Feed on

Who’s the Grown-Up?

I do not now and never have liked going to the dentist. The X-ray bite-wings don’t fit in my mouth, any dental work leaves my jaw aching and my lips cracked and bleeding, and I frequently have plaque build-up and inflamed gums despite near perfect dental hygiene. In fact, I dread the inevitable lectures about brushing and flossing (I use a Sonicare and floss daily, but it doesn’t always look that way) almost as much as I dread the actual dental work.

My dental procrastination and denial hit its low point when I was 30. I needed a crown, and despite my then-dentist being a dear, it was still a miserable experience. When we were all finished, the dentist affixed my crown with a semi-permanent adhesive so I could be sure my bite was comfortable and told me to come back in two weeks to replace with a permanent adhesive.

Well, my bite was fine, and I was done done done with the dentist. So I blew off the appointment and only went back when a full year later I bit into a coffee nip on my way to a Passover seder and ended up removing my crown with the candy. At which point I gave an Oscar-worthy performance about being “confused” or “forgetful” about my need to return for the permanent adhesive.* Really, confusion or forgetfulness both sounded better than denial or procrastination.

So that’s me. My son appears to be more grown up about these things. At our last trip to the pediatric dentist, we made the unfortunate discovery that Simon has two large cavities in his lower molars. They are the type of cavities you usually see in kids who don’t use fluoride toothpaste or drink a lot of juice. Neither of these is true for Simon; he just drew the short-straw when it comes to genetics. (Matt brushes lackadaisically, never flosses, and has never had a cavity.) We have lots of remediation plans in the works, including new prescription-strength toothpaste.

That should keep Simon in good shape going forward, but it still leaves us with two large cavities to repair. Monday we went to fill the first one, and as the doctor warned and I feared, the decay extended to the pulp and required a crown to repair. Simon didn’t like the feel of the nitrous oxide mask on his face; it made him feel suffocated and he panicked a little. In this, he is like me and my dad. And some of the work triggered his gag-reflex, making him sputter and choke. In this, he is like Matt, my mother, and my Zadie. And at one point, when the pulp was hit, the novocaine and gas could not prevent things from hurting enough to have him cry.

It was kind of awful.** Once fixed, the dentist patted his leg, told him how wonderfully he did, and told me to book another appointment two weeks out to fix the second tooth. “You need to give kids time to heal, get over it, and forget a little bit. He did great today, and I don’t want to push him any harder. This was enough for one session.”

I didn’t expect Simon to forget anything, but putting some distance between appointments seemed like a good idea. Then last night, out of the blue, Simon asked me about his second appointment.

“When do I go back to the dentist to have my other tooth fixed?”

[I’m thinking he might be anxious.] “Not for a while, honey.

“But when Mommy? What date?

“March 28.

“March 28! But that’s spring! [He’s clearly not anxious, more like eager.]

“Yes, it is spring. But today is already the 15th, so it’s only 13 days from now.

“13 days! That’s like almost two weeks. Why are we waiting so long?

“Well, Dr. Branson wanted to give you time to feel better and be ready to go back.

“I’m ready, Mommy. I don’t want to walk around with a hole in my tooth for two weeks. Can you call the dentist so I can go back sooner?”

I was gobsmacked. My son, it would seem, is more mature on this count than I am. He goes back Monday.

* They should seriously consider using coffee nips as dental adhesives; you wouldn’t believe how sticky and strong those suckers are!

** But not as awful as I perceived it. Simon is more of a dental trooper than I am. And once he got used to breathing in the gas, he got just enough to take the edge off any anxiety. He wasn’t silly or out of it, and he regaled the dentist and her assistant with information about googols, googolplexes, the relative size and distance of planets in our solar system, why Pluto and Eris are dwarf planets, and the ages and age spreads of everyone in our family.


2 Responses to “Who’s the Grown-Up?”

  1. tlalbaugh says:

    Am totally laughing about this. We have a similar scenario at our house. Tom has had all of one cavity; I have had many, and hate, HATE the dentist, though I have to say since having a baby, I’ve mellowed out considerably about fillings :). Although we have always been anal-retentive about her care (she pretty much has been flossed every night since she had teeth), we’ve been keeping our fingers crossed that Kira takes after Tom on this one. (I have been ASTOUNDED at how common fillings and crowns are now in kids Kira’s age; I don’t remember that at all from when we were young.) We went to the dentist this week: As usual, Kira looks great; I have a cavity. Sigh.

  2. blg says:

    Good for Simon!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.