Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Dental Genetics

When I look at my daughter's life, it's hard not to notice the similarities between her childhood and my own. She's growing up with two older brothers, is an animal lover, has been known to be outspoken, is occasionally mildly competitive, is sort of stubborn, is a little bit picky, and has horrible, defective, crappy enamel on her teeth.

I used to think that my frequent visits to the dentist were my parents' fault. It seemed like a reasonable explanation since I grew up with well water that didn't contain any fluoride, used whatever toothpaste was on sale, and was even forced to occasionally brush my teeth with a horrid concoction of baking soda mixed with lemon juice to get that "sparkling white shine." As a kid, I endured having acres of fillings, several teeth pulled, almost a decade of painful orthodontia and, more recently, have been subjected to a root canal and crown. But then, after reflecting back on my younger years, I realized that my brothers only visited the dentist for check-ups and to receive an occasional filling, were blessed with perfectly straight teeth and now, even though they rarely make dentist appointments as adults, don't get cavities. So maybe it wasn't my parents' fault after all. Maybe it's the fact that my dental genetics were scraped together out of a garbage dumpster and everything seemed A-okay except that important things like enamel that wasn't made out of tracing paper, alignment and being given teeth sized for a normal-sized girl instead of a 7'-tall lumberjack were left out of the mix. Yeah, that could be it.

Sadly, Zoe inherited my teeth or, more appropriately, lack of good teeth. After not eating too much candy or seasoning her food with Fun Dip, she brushes, flosses and rinses, and then ends up with cavities. And I'm not just talking cavities. I'm talking cavities. These suckers are on steroids and seem to appear in a matter of seconds. Meanwhile, her brothers chew on chocolate, occasionally remember to rinse the food out of their braces after they eat and often end up doing a half-ass job brushing their teeth because they're too busy using their brains to think about playing Halo. And then they sail through dental exams, only having to appear in the reclining chair every six months, and not once have had to recover from the numbing effects of novocaine.

At the kids' last cleaning, I was informed that Charlie has to do a better job of brushing because he has what appears to be his own personal compost bin growing amidst his braces, Zach is being lazy brushing his bottom teeth, and Zoe has two abscess teeth on the bottom that would need to be pulled. Okay, so, Charlie please brush better unless you want me to throw your entire head into the actual compost bin by my garden, Zach stop being a lazy ass, and...WHAT? WHO NEEDS TO HAVE TEETH PULLED?

Long story short, bionic cavities had managed to grow under fillings that had already been put in, so two teeth had to come out, spacers needed to go in, which meant a total of four appointments, each scheduled a week apart. They were going to be pulled with novocaine, so no general anesthesia would be necessary. Nitrous could be used (yay!), but then I found out the nitrous was for her, not me, and while that made Zoe excited, it left me pretty disappointed. I scheduled everything for after Christmas, tried to sound all nonchalant about it so as to not freak out my daughter, and then proceeded to quietly freak out.

Before Christmas, the kids played in a holiday piano recital. And even though there were still faint traces of those goddamn red dots on Zoe's face from Clifford Day, the kids all cleaned up pretty well. I'm more than a little obsessed with Zoe's red shoes and the way her tights are all baggy around her ankles, I love that the boys' shirts are untucked and I am impressed that they voluntarily wore something besides tennis clothes (except Zach forgot to switch his socks):

A couple weeks after this picture was taken, it was time for dentist appointment #1. She remembered to bring a stuffed animal to hug, sunglasses to avoid being blinded by the overhead light, she never winced during the novocaine shots and seemed pretty relaxed about the whole ordeal. Meanwhile, I sat in the corner with my foot nervously tap-tappity-tapping and attempted to ignore the smell of the office and the sound of the metal instruments while reading an issue of Men's Journal (I now know how to get a dent out of a ping pong ball.) And then they started pulling.

Seriously people, I thought I was going to faint. I felt like a live-action example of contradiction, trying to convince my little girl that it really doesn't hurt that bad while also fighting the urge to scream "Get the fuck away from my kid because I hate the dentist! You're a bad man! A very bad, bad man!" I knew the tooth had to come out - infection, horrid odor, damage to the adult tooth, blah blah blah - but did it have to come out so, you know, ickily? At one point when Zoe raised her hand trying to claim that the dentist was hurting her, I noticed the dude wasn't even touching her tooth. That's when I decided that I would act like an adult, tell my kid to suck it up, watch her yell in fear as the tears rolled down the sides of her face, and shout out various bribes in order to get her to cooperate. Do you want a toy at Target? Done. Two toys. Done. A prize from the dentist in addition to the two toys? You betcha.

After her appointment, we went shopping for her rewards. Since she was drooling a little bit (novocaine, you know) I decided to just plop her in the cart so that I could periodically wipe the spit and blood off of her lip. And since the hole where her tooth used to be was still bleeding a little bit, she was supposed to keep a wad of cotton in her mouth for about half-an-hour. In addition, all the crying and freaking out had made her Clifford spots flare up again into an angry red. So here I was, pushing around my drooling, bleeding, polk-a-dotted daughter who couldn't form an intelligible word due to the numbness/cotton in her mouth combo, which meant all she could do is sit there and gesture which direction she wanted me to go while moaning things like "AAAARRRGHHIIIGHT" and "UH UH DAAATTTTUUUPP." I was tempted to take a picture of her in this miserable state because it was so completely opposite of how she looked before her piano recital just a couple weeks ago, but then remembered: I had already taken one while she was in the dentist's chair:

And while I still hate the dentist and probably always will, Zoe still likes the guy and is even looking forward to appointment #2, which may or may be due to the fact that I've already bribed her with another toy. And who knows, I might even agree to drive her there -- after someone bribes me with a bottle of vodka and a couple valium.


sylvia said...

she was a real trooper - even up for evening dinner out with the grandparents. I remember the trip with you and they pull 4 or 6 teeth at once - I needed to hug you after but eey gad the smell of blood in your month was over whelming! Being a Mom demands a strong urge not to puck at precious moments. Good job Jody - MOM

Timothy said...

I'm so impressed with the way you encouraged your little girl to behave during the dental treatment. It's normal for kids to cry when a tooth will be pulled by a dentist. I guess hugging a child after such situation is a must.

I'm happy to share that our youngest daughter, Elise, did well in the North Charleston dentist's office. She was very cooperative with the hygienist when her teeth were cleaned. However, she became restless when she heard one time that there's a need to pull her abscessed teeth. Other than that, she liked the way the Summerville cosmetic dentist treated her.