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At Simon’s one-year check-up, our doctor told us he should visit the dentist before he turned eighteen months. We were surprised to hear this and frankly dreaded the trip. So we put it off. He turned eighteen months and we maybe possibly fibbed at his check-up about having a dentist. We are, after all, friends with a dentist. That counts for something, right?

However as the guilt piled up, I decided I’d try to get Simon in to see a dentist before he turned two. I made the decision last Thursday, telling myself I’d find a dentist and book an appointment while Simon napped on Friday. And I sort of did some research, but largely postponed the endeavor until Monday.

Amidst this procrastination, disaster struck. At exactly 4:30 on Friday afternoon, I realized that Simon was missing part of his left central incisor, thus putting the longest possible interval of time between discovery and treatment. And did I mention that we didn’t have a regular dentist for Simon yet?

Normally, circumstances like this call for a bit of Matt calm. I relate the hysteria inducing problem du jour, and he tells me why it’s no big deal and I should calm down. I knew things were bad when Matt not only echoed my concern, but amplified it. Here are a few calming nuggets from my more hysterical half:

“Oh my God! Poor little guy. This is a disaster!”

“This is just awful. We have to fix it.”

“Honestly, we can’t let him walk around like this for five years. We have to do something.”

“I’m really upset about the tooth. It’s just terrible.”

While Matt assured me that things were every bit as terrible as I feared, I got on the phone with Shellie Branson, the pediatric dentist Simon’s pediatrician had recommended to me nearly one year ago. This conversation turned out to be one of the most singularly hilarious in my motherhood to date. The fact that I was the butt of the joke takes nothing away from that fact.

The Scene: I’ve just found the now yellowed and crumpled piece of paper with Dr. Branson’s name on it, called the number, and been told by a recorded voice to call back Monday or phone a different number if this is an emergency. I declare it a possible emergency and dial the number.

Voice: “Hi”

Me: “Hello. Is this Dr. Branson’s answering service?”

“No, this is Dr. Branson. Do you have an emergency?”

“Well, I’m not sure. I mean, I’m calling because I might have an emergency, but I was expecting an answering service. Do you have time to talk?”

“Of course, I just picked up the phone.”

“Right. Ok. So, my name is Jessica Goldstein and I have a 23-month old son. My pediatrician, Dr. Newstadt, recommended you. I know I was supposed to come by the time he was 18 months, and I was going to call to see if you had an appointment for next week because I can’t face him if Simon hasn’t gone yet. I really was. But that’s not the emergency. It wouldn’t be, right? The emergency is that I don’t yet have a dentist for him, but would like you to be it, and he’s chipped a front tooth, and it looks like half of it is missing, and I don’t know if that’s an emergency or not which is why I’m calling you.”

As you can tell, I was off to a fantastic start. This has got to be some of the worst nervous babbling I’ve ever engaged in.

Dr. Branson: “Did he chip his tooth today?”

Me: “Well, I’m not sure. He was in preschool this morning, but they didn’t tell me about anything that happened and I’m sure they would have if they had noticed. But I think if this would have happened a few days ago I would have seen it. I mean, it’s really awful. It looks like a third of his tooth is missing, sort of a half-moon carved out of his front tooth. Anyway, it could have been today but nothing has happened today, but if it was several days ago I think I would have noticed.”

Thus, my streak of verbal brilliance continues, in which my logorrhea is matched only by my general incoherence. I’m feeling a bit like the love child of Joe Biden and Sarah Palin at this point. Dr. Branson asked me a few more questions, and I answered in similar form. Which led us here:

Dr. Branson: “Is Simon by any chance your first or only child?”

Oh dear. That obvious? Of course it’s that obvious. Time to cop a plea:

Me: [voice a bit louder] “Of course he’s my first and only child. That’s why I sound so hysterical right now!”

Dr. Branson: “Well if there’s no blood or pain, you can relax. I see this twice a week. It’s probably not as bad as it looks. Call my office and tell them to schedule you for Monday. I’ll take a look and see if any treatment is needed. And then we can run through a full first cleaning and I’ll give you some tips. It will be great.”

Me: “Thanks so much, Dr. I really appreciate it.”

By now I think the call is over. But there’s one final punch-line left:

Dr. Branson: “Now, what did you say your name was again?”

I tell her.

Dr. Branson: “Hm. Do you go to AJ [Adath Jeshurun, a Conservative synagogue in my neighborhood] by any chance? I mean, is it OK if I ask… [voice quieter now] I just assumed from the name….”

Me: “Oh, it’s fine. No worries. My family goes to Keneseth Israel [a second synagogue, formerly Orthodox and now Conservative, also close to home]. But Dr. Newstadt goes to AJ, and he recommended you to me.”

“Right. I know him from there. I treat his kids. But your name sounds so familiar. What’s your husband’s name?”

“No, that’s not it. His last name is Whitworth, and he grew up at Southeast Christian.”


“Well, OK. I’ll see you Monday.”

Epilogue: In telling my mom this story, she piped up immediately: “What was her name? Branson?” And she goes to AJ? That must be Jerry Branson’s sister. Do you remember Jerry Branson? He and Perry [my brother] were friends. They had a paper route together. Nice family.”

And that is what happens when you live in a small city: You go to the pediatrician your husband went to as a child, meet a nice doc from South Africa who asks if you go to AJ at your child’s three-week check-up, and then get referred to a pediatric dentist who’s the sister of your brother’s childhood friend!

As for Simon, he only broke the enamel. We opted to repair the tooth, which involved strapping him down on a papoose board for about 5-10 minutes while the doctor painted his tooth, put bonding material on it, and then filed off the excess. She was great, but Simon was hysterical, and the less said about the visit the better. His new smile is fabulous, I will say.

4 Responses to “How Not to Introduce Your Child to the Dentist”

  1. bethnbobinnc says:

    Unfortunately, that’s exactly how we introduced Drew to the dentist as well. He chipped 5 teeth on the gym floor at daycare! Needless to say, we didn’t have them bonded but he’s closer to losing his teeth than Simon is. Cross your fingers…. We have Evan scheduled for his first trip in about a month.

  2. Amanda says:

    Poor Simon! I got introduced to my dentist here in Columbia when I bit down on a fork with my front incisor and kinda sheared part of it off. Lovely. Mostly what bugged me is how it felt in my mouth when my tongue hit it. They did the same thing–bonded it with some dental goo and now it looks as good as ever. My dentist wasn’t happy because it’s slightly the wrong color, which you could probably see if you actually climbed INTO my mouth, but having a perfectionist as a dentist is a good thing. On the up side he’s a fantastic dentist, so good things do come from disasters sometimes.

  3. blg says:

    My favorite part was how your calm husband didn’t come through for you this time.

    “I knew things were bad when Matt not only echoed my concern, but amplified it.”

  4. goldsteinrita says:

    We can only hope that this chipped tooth (baby tooth I might add) is the most terrible thing that ever happens to Simon. For the record, his beautiful smile was just as beautiful.

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