Goodbye pirate tooth

I remember the day my, then, three-year-old son woke up with a swollen cheek. I brought him to our pediatrician who referred us to a dentist. I knew that I was supposed to have brought him to the dentist before this age, but the thought of the screaming and the torture for everyone involved had deterred me. We walked into the office, my head hung in embarrassment, but it didn’t last too long. I was distracted by my son screaming bloody murder when anyone came near him.

It was determined that he needed a baby root canal and crown and that “due to his age and behavior,” it would be safest to have it done in a hospital, with anesthesia. The dentist concluded that my son probably got the cavity from the fruit snacks we used for rewards for speech therapy. Even though the speech therapist cut each tiny one into four or five pieces to limit the sugar intake, that clearly wasn’t good enough. The kid had almost no language and we were desperate to do anything that would help him (fruit snacks were the only motivation that worked). Now we had another problem on our hands because of the speech therapy rewards. Awesome. He would have a silver tooth for years to come, until it naturally fell out. I was devastated.

I don’t remember much about surgery day. All I recall is that when my son woke up out of the anesthesia, he was basically inconsolable. That was almost 10 years ago. As the dentist had predicted, we could barely see the silver tooth. It was far back enough in his mouth that unless he smiled super wide or opened his mouth, it was easy to miss. But other kids didn’t miss it. Over the years, kids would occasionally ask him why he had a “pirate” tooth. He would usually ignore them, but sometimes it would upset him. Lucky for us it wasn’t a frequent occurrence.

When the silver tooth came into our lives, we were already overwhelmed with worry. We had a four-year-old with almost no language, who was in a special-needs class. It seemed like a million years away when he would talk, and a million more until that tooth would come out.

A week shy of my son’s 13th birthday, he came to me and said that his silver tooth was loose. He HATES loose teeth. He can’t handle not being able to chew properly, the discomfort, and the possibility of swallowing the tooth in his sleep. It causes him great anxiety. As I normally try to do, I explained that this would take a few days and it would be over soon. I reminded him to try and chew on the opposite side of his mouth. But he didn’t want to hear any of that.

He went into the bathroom and about an hour later emerged with the silver tooth in his hand. Like a brave warrior, he wiggled and shook that tooth until he got what he wanted. The kid (who  has quite possibly the lowest tolerance for pain that I’ve ever seen) fought through the discomfort and accomplished his mission. Never mind that the bathroom looked like a scene from Dexter.

And just like that, it was over.

The 10-year ordeal, caused by plaque, was behind us. Years of speech therapy were far behind us. Walking into a doctor’s office and hearing my child scream just because we had entered the room had been over for years. My baby was grown up… and I have the bloody bathroom to prove it.


Samantha TaylorComment