I've mentioned before that Bud's iPod is a great defense against barking dogs. As it turns out, it works on dentists as well.
Bud has actually come a long way from his early dental visits and usually greets the news of a check-up with enthusiasm because he knows that it will end with a very cool toy being produced from the trunk of my car. (Yes, I know this is bribery, but it is effective bribery... though I'm afraid it means I'm going to have to buy him a pony the first time he has to get a cavity filled.)
His visit six months ago was glorious. He had a full dental exam and cleaning without a moment of anxiety. In retrospect, I think that the hygenist for that visit was just a good match for him - she read his cues, she used the right language, and everything clicked.
On Friday Bud had another check-up and though this hygenist was nice and patient and slow, the same magic didn't happen. Bud let the hygenist (the "mother dentist") examine his teeth, but balked when it was time for her to clean them. I think she just used too many words, asked too many questions, and gave him choices about thing that confused him. The turning point was when she starting discussing toothpaste flavors with him - "You can have mint, orange, bubble gum, grape..." - and his anxiety began to build. She told him she would use "the bubble gum," and I think he believed she was going to brush his teeth with actual bubble gum. Bubble gum is an unknown to Bud, and he just decided he didn't want his teeth cleaned after all.
My anxiety began to build at that point as well, and I realized that it was heightened by the horrible music blaring from the radio on the shelf beside my head.
That's when I remembered that I had Bud's iPod in my bag.
In the midst of the "I don't want bubble gum, I want MY toothpaste!" rebuttal, I slipped the headphones over Bud's ears, and he settled right down. The hygenist cleaned his teeth (with her bubble gum toothpaste, but a regular low-tech toothbrush), and Bud didn't protest at all when the dentist (the "father dentist," that is) came in to do the final inspection.
I made mental notes to myself so that for his next visit I'll 1) slip a note to the hygenist ahead of time giving her a few helpful hints about what to say and how to say it, and 2) make sure he has his iPod in place from the start. I'm certain that Bud will look forward to his next visit as well. Despite some minor glitches along the way he ended this one with a smile, bouncing along to the music, making his way to the car... and heading straight for the trunk.