Thursday, January 06, 2011

Crystal Clear: Dental visit sets mom's teeth on edge

Unlike my husband, when it comes to dental health, I tend to be somewhat lax. My dentists almost always make a remark about whether I floss regularly, though what they observe during exams makes it obvious that I don't. And because I'm almost always between dentists, I don't always keep to the recommended six-month cleaning plans.

Because of my own habits, I wanted to make sure my husband and I started our son on the right path. I followed all the suggestions: no sleeping with a bottle, not too many sweets and brush his gums, and later, his teeth. I was ecstatic when I found out the daycare kept toothbrushes and toothpaste in the room so that the children could brush there, too.

So when I noticed that one of his front teeth appeared to be darker than the other, I was disheartened. Googling the symptom didn't do me any good: By day's end, I was convinced that his tooth was dead and if it didn't fall out soon, it would have to be pulled. I frantically called my son's godmother, a dentist, and filled her in. Her calm voice did little to reassure me. It's probably fine, she said. And if not, the worst that could happen is that the tooth would be pulled.

And since it was a baby tooth, he should have no problems with his permanent tooth coming in about five years from now. That's when vanity got the best of me; would he have to go through the next five years with one tooth missing? I imagined the story shared in whispers around the school. "Oh, he hasn't had a front tooth since he was 1. His mother allowed the poor boy to hurt his tooth."

The situation was made worse by the fact that my son did not yet have a dentist. He had not, in fact, ever been to a dentist. For once, the oversight wasn't a product of my procrastination; I could have sworn my dentist said that he didn't have to be seen until 2. Not so, said my dentist-friend. He should have been seen once the first tooth bud popped out. Bad Mom.

So I did what any mother who has fallen from grace and is seeking to redeem herself would do: I immediately set up an appointment with the dentist, making sure to measure my words so as not to draw attention the fact that at almost 2, the boy had never set foot in a dentist's office. To the receptionist's credit, even if she thought I was the worst parent in the world, she didn't let on.

She didn't even let on when she called our house and left a message saying that despite what I'd told her when I made the appointment, our son did not actually have dental insurance. Sigh.

For some reason, I assumed that since we had signed him up for medical insurance, the dental was done automatically. As my husband would say, "When you assume, half the time you're right and the other half you're wrong." In my case, I was wrong. And as if to prove that Murphy's Law does exist, ("Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong") it turns out that my phone call to sign up for the insurance came two days too late. We'd missed that month's deadline, which meant that my son had to go another month (with a possibly dying tooth!) before he could see the dentist.

But this story does have a happy ending. On the first workday of the new year, my son had his first dental appointment. He was the best patient of the day, the staff said, and his teeth were perfectly fine.

So while other folks make a myriad of New Year's Resolutions, I think I will make just one: Stop freaking out. And I'm pretty certain I can keep it.

Until it's time to floss his teeth, that is.

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