You really can’t blame kids for hating hospitals and doctors. They only visit the place and see their docs to get their shots or when they’re sick (in which case they get more shots). They’re poked and looked at by strangers wearing strange masks who ask you what hurts over and over and over again.
Our visits to St. Luke’s fortunately have always been relatively easy because DW has always been fuss free and calm when we have to go for check-ups and yes even if we’re rushing him to the ER. Save for that one phase when DW would always cry when we’d go to his pedia’s clinic after his doctor cleaned his ears (nagulat kasi sya haha) nowadays our trips to the ER, to the dentist and to DW’s pedia have all been smooth sailing (of course the anxiety and worrying over a kid that’s being rushed to the ER is an entirely different matter). DW has always been steady. We didn’t think much about it though until we went to DW’s dentist for the first time.
During our first visit, our dentist, Dra. Fatima Sevilla-Dizon asked DW if he’d like to sit down on the chair. I sat DW down and stepped back a couple of feet away from him. I was nervous.
(Nowadays, DW sits on my lap because he needs to sit still long enough for his procedures)
Dra. Dizon was wonderful with DW and was sooo patient. She explained to DW and to us what she will be doing, what she wants done and she also gave us reminders how to care for DW’s teeth. She found abscess on two of DW’s teeth and a procedure similar to a root canal has to be done to save his baby teeth. All I heard at that point was “root canal”. Susmaryosep! 🙁 Anyway, she also showed DW her tools and explained to him what they do. She also took that sprayer thing (I don’t know what it’s called) and she sprayed DW’s arms and fingers so DW would feel that it’s just air. She also had DW feel the electric toothbrush that she will be using to clean his teeth (she changed the head after the demo hehe). It took a lot of time and I was impressed with how gentle and reassuring she was with DW.
Dra. Dizon told us that milk teeth need to be cared for until a kid is around 5-6 years old. Losing milk teeth at an early age forces the permanent teeth to come out earlier than the normal and therefore exposes it to decay long before it’s ready. Also milk teeth guides the growth of adult teeth. In order to protect DW’s teeth the dentist will be applying sealant to some of DW’s teeth to keep bacteria out. I never realized how important milk teeth are before our visit.
DW did so well that Dra. Dizon was able to clean his teeth on that first visit. That was rare according to her because first visits are usually for introducing the kid to the concept of what a dentist does and convincing the kid that everything would be alright. The opening of the mouth and having the doctor probe the teeth are usually reserved for the second and third visits. While Dra. Dizon was cleaning DW’s teeth she kept telling us to reward DW after the visit. DW of course agreed and suggested that we go to Fun Ranch 😛
She also told us that “dentist trauma” is unfortunately so common and therefore establishing a good relationship with a dentist at an early age is very important. While she was cleaning DW’s teeth, she shared with me a couple of tips to make visits much more pleasant. I figured that what she shared could very much apply to visits to the hospital and clinic too.
Tip 1: Positive Association! Do Not Use the Hospital as a Panakot.
She said that it’s the negative association that more or less creates the fear of going to the dentist or a doctor. Saying “sige kapag di ka nag vitamins magkakasakit ka tapos pupunta ka sa hospital” The kid will associate the place as a negative and worse as a punishment. When the kid refuses to brush his teeth, she said, we should avoid saying “sige masisira ngipin mo kaya bubunutin yan ng dentista!” When the time comes that the kid will have to go the dentist, he will feel that he is being punished and that the dentist will take away his teeth 🙁
I have to remind BDW constantly about this. He has used the “sige pag di mo ininom gamot mo dadalhin kita sa hospital” on DW so often already that DW doesn’t want to hear the word anymore. I use “clinic” to refer to hospital now and so far it’s worked. It’s best to tell your yaya about this too. Therefore, visits to the dentist or doctors should be associated with the positive. Doctors and dentists should be talked about as people who help us become healthier. Coming up with a positive spin for everything though is haaard and it’s a really conscious effort. For our visits to the dentist I would usually work up the visit as a big event that I’m excited about. My usual script would go “Hey DW guess where we’re going on Saturday?! We’re going to the dentist!! She’s our friend diba? She helps us have whiter and healthier teeth and she’ll fix what’s bad and make it better…etc, etc.” It’s a song-and-dance routine. Effort talaga but it works.
Tip 2: Parents Be Calm Too
Kids feed off the energy of their caregivers. A frazzled mom/dad or yaya will rattle the kid too. I actually say “YAY w’ere at the dentist!!” upon arriving at the clinic to get DW worked up. At the car, I talk to DW about what’s going to happen, why it has to happen and what could happen” Sample spiel: “DW, diba your teeth were hurting the other day? The dentist will look at your teeth ha. Like what Handy Manny does when he fixes things diba? Remember the book Busy Days? blah blah blah…” Of course it should be a conversation not a monologue. Or pwede rin monologue, it’s possible that I’ve talked DW’s ears off and that he couldn’t wait to get to the dentist to get rid of me haha!
Tip 3: Bring Distractions
A book, a favorite toy or a game may come in handy for an anxious kid. It also keeps them busy during the wait. Dra. Dizon’s assistant Khen, filled a glove with air and gave it to DW to play with while he was in the chair. DW was amazed and distracted. Effective!
My tip: Trust Your Instincts
Of course, you need to be comfortable with the doctor too. I had an unpleasant experience with a neurologist when I had vertigo two years ago who kept cutting me off while I was explaining what happened to me. He was smug and condescending. Needless to say I never went back. It’s the same thing with our kid’s doctors too. If the doc just has no amor , then it’s time to look for a new one. Ask friends and family members about their own doctors. Dra. Dizon was referred to us by DW’s ninong. DW’s pedia and dentist both have deep and calm voices and DW follows everything they say. As in. We love that we can also just text them what’s going on with DW and they would always reply .
DW’s dentist also gives DW a free toothbrush + a sticker after each visit 🙂
I hope you found the tips useful 🙂 How about you moms what tip can you share with other moms out there about making doctor’s visits easy?
(I wrote this post on the third day of our most recent stay at St. Luke’s. Having a kid who’s calm as doctors and nurses hover around his bed is already 50 percent of the battle. We are so proud of you our brave little manong DW. You may definitely ride all the Fun Ranch rides that you want!)