When Sarah was 10 months old, we enrolled in a Mommy and Me type class at our local community center. This class was, for me, a lifeline in many ways as I was trying to figure out the ins and outs of being a new stay at home mom. I met several “co-workers” and ultimately, both Sarah and I forged some wonderful, lasting friendships.
During the class, we moms would have some playtime with our children with a teacher who led us in some group play activities. Then, we would leave the children with their teacher and retreat to a classroom of our own where a parent educator would facilitate a discussion on various topics related to raising children: discipline, sleep issues, nutrition, etc. We tried not to let it degenerate into a bitch session about our spouses but I have to admit, we all got in a few zingers as well about our beloved partners.
Well, for one such discussion, a hygienist from a local dentist office came to do a presentation on taking care of our children’s teeth. I remember our roundtable of first time moms recoiling in horror as the dental hygienist presented poster board sized pictures of the open mouths of various two to four year old patients. Their poor little teeth were riddled with tooth decay, fillings, and crowns. Some even had pulled teeth. As if to drive the point home, she specifically said, “These are all children from YOUR community.” So not random children from the mountains of Appalachia with, perhaps, no access to dental expertise. But rather, children of parents who live in our fairly well-off and well-educated suburb. Despite this commonality, I do remember thinking with much judgement and righteousness: what kind monsters/morons are these parents? Are they giving their kids Mountain Dew in a bottle? Seriously, some people are just not fit to parent.
Do I have to connect the dots for you or can you figure out where this is going for yourself?
Fast forward 2.5 years. Sarah bites into a pickle and howls in pain, “MY TOOTH! MY TOOTH!! MY TOOTH HUUUUUURRRTS!!!!!” A trip to our dentist revealed that Sarah had a massive cavity on her very back molar. The dentist’s first approach was to give Sarah some laughing gas and then, treat the cavity. This path was quickly abandoned when it became apparent that the entire office would need to assist in holding a terrified and screaming Sarah down so that the dentist could do her work.
So Plan B: go to an ambulatory surgery center where Sarah would be put under general anesthesia. The dentist would then go in and fix the cavity while an anesthesiologist, nurse anesthetist, numerous dental assistants, nurses, and other support staff would assist. We’d go in at 6:30 in the morning and hopefully, be out by noon or so.
I don’t want to overdramatize what happened because I am painfully aware of parents who have children who are seriously ill. This was a simple cavity and it was an easy fix. But having Sarah put under general anesthesia was one of the worst things I’ve experienced as a parent. We all have those days, as a stay at home mom, when you just wish on all that is holy that your child could be still for 10 minutes so you can get whatever task you are working on completed. But when I cradled Sarah in my arms as she slumped into unconsciousness in a matter of seconds, I was terrified. She was so still and so quiet. I’ll never forget that awful feeling and the guilt I had knowing we had only ourselves to blame for the situation at hand.
Luckily, everything went well. Though instead of the filling that the dentist was hoping to do, Sarah ended up having a root canal and a crown…I know, what kind of mom am I??!?!! A three year old with a root canal? The mind reels.
But wait…there’s more! In addition to the pain and duress we caused our daughter, all told, this procedure ended up costing us thousands of dollars. Chris and I had deliberately decided earlier that year not to enroll Sarah in our dental plan. The premiums were so high, as was the deductible. With the hubris conferred to us by our combined masters degrees from a fairly reputable business school backing us up, we felt that we would be better off just paying for the usual two check ups out of our own pockets. In our misguided effort to beat the system, we ended up paying for our dentist’s time, her staff, the anesthesiologist and his staff, the supplies and equipment needed for the procedure, as well as the facility fees for the surgery center. So not only were we negligent parents from an oral health perspective, we weren’t too bright fiscally either.
So, moral of the story: Sarah never had a cavity again and we signed her up for dental insurance right away. Ha ha! Guess again, suckers!!! Never overestimate our skills as responsible parents or as rational decision makers. No, in fact, her recent check up revealed that Sarah has ANOTHER cavity. And….wait for it….we never enrolled her in our dental plan! I mean, what were the chances it would happen twice, right?
Again, the doctor hopes to treat her in the office under laughing gas. If this does not go well, we will have to go to the University of Minnesota for a consult and then, the procedure. I have been preparing Sarah since our appointment about how imperative it is that she allow the dentist to do this in the office. With the theory that knowledge is power, I’ve told her exactly what will happen, the instruments that will be used, that it will be uncomfortable, and that things will smell, taste, sound, and look funny. It might even be a little scary but she needs to let the dentist do her work. Sarah has solemnly sworn her full cooperation.
But Chris’s approach may be more effective. When he found out about the need for yet another procedure, his response was, “Promise to buy her many, many things if she can get through it.” What a dynamic duo we are.