Fear of Dentists Learned Through Osmosis (Apparently)
May 13th, 2017
I took my kids to the dentist last week. I hadn’t intended to undertake this activity. In fact, I had deliberately scheduled their appointment on a day that their dad has custody so that I wouldn’t have to take them. But The Universe has a twisted sense of humor and I wound up on duty.
My kids don’t like the dentist. And by that I mean that it took me five minutes to extract my youngest child from the car in the parking lot, as she clung to the straps of her car seat and shrieked at the top of her small-yet-powerful lungs.
The television screens in the waiting room briefly distracted my kids, but all too soon the hygienist arrived in the doorway – a large perky smile cunningly disguising her evil intent – and beckoned them into her lair of torment. Or so my children seemed to believe, since two out of the three immediately began sobbing hysterically.
My eldest put on a brave face as she marched toward certain doom but the younger two were less able to conceal their trepidation. We schedule their appointments first thing in the morning not only to avoid missing school but also so that they are less likely to traumatize other children in the waiting room with their unholy screaming. You think I’m joking but I guarantee you that any child listening from the other side of the door would flee in terror.
I’m not sure why they get so worked up about the dentist, since they’ve never had a bad experience there. Well, actually, I do know. It’s apparently genetic although how that trait managed to make its way from my chromosomes to theirs is a mystery to me. Maybe they learned through osmosis? I should have paid more attention in biology class.
Yes, friends. I am also a wimp about the dentist.
I absolutely hate having my teeth cleaned, although – like my children – I have no good reason for this aversion. I’ve never had a cavity in my thirty-five years of dental upkeep, nor any other tooth-related mishaps. But teeth creep me out a bit under the best of circumstances. I have a recurring nightmare where my teeth inexplicably crumble and fall out, and the sound of metal tools against enamel is enough to cause me to convulse in horror. And the buzzing electric toothbrush with the nasty-flavored paste? Shudder.
However, I swear to you – really, truly – that I have kept my intense dislike of the dentist a secret from my children. I never say bad things about the dentist and I lie (through my teeth) whenever they ask me if I like my regular checkups. Yes, of course, I fib brightly. It’s just such a great feeling when your teeth are clean and shiny. Yay! (ick ick ick)
But they are my children and apparently they absorbed my phobia in-utero. It’s really unfortunate because holding down a screaming child while they undergo any sort of medical procedure is profoundly unpleasant. I actually had to chase one of my children around the examine room while threatening to throw away the jar of Nutella in the cupboard, along with all the remaining Easter candy, if said child didn’t get their teeth cleaned. It was the Nutella that convinced them. Life would end if the occasional Nutella sandwich were no longer on the lunchtime menu.
So we prevailed. Three sets of clean teeth with universally good reports. Three new superhero/princess toothbrushes, clutched triumphantly into the hands of three conquering warriors as they sprinted out the door. We’ll be back again in six months. And by “we” I mean my children and their father. I’m absolutely leaving this element of child-rearing in the capable hands of my ex from here on out!