A PBIS Moment

PBIS isn’t just for kids, or for school. It works everywhere, even when going to the dentist.  #summerblog12

Going to the dentist

When I was in Novosibirsk, Russia, serving a mission for my church, I had a tooth problem. My whole inside of my tooth chipped off, and I needed to see a dentist. I’ve never enjoyed going to the dentist, but this was a whole new level of craziness for me. I went to the best dentist I could find. The Russians said “This is a really good one because they use tools from Germany!” So, I went. The female dentist kindly informed me that I would need a root canal. I was not looking forward to that, but we went ahead and did it.

You can probably guess where this is going. The root canal did not go over very well. They did not get all the nerves out, and as they were filling the canals, the pain was so intense that I passed out. It was only the second time I have ever passed out in my life. It was the most pain I have ever felt. Ever.

When I awoke, I was sweaty, cold, and the dental assistant was rubbing my temples, asking me if I was OK. I again reiterated that I needed some novocaine, or anything to dull the intense pain. They finally agreed to give me some.

Since then, I have a very hard time going to the dentist, and what is worse, they always tell me that I have cavities, I need to floss after every meal, and I need to stop clenching my teeth as I sleep.

PBIS Goes to the Dentist

PBIS stands for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. It is essentially a way to get kids to do what you want them to do by giving them positive reinforcement for the good things they are doing, rather than harping on them for the bad things they get caught doing. That works, for about 90% of the students, which, if you ask me, is pretty good. The other 10% need some additional help. But this story is about the dentist using PBIS on me.

I went to a new dental office called the Dental Spa. It is a spa where they have massage (vibrating) chairs, manicures, pedicures, hand, neck and face massages. I thought, maybe if I go somewhere that I can relax, I can enjoy the dentist a little more. Sure enough, while I usually cringe and wince during even simple cleanings, I felt like this was a much better experience. It wasn’t perfect, but I wasn’t as stressed as usual, and I went home relaxed, instead of wired up. All of these little positive interactions helped me feel comfortable, happy and relaxed. It worked very well to prepare me for what was to come.

The dentist said, “You have really been taking good care of your teeth, there are no cavities!” Giving me the impression that it was my hard work that led to my mouth being cavity-free made me feel really good. I felt like I was already doing a good job, and when they said the things they usually say, I felt like I could do it, because they had already told me I was doing great work.

Since that appointment, what have I been doing? Flossing more, brushing longer, using mouthwash.

For what seems like the first time in my life, I didn’t have any cavities! They way they said it made me want to do better. Every single other experience at the dentist has just made me want to go back even less. This time, however, I was more than willing to schedule a followup in 6 months (also something I rarely do; I haven’t been to the same dentist twice in a very long time).

PBIS works on adults as well as children. Being positive is a good way to interact with everyone you deal with.

How did my Russian root canal end up? I had to have it redone, twice, back here in the states. Each visit to the endodontist was awful. Now, that tooth only hurts when it rains.

Have a Good Life.


    I know a few people from work that have been to the "Dental Spa". They have all said it was a positive experience. Glad it was a positive experience for you too. I agree that positive interactions make a huge difference.