I’m totally sold on our pediatric dentist. And not just because his office is a menagerie of distractions—a huge aquarium, a pretend-you’re-driving station, shelves full of books, treasure boxes brimming with cool gizmos like squishy worms and bubble necklaces. The uncomfortable poking and prodding of teeth doesn’t seem nearly so bad when you get to try bubble gum flavored toothpaste and walk out with a sparkly doll purse.

But despite the kid-friendly bells and whistles, I wasn’t so sure my 2.5-year-old Isla would be willing to open her mouth for a check-up. She’s the kind of kid who has a preemptive “no” written in her genetic code. For example, at the pediatrician’s office, the nurse and I have to wrangle her into a two-person straight-jacket hold in order to perform the slightest check on her ears or throat.

Well, apparently our dental practice has a reverse psychology department, too. Because rather than scheduling Isla for an official appointment, they suggested I bring her in to observe her big sister getting her teeth checked. “We’ll ease Isla in and make her familiar with the surroundings so that she’s happy to come back in for her first appointment,” they said. I was curious to see what would happen.

In the waiting room, Isla squealed as she ran around checking out all the toys, making faces at the fish. Then a technician with a Mary Poppins way about her—sweet, with a spoonful of humor—started handing out stickers and giving the “how to brush your teeth correctly” talk to her rapt audience of two. When Mia went in for her X-rays, I had to drag Isla out of the X-ray room because she wanted to wear the bib and “ride” in the chair.

Now here’s where the reverse psychology comes in: “When you’re a big girl, you’ll get to have X-rays just like your sister,” Ms. Poppins said, brilliantly.  {Silent cheer for using the two most powerful words in my parent-to-older toddler lexicon: big girl.} Deny the 2-year-old something, and she will want it that much more.

Of course that did it. Isla decided right there and then that she was going to become a dental patient whether we liked it or not.

When it was time for the exam with the the dentist, Isla just about leaped into the chair next to her sister, demanding a check up too. The dentist, clearly in on the greater plan (that being to make his job a hell of a lot easier by having willing patients), said, “Well Isla, I supposed we can take a look at your mouth just this one time. And then when you’re a big girl, you’ll get to come back for your very own check up.”


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Comments (2)


  1. Posted by: Julia

    Simply brilliant. I wish my memories were half as good, and I’m really wary of the day I’ll have to take my child to the dentist.

  2. Share! Share! Who is this magic dentist?

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