Thursday, January 14, 2010

French dentistry

Today Griffin and I made a trip (at last) to the dentist.

For some reason, dental hygiene has never made it to the top of my list of parental priorities.  Yes, my kids brush their teeth but actually going to the dentist doesn’t happen very often and flossing? Well, we won’t go there.  In fact, Griffin has never been to the dentist before today and Callie only went one time, and the motivation then was that she had knocked her tooth out while playing out on the circle.   As for Zander.  Well, at 8 years old I think he’s gone twice or maybe three times, because it was required at school.

I’m really not sure why I don’t think of the dentist more often.  It’s definitely not because I’m afraid.  In fact, I’ve never had a cavity and the only significant dental experience of my life was when I had my wisdom teeth removed at age 16.  That was the only time in my life I’ve gone under anesthesia (until I was 28) and I remember thinking it was fun to be so woozy.  I also remember the happy times afterwards, convalescing at home for 2 or 3 days with my mother bringing me things like dark chocolate caramel milkshakes while I lay on the couch under the afghan watching TV and popping codeine.

I think the reason I don’t go to the dentist is the same reason I haven’t cut my hair since Griffin was born (and btw, Callie has never had a haircut, ever).  I’m lazy. Also, I hate being lectured about how I really need to be better at taking care of my teeth.

I know, however, how important dental care is for the kids and figured it would be cheaper here than in the US so I finally got up the energy to make appointments for the whole family (had to wait about 2 months).  Griffin and I went today and Daddie, Callie and Zander are slated for tomorrow.

I neglected to mention anything about the dentist to Griffin until last night. 

Mom: “Hey Griffin, guess where we are going tomorrow?”

Griffin (excitedly): “Where?”

Mom: “To the dentist!”

Griffin (still excitedly): “What’s a dentist?”

So, I explained the dentist was a doctor that keeps your teeth healthy etc… etc….  I told him they would look at his teeth, take some pictures of them and clean them super good.  (I didn’t mention a prize since who knows if French dentists do prizes?)

We got there and were called, with basically no waiting, right into the office.  At first glance, it looked just like a dental chair in the US… and then it got weird.

The dentist sat me down to give me a talk about dentists.  He explained that there are 3 kinds of visits to the dentist in France.

1. Urgent (i.e. I knocked my tooth out)

2. General (these take 10 minutes and they look at your teeth and maybe scrub them a bit)

3. Other procedures (this is if they find a cavity or other problem – then you have to come back)

I was also informed that they don’t believe in causing pain and they give drugs to anyone, especially kids, if anything might be painful.

I was then informed that since it was Griffin’s first time at the office they would be doing almost nothing with him that day.

He got to sit in the chair, the doctor showed him all the tools, he spit in the little sink and they did takHPIM4206e x-rays.  For this I paid 20 Euros.  At least one thing was the same as in the US, if kids are sage (that’s good) they get a prize.  Of course, Griffin picked up the heart shaped necklace with hair clips inside it.  Typically, the doctor said:  “But that’s for girls!”  Have I mentioned lately how much I hate French sexism?  I ignored the doctor and told Griffin if he wanted that one he could have it and (I’m so proud) he stuck with his choice and you can see him displaying it at right.  I had to make another appointment for him in about a month since he wants to do a bit of cleaning and paint some sealant on his back teeth to prevent a cavity from forming there.  I hope they don’t do this to the other two as well – who has time for all this returning stuff?

Then it was my turn to hop on the chair.  There is no nurse or dental hygienist in this scenario.  The dentist does it all (with the exception of developing the x-rays which someone else came in to take care of).  He leaned me back, looked in my mouth for about 30 seconds and told me it all looked great except for some tartar.  He x-rayed and then proceeded to scrape and scrub my teeth in what I can only call a slapdash fashion.  I didn’t even get to spit once until he was all done – which meant I ended up having to swallow some of that dirty ancient gunk – so not yum.  But there was no pain, and my mouth didn’t even bleed. (Usually my visits to the dentist involve copious amounts of minor pain and blood spitting as they scrape and scrape and scrape for 20 minutes or so to get the tartar out).  He slapped on some of that gritty toothpaste, told me to rinse it off, and we called it a day.  It only took about 25 minutes for both Griffin and I – and that included at least 10 minutes of explanation when we first walked in the door. Oh, and the cost for me?  40 Euros.

The weirdest thing, though, was there was no tooth health lecture.  Every time I’ve ever been to a dentist I’ve gotten a new toothbrush, some floss and at least a minute or two of preaching on the importance of frequent brushing and flossing.  I always come home feeling terribly guilty, and, at least for the next week or two, I brush and floss much more assiduously.  The kids usually get a talk as well – and maybe even a lesson on how to brush properly.

Not in France.  You are in, you are scrubbed, and you are on your way.  What a relief!

By the way, Griffin LOVED the dentist.  He thought it was totally fabulous and even said, as we were leaving, that he couldn’t wait to come back.

Funny thing is, I kind of feel the same way. 

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