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What's the worst word in the English language? Dentist.

Posted Nov 21 2008 4:46pm
In March of 2004, I took The Kid to the dentist for the first time. He had just turned four. I had avoided going to the dentist mostly because I feared his lack of ability to handle the experience. In short, he's too much of a spaz for the dentist's office. Also, I had no idea that people brought their children to the dentist much earlier than four. Apparently, they do.

We went to the dentist in March of 2004 because The Kid had an extreme toothache. Because that was an "emergency" visit, they didn't clean his teeth, but instead they told me that they had to extract the offending tooth immediately because it was so badly infected. I thought I'd never felt like a worse parent at that news. That was until they put him in the straight jacket (in fairness, they call it a "papoose.") and used a mouth holder-opener car-jack-type of instrument and had four people holding him down, holding his head still until they got the tooth out, while he screamed, vomited and cried. The Kid was horrified, and he told me later that he thought they were going to kill him.

We then came back a few weeks later for a proper teeth-cleaning and dental exam. He had about 10 cavities, needed four root canals and would be given silver caps on 6 teeth.

The author of this post has never had a cavity [knocks on wood]. I do not have soda in my house except on birthdays, and I rarely even have juice. We do eat our fair share of ice cream, but don't have candy around, pretty much ever--halloween excepted. I could not get the dentist to believe me on these points (except for the ice cream part), and instead of just listening to me and talking about next steps or perhaps a stab in the dark why his enamel might be bad other than my complete and utter neglect of him, he felt it necessary to inform me that we do not feed our children gummy bears for dinner and don't have them gargle with Yoo-Hoo. Thanks, Dentist.

In order to do all of this work, and in light of the straight-jacket experience, they opted to have him put under general anesthesia in order to fix his teeth. This all went well. Done. We've been back since, again, all well.

About a month ago, The Kid started up about a toothache again.

Shit. Again, we went into the dentist's office on an emergency basis. They took an x-ray of the tooth he said hurt, but found nothing. I think this disturbed me more than had there been full-scale tooth decay. Was it psycho-somatic? The imaginary toothache?

Since then, I've just treated the toothache with small doses of motrin and tylenol. Generally, he's been okay. Last Friday, however, he started screaming at my mom's house about his pain. This began at 7pm or so. We went home, put him in the bath, tried to get him down to sleep. The whole time, he screamed and winced in pain. I gave him new doses of pain killer every two or three hours. At midnight, I gave him a full (and then some) dose of Benadryl. Still, no sleep, the pain didn't let up. At 2am, desperate and frankly freaking out, we went to the emergency room. By the time the doctor finally saw us, though, the drugs and the crying finally caught up with The Kid and he passed out. The ER doc told me to give him motrin. That was $50 and a sleepless night (next to the drunk tank and a guy having a heart attack) well spent.

We had a long standing (like, before the toothache began) check up scheduled for today. He has to get another silver cap and another root canal. And, sure enough, he does have a tooth that needs to come out. The pain he complained of on the day we went to the dentist before was on his lower teeth. The inflicted tooth is actually on the top. The dentist explained that pain can transfer because of the many nerves in the mouth, hence the confusion. Sure wish they would have thought of that before, huh?

She said she wanted to take the tooth out, that they had a "papoose" that would hug him and restrain him. I said, NO STRAIGHT JACKET. Then I said words like "Bipolar" and "ADHD" and "four people on top of him and he still wasn't still" and I got her attention. She suggested sedation, although she mentioned that sometimes it doesn't work.

Knowing our luck, I said, The Kid will be one of those to not be sedated by sedation.

In order to get the sedation, however, we'd have to wait for a month before they could see us. I told her this was impossible. The Kid is in real pain, and what would happen if we let the infection spread for another month?

I asked about going elsewhere, and she kind of played along with it for a while, until she decided to get advice from the attending physician (this dental clinic is in the Children's Hospital, and is a teaching program). Apparently, the attending agreed with me, and suggested another round of general anesthesia. This would be a two month wait. Additionally, this would take medical director's approval, and he's out golfing or vacationing or whatever doctors do when they aren't at work, until Tuesday.

Here we are, to the right of us is a rock, and to the left of us is a hard place.

Two months of slamming back shots of motrin morning and night? Doesn't sound too great. We left it that she'd get back to me Tuesday, and we'd work on it then. My brain hurt so much at that point that I agreed.

One hour later, I got a call on my cell phone. She told me that she talked to the other attending and he cleared a space in the OR for us on Tuesday, November 15. They will take care of his teeth then. I thanked her excessively.

So, I am relieved. Only 4 more days of yelping pain. At the same time, I'm stressed beyond belief. More medical bills. More time away from work. And will he need general anesthesia every time he gets a cavity filled? And will we ever be able to address why his teeth are such crap despite our brushing, flossing and lack of sugary drinks about the house?
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