Going to the dentist

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On Sunday night Boone ran smack, front teeth first, into our wooden-armed armchair. There was wailing and there was blood. The impact bent his teeth in ever so slightly, giving him a little lisp, while the blood made for a very gruesome smile. Worse, the taste of his own blood put him into a tailspin about his own mortality. We had to work really hard to calm him down but by the end of the night, we knew that he couldn’t be too bad, as his suggested remedies involved us going to a shop to buy such products as fireman boots and a toy car wash (thanks, Christmas, you made our son a materialist!). Still, we decided to take him to the dentist, just to be on the safe side.

I did not relish the idea of taking him to the dentist. I assumed that it would be akin to taking him to the hairdresser. In other words, torture. Besides that fluke first time, Boone hates getting his hair cut. There are always tears. The promise of a lollipop doesn’t even seem to help. And yes, we go to Pixie Kuts now; I still think it’s a depressing, windowless room walled with tat at the back of Mothercare, but the hairdressers are very nice and, most importantly, very speedy with their scissors. Now that I think of it, he might have a Samson complex because any time I even mention getting his hair cut, he’ll put a protective hand over his hair and says “No! Keep it long!” He does the same with his toenails. Thing is, he’s a clean-cut kinda guy and neither long hair nor long toenails suit him. (Oddly, he asks for me to clip his fingernails, which is just as well, as it’s my favourite thing to do in the whole wide world.)

While I always wait until I just can’t look at his rat’s tail for one more second before I take him to the hairdresser, I knew that I couldn’t procrastinate on his banged-in teeth, so I got down to educating him about going to the dentist. As it happens, I’d already gotten the Usborne First Experiences book, as I’d thought he could do with a check-up at some stage. I brought it out and we read it over and over again. He loved it, naturally, because he always loves those Usborne books. I love them, too. I just wish they had a few more life events in the series—death, for example, and other things you’re at a loss to explain to yourself, let alone a toddler. Anyway, Boone was so taken with the concept of the dentist that after we’d read the story a few times, he told me “I’m the dentist.” Then he asked me, “You got a tooth-cake, Mama? I make a pointment!” Next thing I knew, I was in his surgery being told to “Sit down on the big chair. Lie back. Open your mouth wide, Mama!” He even had dental instruments. Thankfully, my teeth were ok, according to Dr Boone, but I don’t think we ever got around to reversing the role-play.

Throughout the day, we watched Youtube videos of children going to the dentist and I told him (positive) stories about my own trips to the dentist. There have been many, thanks in no small part to all the Polo mints I consumed as a child. I pray that he’s inherited Joseph’s good American teeth genes. Whenever I go to the dentist, the staff can always be assured of their holidays and Christmases as I’m such a good, repeat customer. Joseph, on the other hand, goes once every ten years and all the staff are called in to take a look at this! “We’ve never seen anything like it!” they say, as they marvel at the perfect solid white rocks he has for teeth. They joke that if all their customers were like him, they’d be put out of business.

I felt that we were well-prepared when we got to the clinic. “I’m in the waiting room!” he announced. The Usborne book was working, I thought. We had to wait a long time but he was very patient. We read yet another book about children going to the dentist. Boone noticed that in the picture of the children brushing their teeth, they had “foamy toothpaste.” After an hour and a half we were called in. Everything was fine but as soon as the dentist suggested looking in his mouth, the flailing and thrashing began. The dentist was lovely and endlessly patient. She had several gentle tactics up her sleeve—counting my teeth, counting his fingers, asking if he’d let me put the mirror in his mouth. He acceded to this last one but kept his lips firmly closed around the handle. The dentist didn’t force the issue and concluded simply and without judgement: “He’s too young and he’s been waiting for a long time.” She said that from what she had seen (between the screams), he was ok. She then advised me on what to watch out for and gave me some good tips to help him to get used to the whole thing like downloading apps that you can personalise and taking him along with us to our own visits to the dentist. I was so relieved that health professionals these days are about a million times nicer than in my day. I can remember reacting similarly to Boone when I had to get an injection when I was four, except I was held down and sugar lumps were forced into my mouth. I’ve never been scared of needles, not then, not now. I just didn’t know what was happening. I was too young.

The dentist gave Boone not one but two stickers. He flashed the nurse and dentist a particularly bright smile as he said goodbye. They laughed.

When we got back to the car, Boone asked “Mama, can I have a toothbrush and foamy toothpaste?” Clearly, the moral of oral hygiene had not been lost on him. He also probably thinks that as long as he brushes his teeth with foamy toothpaste, he’ll never have to go to the dentist again. Here’s hoping!

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