Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tooth Fairy

The Tooth Fairy visited our house for the first time a few weeks ago. My daughter is only five and unfortunately her first lost tooth did not occur naturally.  The experience was rather traumatic for us all, but thankfully our Tooth Fairy really came through.

I was pretty devastated when the dentist informed us in the fall that Madelyn's lower left second molar had a cavity. We have been vigilant about oral care since infancy so the news was shocking and disappointing. I take solace in the dentist's reassurance that this cavity was the result of some kind of "fluke," possibly a spot of weak enamel or unusually deep groove.

The cavity was filled by the dentist and his delightful assistant during this initial visit. The experience was uncharacteristically pleasant!  Madelyn breathed Nitrous Oxide and she was such a ham that she had all three of us adults cracking up. The challenge in getting her to sit still was not because she was uncomfortable or afraid, but because she was being so silly.  Three different staff members "sneaked" Madelyn an extra token for the prize dispenser because she was such a great patient. I left feeling triumphant over the stereotypically traumatic dentist visit, even under distressing circumstances.

But a month or so later, Madelyn complained again of pain near that tooth during brushing, so Gary took her to the "emergency" dental clinic. I wasn't able to be there but Gary reports that it was an entirely different experience. Infection was discovered under the filling (damn you, wonderful first dentist!) which meant it needed to be re-done.  They refused to administer Nitrous at this office because there were pregnant women on the staff, according to Gary. ?!? With no alternative option, Madelyn had to suffer those long numbing injections and the rest of her torture in full awareness. And she was NOT an easy patient this time around. To make matters worse, this dentist was impatient and apparently said the kind of things that only exacerbate Madelyn's fragile emotional state. I imagine all parties were completely exhausted by the end, and the dentist even stated that she wasn't sure if she was able to get all the infection out under the difficult circumstances.

Everything was fine for a few months. When Madelyn began telling us in April to brush that side of her mouth gently, I actually thought she just had a cut on her cheek at first. But when I got a good look, I saw the swelling in her gums under that same molar. So back to the dentist we went.

I declined returning to the emergency clinic, and the first dentist we saw is no longer at a convenient location. So we decided to establish a relationship with the office that is closest to our new home. So another new place and new face for Madelyn. After the last visit, Madelyn's opinion of the dentist was understandably maligned. Even the mention of a possibility of visiting the dentist brought tears to her eyes, I am not kidding.

The new dentist immediately concluded that the molar would have to be extracted. We set an appointment to return a few days later, and she suggested a Rx for an oral medication as an alternative to N2O. To me, extraction was the worst outcome considering our years of careful dental care. This molar is one that shouldn't normally fall out until a child is about 11 years old. So there isn't going to be a new one growing back any time soon. I felt defeated.

I knew this experience was not going to be extremely pleasant. My preparations took on the seriousness of heading into battle. And I feel like I was about the most well-prepared mother I could have been.  On top of the usual stash of books, coloring, stuffed animals, and her comfort blanky, I even thought to bring Madelyn's favorite (bordering on obsessive) CD (The Lion King soundtrack) and my old Discman! Not only that, but I packed extra batteries (which we did use!).  And knowing that one of Madelyn's advance concerns was the bright light in her eyes, I packed not only her cute pink sunglasses, but a surprise novelty pair with fish for eyes.  All of this worked very well to keep her in good spirits...until the work began.

The oral meds to make Madelyn "loopy" were administered about an hour in advance.  Even though Madelyn was not falling over in her chair as the dentist wanted, she decided to proceed based on her slightly slurred speech and happy disposition. Looking back, I think Madelyn would have benefited from a larger dose or more time. Because she was fully conscious of the three very slow anesthetic injections and the violent extraction of her tooth. The entire process was made incredibly challenging for the dentist because Madelyn was squirming, screaming, and trying to shut her mouth. Thank goodness for those little plastic contraptions that hold her jaw open--although I cringe at the idea of her being out of control in such a way. I had to leave the room for the third injection because my heart was breaking. I hope there weren't patients in the waiting room with a fear of the dentist that day, because Madelyn's tortured screams were not reassuring.

Madelyn's music was still playing on her headphones as her own personal background to her screams. I feared that she'd forever associate "I Just Can't Wait to be King" with agonizing assault and never want to hear it again (which I suppose could be considered a relief for Gary and me, but I'd feel awful since she loves it so much).

In the end, Madelyn's tooth came out and of course she was fine. The dentist explained that one of the effects of the medication is a sort of amnesia, assuring us that as bad as it seemed at the time, Madelyn probably wouldn't remember what happened. And this seems to be true. She was much more loopy after the procedure, stumbling around like a drunk 5-year-old (supporting my question of whether more time would have been beneficial). She had to be carried to and from the car to avoid toppling over onto the cement. From then on the focus was on her nifty tooth and the impending visit from Tooth Fairy. Her excitement about these elements seemed to replace all concern about how they came to be. I had told Madelyn that when your tooth comes out at the dentist, and you have to be so brave, the Tooth Fairy brings something extra-special.

So she dictated this letter to the Tooth Fairy and left it under her pillow with the tooth:

Our amazing Tooth Fairy left a note (complete with glittery fairy dust) for Madelyn in return, along with a tiny My Little Pony:

So all was well, except one more near-tragedy which occurred the following night. At bedtime, we couldn't find Madelyn's tooth, which she wanted to bring to Share Day at school the next morning. I'd put the tooth into a tiny plastic box with a clear lid, about the size of a postage stamp, cubed. All of us searched everywhere for this box, even in those strange places like the pantry.  When we were about to call of the dogs, so-to-speak (the irony is about to be apparent), I had a sickening thought.

Armed with a flashlight, I went outside to the dogs' area of the backyard in the dark. Sure enough, there was the little plastic box in the barkdust--now in dozens of shards and pieces. I picked up all the plastic bits and scraps of gauze--finding no evidence of tooth. I almost wanted to cry, thinking how after all we'd been through now we'd have to sift through dog excrement if we wanted to preserve this little piece of Madelyn's childhood. It was a pretty big "if."

Then walking back inside, something caught my eye on the patio. Six feet away from the box's destruction site lay a tiny white pearl with three pointy legs. It was completely intact (amazing because of the broken filling), but had been systematically licked clean by a Husky who we shall assume is Kezia, because she is the pest who does things like this. I was so relieved to have found it that I hardly cared about being mad at the dog (which wouldn't do any good hours after the incident anyway).  I was so happy to show Madelyn before her goodnight kiss that I'd saved the day!

Best Tooth Fairy Ever.


Related Posts with Thumbnails