My daughter’s first dentist appointment included X-Rays of her teeth, and a positive affirmation that she indeed had an abscessed tooth that needed to come out. She was 3 years old. We had spent the day at the Bennett Valley Fire Station for their annual pancake breakfast. One of her childhood friends, a solid and energetic boy who was destined for success in football in later years, was holding her hand as they ran. My daughter, the more precarious of the two, slowed them up. But he was faster and more nimble, and kept going down the rocky driveway. As a result, my daughter took a tumble and landed right on her two front teeth, filling her mouth with blood. The dentist had told us to watch those teeth, and that if a white pimple-like bump appeared above the tooth, to bring her in immediately. It did, and here we were, my tiny baby girl sitting so bravely in the dentist chair as some man she had never met before tinkered with her mouth. But this had been my dentist since childhood. My parents were friends with him. And I had even babysat his kids as a teen. So there was really no question about who I would trust to treat my daughter’s teeth.
An abscessed tooth is caused by several different things. Obviously, my daughter’s was caused by trauma. The trauma caused an opening to the tooth enamel, leaving room for bacteria to enter and infect the center of the tooth. If untreated, the infection can spread to the bones supporting the tooth. Basically, the tooth needed to come out. So at 3 years old, my daughter got to experience her first visit to the dentist with a tooth extraction. But this dentist was so kind and gentle, my little girl sat there with her mouth wide open and trusted him to take the tooth right out of her mouth. Of course, the laughing gas and local anesthetic helped in a major way…..
For an extracted tooth, the Tooth Fairy paid up well, leaving her two gold coins, a little notebook, and some smelly pens. And for 3 years my daughter walked around with her adorable jack-o-lantern smile. Whenever classes did silly ice breaker games that involved asking who lost a tooth first, she always won. And when she lost the other tooth, my daughter’s toothless smile became irresistible.
Eventually the tooth did come in. And more teeth fell out and then grew back in. But two stubborn teeth refused to fall out, even though their predecessors were on their way in. The adult eye teeth came in over the baby teeth like vampire fangs. We originally thought that she had two pairs of eye teeth, not realizing that the baby teeth hadn’t fallen out yet. We figured that we would just get the upper teeth pulled when they came in more, and that would be that. But a trip to the dentist proved that the baby teeth were in fact there, and it would be those lower teeth that would have to be pulled out before the adult teeth could be moved into place. And he talked to us about Orthodontics. We set up the first of many appointments, and next Monday my 11 year old baby girl will be getting a mouth full of metal.
The thing that kills me is that, with exception to the wild eye teeth, my daughter’s bite is PERFECT. Not like mine as a kid, my teeth were awful with a gap in the middle PLUS the fangs, and snaggleteeth everywhere. My 8 year old son has teeth worse than mine ever were, and will be helping to fund our dentist’s retirement. But my daughter? If it weren’t for those two teeth she wouldn’t even need braces at all. As it is, she will only need to wear them for 12 – 18 months. All to the tune of several thousand dollars.
I recently had lunch with my daughter and her 2nd-grade classmates and was astounded at how bad their teeth were. I had thought hers were a mess given that four have fallen out, only a few new ones have emerged and there are a couple that are doubling up. But then I saw her little snaggle-toothed classmates and felt much, much better.