I don't know why I still haven't switched my kids' dentist.
No, I do know why.
I haven't switched my kids' dentist because I have yet to go to the huge effort of securing the name and number of another dentist in town from one of the two friends who have told me that they have a dentist that they like and trust that is also great with kids.
Instead of switching, I complain about it for a week or so after our visit, then another six months goes by and I load up the kids in the car and we are off to the Villa Villekula of pediatric dentistry once again. The dentist office where four cavities are rewarded with a "1" rating for brushing and the opportunity to pick not one, not two, but three prizes PLUS a token to get a super ball from the gumball dispenser.
"How did he get a '1'? You said he had four cavities?'' I asked.
"Yes, but they were in between teeth. He needs to work on flossing but he got a '1' for brushing." I am told by the hygienist.
I go against my character, shut my mouth and proceed to computer terminal two to get a print out of my quote for the damages.
Not today. I told myself as we waited in the lobby to be called this afternoon.
Today, if there is even a whiff of plaque, there will be no prizes.
To clarify, I am a mother who holds herself perhaps marginally accountable for her young sons' oral hygiene. I get them to their semi-annual cleanings and I provide a constant supply of spin brushes, fresh batteries, flossers, and fluoride rinse. I also set all three item ups (including putting tooth-paste on brushes and rinse in cups) next to each of their sinks in the morning and at bedtime. I then call to the boys:
"It's time to brush, floss and rinse!"
Then I make sure they get in that bathroom and get to work. But never ever do I wield their brush or flosser in my own hands. I grew weary of the fight over a year ago.
The squirming would start.
"Mommy, I can do it!"
They'd grab for my arm and push it from their mouths.
"Mommy, go away!"
"Fine. You're on your own."
I choose not this battle.
As we walked to the exam room this afternoon, I asked the hygienist:
"Can we do sealants on their permanent molars?"
"Well, not today," she snipped. "But we can do them."
When the boys climbed into their exam seats, I took mine in a ringside folding chair and pulled out the catalog I had stashed in my purse.
Maybe if I don't appear engaged, she won't try to engage me.
Then I heard.
"Oh. <pause> OH." I looked up and saw Happy Hygienist was looking at Nick's chart. She looked over at me.
"So WE didn't fill TWO from last time?"
I loathe the royal or editorial "we". Like Mark Twain said, "Only kings, presidents, editors and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial 'we'."
"No." Our eyes held for a few beats but I offered no further explanation. Pretty much just to see what she would do but also because I didn't owe her one. The young adult, female, pink head-band-wearing hygienist with no children (I asked before) who speaks to me in a condescending tone about my sons' oral hygiene every six months like clock-work doesn't get an explanation. Not today. But as background, I didn't fill the last two because we almost didn't make it through filling the first two. In spite of movie goggles featuring the movie of his choice, laughing gas administered in the scent of his choice, and a good ol' fashioned shot of nova cane that he didn't see or feel because of steps one and two, he was somehow balling by the time I carried him out of the exam room.
"Mrs. Pieri, shall we go ahead and schedule his next session?" the office assistant called to me as we passed.
"Not now!" I yelled back to her on our way out the door.
Happy Hygienist reluctantly flipped the light on over Nick's head, grabbed some tools and got to the real task at hand. I went back to my catalog.
"Have WE been flossing once a day?"
Are you kidding me?
When I didn't hear Nick respond, I knew I had to answer her question. I looked up from a page featuring a really cute, long, charcoal cardigan-come-poncho with fringe and a red pattern around the edges.
"HE better be flossing TWICE a day," I answered in my best mommy, sing-song voice. "Mommy sets everything up for him in the morning and at bed time."
"Oh, so WE'RE brushing on our own?"
Not unless YOU'RE climbing in through his bathroom window twice a day to brush with him. And if you were, you'd already know the answer to that question, wouldn't you?
"Yes." I told her, with a smile.
"Ok." <pause> "Well, flossing at night is the most important."
Thanks for the hot tip, head-band. Can't wait to have Nick throw that fine fact in my face when I put his flosser out tomorrow morning!
I ignored her and turned back to my cardigan-come-poncho and my earlier description didn't do it justice.
I didn't even want to be in the exam room this time. I asked the boys if I could wait in the lobby like the other mommies we saw. It's obvious at this point what their answer was.
Then I heard. "Sticky."
I looked over to see Happy Hygienist shoving the pointy end of some tool into one of Nick's six-year molars. You know, the molars in way back that they keep forever, a.k.a.: The 100 Year Molars. I stood up and acted interested.
"Nick, you might have a cavity in one of your grown-up teeth already." I told him, my tone was one of mild annoyance. I wasn't surprised. He has a track-record, after all.
Happy Hygienist then went about brushing and flossing his teeth. The service we came for. I giggled with Nick as bubbles formed and popped on the sides of his mouth and saliva dripped into the cup he held under his chin during his fluoride treatment.
When the dentist arrived, she checked Vince first. All clear. He had permission from all sides to go grab a prize.
Then it was Nick's turn.
The dentist's verdict: "I need to fill the two cavities from before and there are two small spots of decay on two of his six-year molars. I can fill them easily, without nova cane, then do sealants on them during the same visit."
"Ok. Thank you."
I got up from my seat and turned to Nick, "Nicky, no prizes for you today, honey."
Happy Hygienist turned on her heels and glared at me.
"He doesn't get a prize?" In her estimation, this was a moral outrage.
"No, he doesn't. He has two new cavities. And the last time we were here, he had four cavities and was somehow given a '1' and offered four prizes. It just doesn't make sense to me."
Happy Hygienist and the dentist locked eyes as Nick and I held hands and walked out of the exam room toward computer terminal two. I scheduled our fillings and sealants appointment for the next week.
"And do you want to make your six month appointment at this time?" the office assistant asked.
Don't do it. Don't do it. Don't do it.
"Sure, why not?"
|Villa Villekula, where Pippi Longstocking didn't have a mom or dad |
to tell her to go to bed just when she was having the most fun!