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.