“Did you brush your teeth?” I ask my son every night. “Yes,” he replies every single time. “I don’t mean this morning or last night. I mean tonight,” I respond. Suddenly there’s a lightbulb, “Oh!” as he jumps up to brush his teeth.
No, really, why do we constantly need to repeat ourselves every single day?! My brain says that the child should figure this out by now. But maybe, just maybe, he doesn’t actually SEE me brushing my own teeth so he doesn’t really know if it’s necessary?
This teeth brushing has been an issue for the last 8 years. Yesterday, my child ended up with a tooth extraction because an old cavity went bad and it was giving him a toothache. Our family dentist referred us to a pedodontic dentist. The last one we saw was amazing, but they book up quickly and we had to wait 3 months for an appointment! So our dentist referred us to a different pedodontic dentist.
My 8 year old and I go to this new dentists office. There’s a handful of children in the waiting room. The office staff review all the paperwork with me. We get called to an exam room where the dentist counts my son’s teeth, all foreign to my son as each tooth has a name. If I recall correctly letters represent baby teeth and numbers represent permanent teeth.
The dentist then discusses with me about how he can squeeze my son into his schedule for an extraction, as recommended by the family dentist. All was going well. My son is already at an age where parents sit out front while the child is sees the dentist alone. No parent around this area of the office. I’m asked to prepay for the procedure which I willingly do as it’s been recommended by our trusted family dentist.
My son is 8 and having a tooth extracted. I imagine the dentist walking him through the process, explaining what he might feel and hear and see. Then my son comes out with a tooth extracted and swollen. While lost in my imagination, I’m also pretending to read a book and watch the people around me.
An hour or so later, I hear my son’s name and I look up. I see the office staff person walking my son out. He has a gauze piece in his mouth, it’s likely too much and he wants to gag. I ask if he wants to change the gauze he nods. They change his gauze.
As we walk out of the office he starts crying and holding his cheek. He acts very angry. The walk to the car was a stressful one. My son’s pain level must have been higher than he expected. He cried and screamed. He didn’t know how to express himself.
We change his gauze again in the car. Drive home to give him some non-aspirin painkiller. As soon as we got in the house, he was crying loudly while pounding his fists on the floor. I changed the gauze pad, AGAIN. Then I asked if he wants to go to school. There’s only liquids until it stops bleeding, soft foods for 24-hours, and some salt water gentle swooshing the next day-3 days until the gums heal. No straws for 24-hours, too! No school today, please.
He finally calmed down about an hour after I gave him a non-aspirin painkiller and was playing on my iPad on the floor. He was distracted and comfortable. He was safe. He was missing a tooth and the bleeding had subsided. He’s was a much happier kid.
It was easier to talk to him after he calmed down. He shared that no one told him what would be happening during the procedure, step by step. He didn’t know what he might hear, what he might feel, or what to do if he feels pain. He had his arms held down so he couldn’t move. They placed a monitor in his face with the same show shown everywhere in the office.
My son also said he felt pain like he’s never felt before. Shouldn’t he have been numbed so he doesn’t feel anything? I didn’t feel any pain when my wisdom was pulled. He says that’s why he was screaming and pounding the floor when we got home. It was his way of holding onto his aggression until we were in a safe place. I’m blessed he at least knows how to do THAT.
3 things to know from what I learned from this experience (that I hopefully won’t need to go through any longer):
- Observe your children as they floss and brush their teeth! I trusted that he knows how to floss and brush. Apparently, I’ve been wrong.
- Ask a LOT of questions to the treating dentist for the CHILD’s understanding, not just your own. They process things different and a procedure like an extraction isn’t exactly an every day event your child will experience. I’ve never forgotten my experiences and I doubt my son will either.
- Ensure your child knows you love him. I left my son without the usual hug and left the area. In hindsight, I should have ensured he knew what was going to happen instead of just going with the flow. My heart aches for my son as he had no clue how this would all go down.