Day 336: This Nice Man’s Going to Look at Your Teeth

The dentist told us not to feel guilty as it was likely genetics that caused Arlo (2) to have tooth decay. His two cavities need to be fixed immediately so they don’t become infected and blah blah danger blah panic blah palpitation blah f*ck.  The first plan of attack was to give him laughing gas while I held him down. The appointment was this morning.

It’s some vestige of ancient society that fathers are somehow more capable of watching as their children are subjected to pain. Well, it’s 2011, and fathers are the new mothers. We went in at 8:45am so no other patients would be there to hear my boy’s screams. The dentist reassured me by saying,  “Oh, he’s going to cry a lot. Probably the whole time in fact. And that’s actually good because it causes him to open his mouth. The key is to make sure he gets enough gas so he’s disoriented and gives up fighting.” I guess parenthood isn’t all about cooling off a waffle while someone pees on your foot — there’s difficult stuff too.

We had spent the previous 36 hours telling Arlo about the awesome mask he would get to wear that would make him feel all “woh woh woh.” That kind of pep talking might work with an older kid, but to a 2 year old it’s just inane chatter that he knows to agree with because it’s said in a certain rhythm and intonation.

When he and I entered the dentist’s office and he saw the chair, his brain went into “Ummmmmmm yeah, there is no way I’m staying here” mode. The dentist and I were prepared for that and didn’t let it stop us.

I laid down on the chair like I was the patient, and made Arlo lie on top of me face up. “You hold his body and I’ll take care of his head,”  I wrapped my arms and legs around my son like Lennie from Of Mice and Men loving a rabbit too much. The dentist put the mask on him, which is really more of a slightly thinner Geordi Laforge visor that rests loosely under his nose.What we needed was a Hannibal Lecter mask.

For a moment he relaxed and it appeared we might be in the clear, but as soon as the dentist’s fingers approached Arlo’s mouth, he started flailing like a hooked marlin. The nitrous nose visor was up around his forehead; I was doing some move on him I saw during an MMA fight – it just wasn’t going to work. My accomplice agreed.

Next step is a pediatric dentist who I guess is going to try the same thing but with more stuffed animals and high-pitched talking. If that doesn’t work, we get to put him in a straight jacket and a head vice (called a papoose – which pretty much ruins the idea of a papoose forever, for everyone.) If that sounds like something they might have done during the civil war in order to perform brain surgery, just add a whiskey soaked rag to suck on, and you’re right.

I was wondering why no one has invented a safe way to sedate toddlers for an hour, but then realized if such a thing existed parents would be robbing pharmacies to get it.

We arrived home having failed. I put him in his highchair, filled his tray with popcorn, and put on Yo Gabba Gabba. He was totally fine, so I took the opportunity to do some grown-ass-man silent weeping in the corner.

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Jennifer Eye says:

Perfect timing. First dentist visit is 3 days away. Now I have something to look forward to.

Motherhood: A Descent Into Madness says:

1. I greatly enjoyed your veiled use of fuck.
2. This reminded me of the time I held down my screaming newborn son after a circumcision gone awry, while the pediatrician CAUTERIZED HIS PENIS to keep him from bleeding to death (literally, death). Yeah. Sorry for making you deep breathe while bending at the waist after reading that. But I wanted to reinforce that you’re right- there are difficult times, too. Thank you for sharing! :-)

Heaven's Creations says:

I would have elected to go a hospital route and have had to with my youngest. I wish you the best of luck.

Sarah Clark-Mitchell says:

Crap. My 3 year old will go to the dentist for her first visit soon. I’m envisioning a whirling dervish/screaming banshee situation. She has just gotten to the point where she will choose to brush without a battle. I’m sure that kid has cavities. F……

Karla Stevens says:

OMG this was the funniest and saddest all in one…sad mainly because my 6 yr old has his first cavity….

Fran Otero says:

My favorite part of the story was the “grown ass man silent weeping in the corner……”

Jason Good - 365 says:

Noah, here’s your answer.

Noah Cowan says:

Assuming this is a true story how did you ever get his teeth fixed?

Fern Wroten says:

This is so timely (as are most of your posts). I just suffered a similar parenting fail.

Heidi Jared says:

Makes me want to go brush my two year old’s teeth in an attempt to avoid this nightmare.

Christine Erbacher says:

I am with you on the crying. I had to hold down my 15 month old while we put a mask on her for ear tubes. Thankfully they put her all the way out.

Emily Kathryn Witherell says:

My kids screamed bloody murder had to bribed, held down, sedated and would not be cool. But they want you to take them way earlier than ever nowadays and it’s impossible to guess who is going to cooperate! I say: hold their arms and wear ear plugs. The only way.

Sara Miller McCutcheon says:

“I was wondering why no one has invented a safe way to sedate toddlers for an hour, but then realized if such a thing existed parents would be robbing pharmacies to get it.” BAHAHAHAAA!

Maryse Denis Morris says:

Sounds freaking harsh! My pediatric dentist does sedated dental work (filling, crowns ect) for kids under 12. It costs more but he gets it done it one swoop and there is no trauma. There is no way in hell I’d be holding my kid down while he cries. :(

Amanda Bergman says:

Oh! This reminds me of our last visit which involved banana-split flavored nitrous (to repair a broken filling) and a real banana split after.

Sundy Garrison Waltman says:

Been there. You handled it beautifully.;-)

Jacqui says:

I feel your pain. My two boys were prem (32 weeks and 30 weeks) and the eldest has tooth enamel that didn't form correctly because of it. We have trouble with his teeth and have had dentist visits. At 3.5 he had to be put completely under, but at 4 he sat willingly in the chair and it was a peaceful, if slightly uncomfortable, visit.

I don't know about Mr. 1.5 yet, but I regularly check his teeth and they look fine. I think a dentist visit for him is in the cards pretty soon.

Candy says:

Wow, I know this is horrible, but I laughed my ass off. I love it when the kids win! Unless it's my own…. anyhoo, I feel your pain. My son (5) has to have four cavities filled (same as me) and while he behaved nicely at the consultation, poor child was terrified. I was a weepy mess the rest of the day.

Crystal says:

Ummm- how about brushing vigorously every morning and every night and drinking water after sweets during the day? Should help avoid all this? I had loads of cavities as a kid but only bc we didnt brush well & often. My 2 year old gets pinned to the carpet if she doesn't want her teeth brushed, and I brush them gently as she screams. Luckily that's not often and usually it's easy to coax her into a rocking chair with her electric princess toothbrush…

Mary says:

Did you read the first sentence? "The dentist told us not to feel guilty, as it was likely genetics that caused Arlo (2) to have tooth decay."

Some things are unavoidable.

Christa says:

We did the 2 times a day brushing and our daugther STILL had tooth decay. Her teeth probably didn’t form well, bc of her liver disease. And my and hubby haven’t got very nice teeth either.

Cathy Heinz says:

My kids have had cavities and the dentist made me feel horrible about it. Twice a day I was holding my kids down brushing their teeth. The only thing that did was make them more scared of having anyone touch their mouths. They also had tightly spaced teeth and the dentist chided me for not flossing every day. But whenever I did the floss would snap as soon as it got past the tight point and too quickly hit the base of the tooth where it caused a ton of bleeding. And before you say it I bought the expensive Glide Floss and it still would happen. They hassled me a lot and I really tried to comply, but by the time my son was 5 I realized that I was just doing more harm than good. Since I stopped force brushing my kids’ teeth we can get through a cleaning without anyone screaming.

adequatemom says:

Dude. I can just imagine how upsetting this was for all of you … we have taken my daughter for one dental checkup (just to count her teeth) and it was just about as disastrous and drama-filled. Why on earth would we expect kids to be okay with a stranger (who is often wearing weird stuff on his face) getting into their face and poking into their mouths? It actually speaks well of our kids' survival instinct that this scares the shit out of them.

They do have stuff that sedates kids, my nephew had to have an MRI a couple years ago and because he was a toddler he needed to be sedated for it. It's really creepy to watch a child suddenly fall into a deep sleep, like someone hit his off-switch.