I’ve spent the past 6 weeks in dental hell. And it’s not ending anytime soon.
Labor Day weekend we were getting ready to go to the beach when I noticed Xander’s right cheek was all swollen. “Do you have a toothache?” After a moment, he said sheepishly, “Kinda.” I sighed. “Okay, we can’t do anything about it right now. I’ll call and make you a dentist appointment on Tuesday.” A little while later, I said, “Here, let me see it.” He pulls open his cheek, and I look in to see half his molar is gone. “Why didn’t you SAY anything?” He shrugs. Kids! What is worse is a few days later, after I scheduled the appointment but before the appointment itself, I asked the question I should have asked in the first place. “When did this happen?” “I don’t know. Around graduation?” Kid, that was THREE MONTHS AGO. I don’t know if he just didn’t realize that pain wasn’t normal or if he was scared to tell me. Either way, he and all the kids got the lecture that if they’re hurting, they tell me and I worry about things like how we’re going to pay for it.
That lesson didn’t sink in so good, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
So we went to Xander’s appointment, which to my shame was many years past due. The first appointment was just a cleaning and x-rays, but he was pretty nervous as he couldn’t remember having been to the dentist before. Everything went well, but there was no saving the molar, so that would have to come out, and he had 5 cavities that needed filling. So I scheduled weekly appointments and got the name of an oral surgeon, which I also scheduled. Every week for the past month I have been at the dentist with that kid. He did great. Didn’t have any problems at the oral surgeon, which surprised me, especially since I couldn’t stay in the room with him. But then that kid always surprises me. All his cavities have been filled, and his wisdom teeth come out on Monday. After that he’ll heal for a month before we go back to the dentist to get a spacer in where his broken tooth was. Unfortunately we have to wait a couple of years before getting an implant or bridge until his jaw finishes growing.
In the meantime, though, I’ve become very aware of my kids’ teeth. I’ve been nagging them all about improving their dental hygiene (my parents were pretty lax about it when I was a kid, and that’s carried over into my parenting), and we got the water pik the dentist insisted on, and both Crow and Xander have taken to that pretty well. So when I glanced at Crow the other day and noticed a black spot on her front tooth, I went uh-oh. Sure enough, they have a big cavity right on the side of their incisor. So, back to the dentist we went.
Their cleaning and x-rays were today. The dentist said she could tell Crow was starting to use the water pik, so yay for that investment. But they still have 8-9 full blown cavities, and half a dozen more “baby” ones. Those we’re treating with prescription toothpaste, but the others need a whole lot of appointments, especially that front one. It is millimeters away from needing a root canal, which none of us want. So I have all THOSE appointments made, and will be at the dentist most of October and November as well.
I am so grateful I have what passes for decent dental insurance in this country and a health savings account to pay for all of this. I know it’s largely my own damn fault, but when you live on the financial edge, going to the dentist is terrifying. Crow needs braces, and has for a while, which I’ve known and just had no way of even considering before now. But the fear of being told it had to be done and figuring out how I was going to pay for it kept me from getting even the basic care done for them. That kind of financial insecurity is so hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it, and the shame spiral that goes with it is impossible to escape.
Morgan goes to the dentist on Monday, the same day Xander gets his wisdom teeth out. Fortunately Morgan’s teeth are rocks like mine are, so I’m not too worried for him.