Going to the dentist is the last thing most people want to do. For adults, it can rate up there with a colonoscopy. For kids, who don’t know what a colonoscopy is, it’s just the worst. Tears unleash, nerves are frayed and blood pressure is increased upon entering the parking lot, no matter the age of the patient.
The great thing about a pediatric dental practice is that they try every conceivable way imagined to get the work done in the easiest, gentlest way possible. Adults and children are completely different, so it stands to reason that a kid’s dentist would be kid-friendly. Having said that, it’s STILL scary for children to have their teeth cleaned and/or cavities filled … especially if a boy or girl has been in the hospital recently, had blood taken ever in their lifetime, had immunizations that morning, or has an older sibling that has told them scary stories about what is going to happen. All things considered, I LOVE working with kids and teeth. (I would probably do it for free, but please don’t tell my boss.)
Parents typically want to comfort their children in some way when they’re nervous at the dentist. They truly know the kids will survive, that this is just a tiny hiccup in their life but knowing what to do in the scary moment is the pickle. Do you talk sternly? Do you give in and reschedule for another day? Do you promise a Nerf gun, Barbie doll, Playdough, Mr. Gatti’s, etc.? Do you give them the stink-eye? An owner’s manual would have been very handy to come out with the baby in the maternity ward.
Not long ago, I was preparing to clean a 5-year old’s teeth. I could tell she was nervous, so I wooed her to the chair talking at length about her pretty outfit, school and Christmas. I showed her the toothbrush we were going to use and she chose a flavor of toothpaste. Then, I gently leaned her back in the dental chair. I sang ABC’s and the Baby Shark song as we brushed with the toothbrush. It was going very well, I thought. I showed her the electric toothbrush, telling her it was made of baby doll rubber. I called it the “tickle toothbrush”. She became unhinged. “I’m afraid! I’m afraid!” she wailed.
Nothing I said helped in any way. She continued to cry out, “I’m afraid! I’m afraid!”
Her dad came over. He bent down on his knees beside her. In perhaps the softest voice I have ever heard, he quietly said, “It’s OK. It’s OK. You are alright. I’m right here.”
I was spellbound as I listened to him comfort her. He was completely calm. His words were so tender yet filled with strength. (I can still hear his voice in my head.) He didn’t tell her she didn’t have to do it or that he would buy her a toy. He comforted her with his presence.
I hear kids comforted/encouraged every day, but this Dad stopped me in my rolling chair. And now I know why.
That is exactly what my Heavenly Father does to me. I may not have a conniption in public, calling out loudly, “I’m afraid! I’m afraid!” but I certainly do that inside from time to time. Don’t you?
Just like the dad with the little girl, MY Father bends down and whispers into my heart, “Be still, I am here,” quieting the storm raging inside me. He doesn’t promise me life will be fun or that I won’t be afraid sometimes. What He DOES promise is that He will be with me through the fire, the flood and anything else a day can bring.
As I sat in my chair that day, I immediately thought of Zephaniah 3:17. (It’s marked in my Bible as “Best Verse Ever.”) “The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
He will quiet you with His love. Mmmm. That’s my very favorite today.
You might not have grown up with the kind of dad that would bend down and whisper comforting words in your ear or maybe you did. It’s good to know, no matter our age, that we have a Heavenly Dad Who is always there.
Dawn Reed is a pastor's wife and dental hygenist in Prestonsburg, Ky.