In hindsight, it was probably a poor strategy, but I had basically decided not to dwell on  it, talk about it much, or worry about it.

For one thing, I was pissed about the whole thing.

And for another thing, I already knew I was going to hate the sight, the very thought, of our five-year-old guy innocently breathing in the gas that was going to send his brain on a little trip to la la wierdo land.

But the dentist was casual about it, cavalier, almost, you might say. “So, he’ll have Nitrous Oxide, we’ll give him oxygen at the end and he’ll be fine to go to school.”


I was already  trying to process the “he has six cavities” thing, when he, at four-and-a-half, had been in the “Zero Cavity Club” for every one of his FOUR previous dentist visits. And allasudden SIX?? I was a little crabby. The $1700 treatment plan I was handed for the two separate visits we’d need? That kinda held my attention, too.

So I pushed the actual procedure itself to the back of my mind, until all of a sudden, out came the “astronaut mask” and Alden’s hand holding mine got…very…..relaxed.

My eyes filled up with tears.

I could see Alden’s eyes kind of lurching around. I squeezed his hand and he didn’t squeeze back….just a slight reaction…way delayed. Weird. Unsettling.

He didn’t make a sound or move a muscle during the whole procedure, not when a green rubber dental dam was stretched across his mouth with only the individual offending sugar-bug-ridden teeth poking through, not when the dentist (who, to give her credit, told him (and by extension me) every single thing she was doing) poked, drilled, glued, polished, shone the blue light thingy, all of it.

The astronaut mask started sending oxygen Alden’s way, blowing the blurry lala land haze away, and I could see Alden’s eyes slowly regain their usual look, their usual character, their usual spark, then, crumple, and “My nose hurts.”

His nose hurt where the mask had pressed, his cheek and gum hurt and felt puffy and strange — first novacaine, too– and I could see that Alden just felt… a bit beat up without being quite sure why.

We didn’t go straight to school, though we’d been told he could; we went home for a while and snuggled on the couch watching Buster Keaton and Fatty Arbuckle and just giving ourselves a little break.

By midday, Alden was ready to go to school and didn’t want to miss more of his day than he had to. We dove back into the flow of the day, mildly bruised but not truly the worse for wear.

 But today’s procedure was only half, the left side. And, we hadn’t talked about it much, built it up at all… he didn’t go in worried or anxious, and he’s a guy who gets real quiet and reserves judgement on new situations most of the time. But next time, he’ll know what’s coming, and it might not go so well.

Driving away from his school, I thought to myself, “I’m going to make Josh take him next time.”

But, hate the sight, the very thought of it, as I do… I’ll go with him next time too. I can’t do it for him and I can’t make it so he doesn’t have to do it. But I can be there.


3 thoughts on “Fillings

  1. You have to know, Grace, that you’re more of a panacea for Alden in that chair than all the nitrous and other anesthetics combined. But he’s really at a tender age for these kinds of “life” procedures and it’s tough to watch your kid be taken through all those grown-up treatments. I accompanied my wife and 13-year-old daughter to the daughter’s dentist last year when he needed to pull a tooth that was coming in goofy. When he gave her the first numbing shot I had to leave the room. She did fine but I nearly passed out. Thanks for sharing this with us. Even the seemingly small moments can be big milestones.

    • Thanks for saying that, Bob. It’s totally crazily humbling, too, to imagine the parents of children who have to go through REALLY major medical stuff. Feeling beat up and thankful all at the same time.

  2. Watching your kids be hurt and vulnerable is so hard. Closest I came to throwing up or passing out was watching the a doc in an alabama hospital put stitches into Gretchen’s eyebrow one summer when we were up at the lake. Windsurfer boom (mine) came down on her face.

    About the teeth, do you have fluoride in your water out there? If not I’d push the dentist/pediatrician for some drops or tablets.

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