Tikoy’s first dental check-up had been postponed for two years. Thankfully, we were able to check it off our list last week! We prayed for a great pediatric dentist who works well with children, and God answered it.
Why is this a big deal? Because it is a big deal! The first dental check-up will influence our little boy’s paradigm towards dental care, so it had to go as well as possible.
Here’s how we prepared for it:
1. We informed our son. It’s better than gulatan (being shocked). Our son appreciates the conditioning whenever we do something significant (in this case, his first dental check-up). So we told him about our upcoming visit a week ahead and prepared to answer his questions truthfully. Some of his qualms might be like, “What will happen?” “What will they do to me?” and “Will it hurt?”.
It’s always better to set kids’ expectations because it prepares them for it, even if it means having to experience a little pinch or an injection. Role-playing worked well for us, where his dad pretends to be the doctor and performs the routine from checking his weight to concluding the visit with a respectful sawasdee krub.
2. Don’t scare them. In the Philippines, it’s common to make children obey by saying, “Sige ka, papa-injectionan kita!” (I’ll have you injected!), or something to that effect.
It’s a bad idea because it creates a stigma around these professionals who are there to help. Later in life, we’d want our kids to always seek sound medical advice whenever health-related concerns arise, even as a preventive measure.
3. We informed our doctor. We think doctors appreciate it better when they know how to engage with their patients. We tell them about our concerns and goals for the check-up, and how our son reacts to things. In our case, we let them know he likes to be told what to expect, so the doctors set them, like, “This stethoscope will be a bit cold”; “I’ll put this dental mirror inside your mouth, but it won’t touch your teeth.”; “You’ll have your flu vaccine shot today, and it will hurt a little bit, but it will be gone before you know it.”
4. We affirm what went well. We thank our son for behaving well after a check-up. Simple things like, “Thank you for behaving well at the clinic!”, “We’re so happy you raised your arms when your doctor asked you to!” or “You were so brave when the nurse injected the vaccine!” It boosts their self-confidence, and they would look forward to doing them again in the future.
5. We process the not-so-good experience. We do our best to empathize with our son (and it’s a lot of work, phew!), and we can see it’s worth it. Acknowledging his fears and validating his feelings have been very helpful in managing many things. Little kids can’t process big feelings yet, so let’s not meet them with scolding and punishment.
One scenario was when Tikoy had his first vaccine shot in Thailand (in a different hospital), and I couldn’t accompany him because of the restrictions. He had to go to the vaccination room with only the Thai nurses and an interpreter. Of course, he cried. I would be scared, too, if I was suddenly on my own in a foreign clinic and couldn’t understand a word.
After that, we hugged him (seeing his tears) and said, “That must have hurt! I’m sorry I couldn’t come with you.” He retold his experience in tears, but he felt much better afterward.
Note: Acknowledge its realities (i.e., it does hurt, and it will happen again), and do not try to water it down by, “It’s not that painful!”
6. Ask for recommendations from other parents. This is where the community steps in: ask for recommendations from fellow parents. Some would have enough experience to know who’s great with kids or where the service is better. For the past two medical professionals for Tikoy, we sought a family’s advice and went with them, and it did not disappoint!
Our Son’s Experience
Dr. T stole our little boy’s heart with her gentle demeanor and made the visit fun by allowing Tikoy to be involved in his check-up. Both held a mirror and counted the teeth, and Dr. T prompted Tikoy about what she was about to do (in kid terms) and explained how they should feel.
Since Tikoy’s teeth were in excellent condition, there wasn’t any procedure to be done. And even so, Dr. T said she wouldn’t want to spoil the first meeting with a traumatic experience.
Praram 9 (Also Rama 9) Hospital is an award-winning medical facility with outstanding medical services and facilities.
99, Bangkapi Subdistrict, Huai Khwang District, Bangkok 10310