineer in training. I loved Boolean algebra–the sweet orderly language of consequences!

      I appreciate the support for our parenting. We rarely have a one-size fits all approach to anything, since so many factors play into every choice. Behind it, we hope to encourage a strong self-advocating child. With Asperger’s, you can feel so lost socially and no one else understands because they have their feet planted so firmly. With all the autism awareness, people are pleased to help since they know what to do.

  3. Awesomeness!! (All around, collage, post, wonderful parenting skills, amazing story telling – you name it.)

    I am a firm believer in child empowerment. We give our guys the choice too in many situations. Some of course, a parent needs to decide, but we explain the reason for our decisions and try to help them engage in our reasoning. Ask questions! (Even if it drives me all nutty!) 🙂

    So happy to hear that there is no fear of the dentist.

    1. Thank you for commenting Angel! Your perspective always cheers me.

      I agree that a parent sometimes needs to make the decision. Then our task is to prepare a child for what is going to happen. I am proud of my husband for the way he coped with the situation.

      My parents were wonderfulwhen it came to empowerment and helping me make decisions. My Mom always set aside special time to explain things to me. I don’t think I ever asked a serious question without a thoughtful response.

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