I often find the most enjoyable moments with my children come entirely unexpectedly. I had one such moment the other day in the dentist’s surgery of all places.
I’d booked a check-up for our eldest, Helen, and I. Our baby daughter Elizabeth was too young for a check-up so she sat in the corner and stared in wonderment at all that was going on around her. To my great surprise the little one didn’t even jump or flinch when big sister sent a high-pressure jet of water streaming past her head, but more about that in a moment.
Helen had been quite excited about this appointment. She wanted two things: 1) a sticker proclaiming she’d been to the dentist and 2) to sit in the chair and get lifted “up and up.”
Helen was seen first so both her wishes were quickly granted. The dentist proclaimed there were no signs of decay and that she had a good set of teeth. This was a very pleasing moment. I always get paranoid that we don’t get Helen to brush her teeth for long enough or that she consistently misses patches when brushing so being told all was in order was quite a relief.
With Helen’s teeth inspected, this dentist’s visit descended into a delightful, comedic scene. She asked for a “pink drink” and a glass of mouth wash was duly provided. I told her not to swallow and to spit it into the bowl.
She followed my instructions enthusiastically. About a third of the mouth wash actually ended up in the bowl while the remainder was accidentally spat with some force across the floor. Thankfully the dentist and dental nurse saw the funny side and Helen was given a Disney Princess sticker regardless of the puddle of mouthwash lying at her feet. Little did I realise the fun had only just begun.
It was now my turn to sit in the chair and it was duly lifted into position so the dentist could get to work. The children were both silent and I was feeling quite relaxed.
All of a sudden, however, a familiar face appeared over my left shoulder. My daughter had decided to have a look in daddy’s mouth. What else could the dentist do but ask her to join in so they both had a good look at my teeth.
Eventually my check up was complete and the dentist delivered his verdict. I would require two fillings. This wasn’t the news I needed but my immediate concern was with Helen who was now wielding one of the dentist’s tools and mucking about with a foot pedal that controlled goodness knows what.
“What happens if I press this button?” she asked while playing with a tool that I couldn’t name.
To my great surprise the unflappable dentist replied: “Go on, give it a try.”
Helen was only too happy to do so. It turned out the tool in question was an air hose. Anyone with sensitive teeth will recognise this device as a shot of air to the right tooth can give you quite a wake-up call.
Having discovered what the tool did, Helen promptly used it to blast air into a set of model teeth the dentist gave her. She then asked if she could blast air into my mouth. I couldn’t say no and so I got on my knees and allowed a four year old to blast cold air across all of my teeth, the look on her face one of intense concentration.
By now the dental nurse was in hysterics. It was obvious the job wasn’t usually this unpredictable. Her laughter was a tad premature because yet another mess was about to be deposited on the floor that would be her job to clean up.
This tool that Helen was holding had two buttons. Having discovered what one button did, she now wanted to see what the other small, metal tab would do.
“Daddy, what does this other button do?”
I wanted to tell her it was time to leave. I was about to say something but the dentist answered for me.
“Go on, press it and see what happens.”
My daughter was only too happy to comply. It turned out to be a high-pressure water jet. Okay, yes, it was a small high-pressure water jet but it still had the force to send water flying half-way across the room.
Water was now hurtling towards Elizabeth. Amazingly it missed and she just sat in her seat oblivious to all the commotion and continued playing with a tube of toothpaste that she’d somehow gotten gold of.
The dental nurse was once again in fits of giggles, the paper mask across her face doing nothing to hide this fact. The floor was wet but the dentist was amused. It turns out he has a couple of young children so he is clearly used to this pandemonium.
I was very grateful for his approach. The last thing I want is for my children to fear the dentist. He clearly understood this and was quite happy to let Helen have some fun while she was, effectively, in his care. I very much doubt I’ll have too much trouble getting her to go along to the dentist next time she has a check-up in January. Wish me luck.