Almost exactly two years ago, Mabel got a filling in a molar. She had just turned three, and it was not a fun experience. The dentist had intended to give her a crown, but she was wriggling and crying so much, in spite of the nitrous oxide, which didn’t seem to be doing anything much, that he left it at a filling.
I had taken her for a checkup as soon as her second set of molars were in, which was only about a month earlier. That seemed like a good time to start the dentist’s visits, and had been what I’d done with her brother, whose teeth have no holes. But I’d noticed a little spot on one of Mabel’s upper teeth, so I wanted to get them checked out. Sure enough, we were sent off to the pediatric dentist for a further look.
Everything had been fine at the two checkups after that filling, and then last spring Mabel took agin the dentist and decided not to open her mouth at all. I didn’t push it. She’s four-and-a-half, I said, because we’ve been through the four-and-a-halfs before, and they’re tough; she’ll be fine when she’s five. We went back a month ago and she was a lot more cooperative. And lo, the dentist could see that there was a new hole in the tooth with the filling.
So we went off to a new pediatric dentist (not that I had anything against the old one, but this one was closer and we had the referral for her) and they took some x-rays and saw that not only did she definitely need a crown, but also a baby root canal. I did ask later why they wouldn’t just pull the whole tooth: as this was a molar that isn’t due to fall out till she’s ten, the dentist felt that for spacing reasons it would be best to leave it in.
Taking x-rays was not a trivial procedure, because Mabel didn’t like the thing in her mouth that they use to x-ray just one area. She said it hurt the roof of her mouth; having a small mouth, I can empathize because I hate that too, but being a grown up I have learned to just do it and get it over with without gagging. She point-blank refused, crying piteously. Finally, they said they could try the all-round x-ray machine, and by bringing it down to the lowest level and finding some phone directories for her to stand on, they got her positioned just right. The dentist said usually this is harder for small children, because they have to stand perfectly still while the machine moves around their head, but I was proud of Mabel for swallowing her tears and standing like a statue so the machine could get a perfect photo of all her teeth, in and out of the gums. It was very cool to see all her adult teeth waiting inside there for the time when they’ll nudge the others out of the way and burst forth.
(Dash’s teeth are bursting forth all over right now. He lost his third this morning, and the adult incisor that’s front and centre is about to come down through the top gum where he’s had a space since he was a baby and knocked out the tooth. He’s going to look odd with one big and one little tooth until the second one comes out, but seeing him with a mouth full of teeth at all will be a new experience for us all.)
I told the dentist about Mabel’s previous experience and how the gas hadn’t seemed to work at all. She said she could give her some oral medication first to make her more relaxed from the outset, which would let her inhale the nitrous better. Then we had to postpone the appointment twice because she was congested with a cold, and we finally got there on Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving. Yes, when you were all making turkey sandwiches and planning trips to see Frozen, or recovering from your Black Friday early-morning outings, I was pumping my baby full of drugs and watching the dentist drill out pretty much the entirety of her molar.
Again, the first hurdle was the worst, because she didn’t like the taste of the diazepam. After a million tiny sips and some crying and a break to watch tv, I eventually syphoned it up into a syringe and squirted it into her mouth. She swallowed some and spat out some and we called it done. In a few minutes she was amusingly floppy and having difficulty talking. (“I…an..not… [drool]…”)
Then it was into the chair and to be wrapped up in the special hugging blanket (“So I shouldn’t call it a strait jacket then?” I’m not sure they appreciated my humour, but I was pretty sure Mabel wasn’t in a position to notice, and has never heard of a strait jacket anyway) and under the elephant nose that dispenses the gas, and open wide so we can count your teeth…
Little kids must wonder why it takes dentists so very long to count teeth, and why they can never seem to remember from one opening of their mouth to the next exactly how many are in there. I sat by her head to keep the gas thing on (“Does it smell of strawberries? Or is it more like chocolate? Take a big sniff in and see.”) and to make sure no little hands wormed their way out of the huggy blanket in spite of velcro restraints.
After a lot of drilling (sorry, “buzzing”) with the little drill and the big drill, the poor molar was literally just a shell. Then it was scraped out and packed and a shiny crown put on top and boom, done. Mabel got to sit up and be unwrapped and I had to carry her to the car because she was still a bit wobbly on her pins, but we still went straight to Target (which was conveniently just across the parking lot) and got a new doll, because that was definitely a princess-worthy ordeal.