Beauty is pain

By Mir
March 16, 2010

Long ago when I imagined my future children, I pictured raven-haired curlytops full of laughter. I did not, as it turns out, imagine that my curly hair would be the exception rather than the rule, or that the sheer level of DRAMA and ANGST associated with the difficulty of being a child would make for quite so much glaring. Live and learn.

Monkey did get my eyes, and Chickadee definitely has my ears. I mean, we share genetic material, and it’s evident. (Something that always tickles me about genetics: If Chickadee is with me, people swear she is my spitting image. If she’s with her dad, people swear she is his spitting image. This is my daughter, the shapeshifter.) Unfortunately, poor Chickadee got something else from me, as well: A smallish mouth, with largish teeth. That means that three years ago she had teeth pulled, and then she had a gum graft a few months after that, and now she has braces and yesterday she had MORE teeth pulled. Fun!

[Dear Chickadee: Sorry for all the years you’ll spend in therapy getting over your dental phobia. I’ll help pay for it. But, um, look how awesome it all turned out! Honey? Speak to me, honey!]

Now, whereas Monkey has had some issues with the dentist and orthodontist because he has sensory problems and he just finds hands and wires and loud noises in his mouth rather overwhelming, Chickadee is a completely neurotypical kid who now completely hates both the dentist and the orthodontist because THEY KEEP STICKING NEEDLES INTO HER GUMS and doing things like RIPPING HER TEETH OUT WITH PLIERS. I really don’t know that we can call it a phobia when, honestly, the child is justified. Nothing good ever happens to her at the dentist.

[Sudden brilliant idea: I periodically drive the dog to the vet for no reason at all, just to let the receptionist give her a biscuit. It’s designed to make her (the dog, not the receptionist) think that the vet is a happy place, not just a place where she gets muzzled and has things shoved in her butt. Perhaps the next time I have a new piece of clothing or a couple of bonus chore bucks for Chickie I should take her to the dentist and let HIM give it to her! Same principle should work out there, right?]

Anyway. Chickadee’s anxiety about the whole thing meant that I picked her up from school and 1) she’d barely eaten any lunch and 2) she was talking a mile a minute because she was nervous. But we went on over to the dentist and they got her into the chair and strapped on her orange-scented mask and I waited for her to get all goofy and incoherent like she did the last time she had laughing gas.

Except that she stayed pretty much fine, this time, which was fine until they started doing the novocaine, at which point she started crying and carrying on, and I turned into THAT MOTHER, the one who firmly suggests that they turn the gas up, WAY UP, to make her more comfortable.

See, here is one of the biggest regrets of my mothering career: When Chickadee had her gum graft, the oral surgeon we saw for that was not the same one who’d done her prior tooth extraction. And this doctor assured me that sedation was unnecessary and he does these all the time and it would all be fine and blah blah blah, and when it came down to it and she was screaming and crying the doctor told me she was “just being dramatic” and really, she couldn’t feel a thing. My daughter IS dramatic, and so I believed him. I later found out that gum grafts are incredibly painful and she probably did experience a lot of pain, and not only did that jerk of a doctor let that happen, but I let it happen because I didn’t know any better. And that sucks.

Now my kid is terrified of dentists and my position is that PAIN IS UNNECESSARY, so if the crocodile tears start to flow, it no longer matters to me if she’s faking or genuinely experiencing pain: Your job, as the person I am paying, is to MAKE HER STOP. Fortunately, they turned up the gas and proceeded with the novocaine shots verrrrrry sloooowwwwwly, and finally she was ready for the extractions.

Pliers in your mouth make a lot of noise, it turns out. I had been sitting across the room, initially, but once they started working on her teeth, Chickadee’s arms came up and started flailing around while she whimpered—more scared than anything else—and I ended up sitting by her head and trying to stay out of the way while I stroked her hair and chattered quietly in her ear. They were about halfway through taking out the first tooth when the LAUGHING part of the laughing gas hit her, and so as a monster molar was ripped from her gums, my daughter was finding me extra-hilarious and laughing loudly enough that someone from the hallway stuck her head in to make sure everything was okay.

Statements which are hilarious when you are my daughter on laughing gas:
“I am giving you a scalp massage.”
“That’s funny? Oh, look. A bug. Here in your hair.”
“Just kidding.”
“I bet we could’ve had Otto do this at home in the garage for a lot less money. I mean, he has pliers.”
“Clearly I am the greatest mother ever, because you find me hilarious.”
“Stop drooling.”

On both teeth there was at least one broken root tip, which meant that first the tooth was pulled out with pliers, and then the dentist dove back in with a very pointy thing and poked around until he extracted a root shard with a comforting comment such as, “Holy Moses, have a look at THAT deadly thing!”

Everything continued to be hilarious right up until we had to wait a few minutes at the pharmacy for her pain pills, and then things were slightly tragic because the numbing was wearing off, but then we went home and filled her up with pudding and narcotics and she ate her weight in mashed potatoes for dinner, so I am pretty sure she’s going to live. And she now has NO BABY TEETH LEFT so as far as I know there is nothing left to pull.

This morning we had an interesting philosophical conversation about rules, as it is technically a violation of her school’s handbook for me to allow her to take Tylenol to school with her. Technically, I think the administration can shove it if they really want me to believe that I am endangering her or anyone else by letting her stick a single, over-the-counter caplet in her pocket so that she can have another dose of pain relief with her lunch. I mean, sure, I’m not going to send her in with Hydrocodone, but Tylenol?

So I told her to make sure no one sees her take it. And then I told her that if she got caught I was going to pretend not to know her. Before she could protest, I told her that her teeth are looking particularly beautiful today, and then I locked her out of the house.


  1. mike golch

    sadly what we want and what we got are usually 2 different things.I wanted to have children and that was not going to be.

  2. Dawn

    At the risk of raining on your “no more pulling!” parade, my brother did have to have a few permanent teeth pulled when he was growing up, because his mouth was so tiny. Chickadee might get lucky, but you might want to keep that in the back of your mind.

  3. Leandra

    Yeah, I never imagined having a blonde daughter either, but of course I wouldn’t trade her for anything in the world.

    My husband and I were having a similar conversation about the ridiculousness of school rules regarding medicines today. My daughter’s pre-K won’t dispense over the counter medicines without a doctor’s orders. OVER THE COUNTER. As in, don’t need no stinkin’ orders. And the really awesome part is the my ped refuses to fax over said orders because he thinks it’s ridiculous. And I have to say I don’t even care because he’s right.

  4. Heather

    “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” Wait, what? Sorry, couldn’t resist the opportunity for a Princess Bride quote ;)
    Sorry Chickie has to be in pain, but glad that she got better drugs this time! And the first guy … what a jerk. *mental beatdown for him*

  5. kakaty

    “nothing left to pull” huh? I too have a small mouth and big teeth and had to have 5 (yes FIVE!!) permanent teeth pulled before my braces went on, just so there was room in my mouth for the remaining teeth to straighten. Then I had the joy of having my wisdom teeth surgically removed from below my gums. Fun stuff. But I credit all this torture for me now having a very high tolerance for pain as an adult.

    Hope this really is the last of her teeth woes, for both your sakes.

  6. Karen P

    Poor Chickadee..hope she feels better today. At my daughter’s high school you could get suspended for taking over the counter drugs. Actually she did get suspended for drinking beer in Germany (legal) while there with a school group. They didn’t suspend the kids until 6 months after it happened and she had to be screened by a drug and alcohol specialist to have the suspension shortened to 5 days. Unreal!

    Also, funny story about our orthodontist. Greg won a flute competition at 14. We had to ask the orthodontist to hold off a month on taking his braces off so he could play in the recital. Otherwise it would have been difficult to adjust (without having the braces on) while he played. The orthodontist said it was the first time someone asked to leave them on longer!

  7. Mir

    Okay, y’all need to stop freaking me out about the grown-up teeth. Our orthodontist does Damon System braces, which actually widens the mouth and means no permanent teeth need to be pulled. Phew.

  8. Karishma

    You’re such an amazing mom. It’s pretty freaking hard to constantly advocate for a kid, esp when doctors decide to be jerks about it and play their power card. But hey, hopefully Chickadee’s done! There’s always wisdom teeth, but not everyone has to get those out, luckily. And that warrants things that are waaay better than laughing gas, also luckily.

  9. txelz

    Me and Chickadee; same boat. My father is a dentist, so he and his buddies tried all sorts of new “techniques” to ensure I got a pretty smile, including jaw surgery, screws, and five years of braces. My daughters have inherited mommy’s large teeth and small mouth. We’re saving up for years of orthodontics now. Fortunately going to the pediatric dentist is SO MUCH FUN with the movies, the fish, the toys, stickers, etc. So, hopefully no trauma…yet. Hope Chickadee feels better. Ice cream is good for dental work. Trust me.

  10. meghann

    I feel Chickadee’s pain, as my past is full of hauntingly painful dental visits. A few of which happened in adulthood even. Sigh.

  11. Katherine

    I had to have that gum surgery several years ago, but I was fortunate enough to get a dentist who did a really good job with the pain relief. He shot my mouth up with enough stuff for me not to feel ANYTHING. And he told me to pick up the pain pills beforehand so there would be no waiting in pain. Said pain pills, though, hit suddenly. I was feeling just fine, when suddenly I couldn’t walk – just sort of crumpled. No pain, but no ability to stay upright either.

    My son has had his jaw widened – twice now on the upper, only once on the lower, so that we don’t have to go the pulling teeth route.

  12. Rita

    Our family is fortunate to have big mouths (literally and figuratively) so no teeth pulling for us. But I’ve decided that if we have to do any other dental work I’m bringing the ipod. Favorite music, turned up loud to drown out the other awful noises, like drilling. Best wishes to Chickadee. Hopefully the worst is done.

  13. Nelson's Mama

    I don’t like to have my teeth touched AT ALL…I get gas to have my teeth cleaned! I am a wuss. I own it, I claim it.

    I had braces as an adult (they’ve been off four years WOO HOO!!), as someone who struggles with dental phobias it was such an accomplishment – Chickie will be proud when she is done.

    I had to have four adult teeth pulled, but our orthodonist (yes, I was in braces at the same time as my oldest daughter) would not have taken that route with a younger patient.

    My younger daughter will be starting braces in a few months – I really think we should get to spend some time in the beach house that the ortho is building, don’t you think?

  14. beth

    The crazy schools get so much publicity that I would be terrified to send my kid to school with tylenol. Remember that school who strip searched a girl because they thought she might have OTC pain meds? I’d probably drive up to deliver it, but this might be a west coast phobia.

    I hope Chickie feels better soon. Dentists who don’t respect fear are in the wrong business.

  15. Alice

    What an utter douchebag of a oral surgeon. Seriously, now – PAIN IS BAD. When you, as the doctor, have the ability to make it go away, YOU MAKE THE PAIN STOP. Eesh. (Does it show that I had a kind of douchey dentist as a child?) Thank the gods for my 1st dentist as an adult, who lived by the motto ‘pain is unneccessary.’ She was the one who clued me into the fact that I process novocaine super-quickly, so I get the super-strong stuff now.

    Here’s hoping that the crew of Intervention doesn’t storm Chickie’s locker to talk to her about recreational Tylenol use – gotta nip that stuff in the bud, you know.

  16. Brandi

    I didn’t lose my last baby tooth until 18

    I’m pretty sure this makes me a freak.

  17. hollygee

    I have really good teeth, but because a dentist scoffed at the idea of Novacaine for “those tiny fillings,” I am a dental phobe. And this post made me clench every bodily part that I could clench.

  18. mamabird

    I have had 15 teeth pulled in my lifetime. The first four when I was in Grade 2 were very traumatic because I cried … to the point that my sister is terrified of ever getting teeth pulled but luckily she has no wisdom teeth and will not have to endure. And that dentist told me to stop crying and being a baby. I also had braces. Teeth suck. But by the time my wisdom teeth needed to come out, it was a piece of cake! I feel for Chickadee, so much.

  19. Beth R

    Wow, I feel sorry for Chickadee and all of you folks who had bad dentists/dental experiences. I ADORED (and had a crush on) my dentist, and I spent a lot of time with him. Dad’s big teeth, Mom’s small jaw.

    Big hugs and understanding murmurs to Chickadee and don’t forget that you can mix cheese into your mashed potatoes and get protein as well as comforting starch :)

  20. Adrienne Breaux

    Hah! I sometimes feel like I inherited all the worst traits of my parents: terrible allergies, bad skin, tiny mouth and bad teeth—but I got something they don’t have: curly hair!


  21. Amy

    Just as a note, when I saw the title to this post, I didn’t anticipate a dentist post. I was thinking more along the lines of hot wax. But I’m with Beth R, I also adored my kiddie dentist and actually kept seeing him until I was 18, despite my mom’s protests that it was time for a grown-up dentist. Now that the teeth pulling is over, maybe Chickie can have a more positive experience with her dentist via regular check-ups. And maybe a prize after each visit. Oh and ice cream for everyone!

  22. Jenn

    My daughter’s school has a form to fill out and sign by each otc med that they may want or need to give her during the school day. And since my daughter hates medicine of any kind, and fights it with gusto, my first instinct was to write “good luck with that” at the bottom of my signed form.

    I am also a chamelion child. Everyone comments on how much I look like my mom. But if you look at a picture of my dad’s mom from when she was my age it’s spooky how much we look alike.

    I second the ipod in the dentist office. But of course that’s because my mom isn’t available to whisper jokes into my ear. Feel better soon, Chickadee!

  23. Casey

    My son had BAD asthma throughout elementary school. Just for anyone’s FYI, anti-inflamatory pain meds like Advil really help with an asthma attack, but take about 20 minutes to get to work. Because of the dose limits on his rescue inhaler (and the school nurse was a raving bitch) I would send my son to school with a couple Advil in his pocket. When he needed to (Santa Ana winds or whatever), he would go into the restroom stall, pop them in his mouth, head to the drinking fountain, and that was that. This is in Southern Calif, where the panic of OTC meds runs very high. I’m a rebel!!

  24. Lucinda

    I had multiple baby teeth pulled when I was slightly older than Chickie. I think they pulled 8. I just remember it was a lot. Now I didn’t have to have a gum graft. But I did have the small mouth, big teeth thing. The only permanent teeth that were ever pulled were my wisdom teeth because they were coming in sideways. So there is definitely hope that she is done losing teeth. My daughter, now 8, will be doing the same thing. The x-ray showed her canines coming in sideways. Yikes.

  25. Em

    There are very few things I can remember from my childhood from my mother’s point of view, even though I am a mother now and I try to imagine what on earth it was like to parent ME in different situations. The only one where I can really put myself in her shoes, if only because I DREAD the very idea, is when she held my hands when I was getting my teeth pulled. I really cannot imagine anything more horrifying (I had novicaine but no laughing gas. So really it probably didn’t hurt much but that didn’t stop me from writhing in panic and misery and DRAMA!). Please find a gluten free, wheat free, sugar free cookie and eat 12 of them. You deserve it.

  26. Katie in MA

    Don’t you think that all moms should get a cannister of happy gas to be used In Case of Parenting Emergency? In times of parental crisis, we could break the glass and administer – to either the kids or ourselves.

  27. Flea

    You’re a good mama. I’ve done the same thing with ibuprofen. Turns out, though, that the kid can just go to the nurse, nurse calls me, I ok it and they give the kids tylenol or ibuprofen – my choice. Rocks on toast.

  28. kathie

    I feel for the kid. I had to have numerous baby teeth pulled ’cause they were packed in so tight they wouldn’t come out on their own. Then they started with the permanent ones because I would have had a double row of teeth otherwise…so four of those came out. And the worst part of all of it is that I’m novocaine resistant, so the drugs, they didn’t work. I felt each and every tooth come out of my mouth and the dentist didn’t believe me. I recently found out that lidocaine is in the same class of drugs and it’s what they use in epidurals. I’m due with our first child in June…should just be a BLAST as this current crop of docs don’t believe me about the resistance either. Fun fun fun!

  29. Little Bird

    Root canals during the school year while in high school here. Was sent to school with my bottle of Tylenol 3 (with codeine). Every burn-out kid in the school wanted to be my best friend. I refused to share simply because I was in pain and didn’t want to run out of the stuff! I actually got carried to the student lounge by the hottest guy in school because I fell asleep ON the table during journalism class (too bad I remember nothing about it). It was recommended that I spend the next day at home. I did.
    The root canal, by the way, was a three visit process. And I was given NOTHING during that last visit. Of course, my dentist was a sadist.
    Hugs for Chickadee, I hope this is the end of the dental woes for her!!

  30. Carrie

    I am having all four of my wisdom teeth pulled tomorrow – I am 31, so I am a little late in doing this. I probably shouldn’t have read this post today! EEK!!! Oh well, at least I will be totally out and won’t remember it until the numbness wears off – I hope!

  31. Dawn

    A similar thing happened to me when my older daughter had two baby teeth pulled to make room for second teeth. It sure as heck didn’t happen when the 2nd two teeth had to come out. It was really odd, because our dentist is not normally sadistic nor negligent.

    As for shapeshifters, the same daughter looked just like my mother in one school picture and just like my father’s mother in the next one. When she’s with me, people comment on how it’s no trouble to tell we’re mother and daughter, but other people swear she looks just like her father. Pretty neat trick, if you ask me.

    Hope Chickie feels better soon!

  32. Aisha

    I feel like this post should have come with a warning. My eyes were bugging out of my head the whole time I, too, have an intense fear of the dentist, especially the needles in my mouth. I once got a cavity filled WITHOUT novacaine because it was less scary and painful that way. I CRIED when the dentist told me they didn’t have to dose me up. CRIED.

    There needs to be a dentist rating system online so you can see how a dentist ranks up to others in your area. My entire fear comes from childhood dentist, who didn’t give me enough pain meds for a tooth extraction. I bit her the next time I got a filling, out of fear.

    That being said: I hope Chickadee feels better soon!

  33. Sheila

    The only time I have ever had teeth pulled I was 21, and I had my mom with me, too. I was having my wisdom teeth taken care of in the few remaining months I had health insurance coverage through my parents. I was placed in “twilight sleep”, and during my last remaining moments of coherence before the yanking, I remember EVERYTHING being HILARIOUS. When it was all done and I woke up, the first person I saw was my mom. Immediately, I burst into tears, and she was right there for me. Chickadee will probably always remember you making her laugh yesterday. Out of dental trauma, fond memories are made.

    P.S. Later that day? When the Percocet kicked in and things were once again hilarious? I showed my mom my newly-acquired tattoo. Not hilarious to her, it turned out.


    If someone would have told me when I was younger that I’d have 4 sons I would have never believed it…I would have thought 4 daughters…but not 4 sons! I’m too much of a girly girl to have all these men! lol..

  35. Tricia

    I have to take my little dude to the dentist soon, and I know he has a cavity (or two…god, I am a horrible mother). I am absolutely freaking out about what’s going to happen. This post actually made me feel much better about the whole thing. And you definitely drove home the point about finding the right dentist to do the work. Amen, sister.

  36. annette

    I was once threatened to be expelled in middle school. I forgot my purse at a sporting event and when administration went through it to find out whose it was, they found tylenol and midol. Got out of it because I was such a good girl;0

  37. annette

    You could always send a note with CHickie and call the nurse to have her take the meds at lunch.

  38. Laura

    If your kids’ school is lucky enough to have a nurse (rather than an office manager with first aid training), then sending kids to school with pain meds might work out well for you.

    I just happen to be a teacher at a school with no nurse, who doesn’t want to the horror of a kid ODing on medicine that I knew about. Thus the sending to the office, phone call home, and hassle for the parents.

  39. Lady M

    OWWWWW. I hope that this is the last of the tooth adventures for Chickadee for a while. It was still probably harder on you than on her though. Brave mom.

  40. MomCat

    I think it’s okay to be “that Mom.” Who cares what anyone thinks – she’s your baby and you don’t want her to be in pain.

    Mine had heart surgery at one week old, and the doctors just had to tell me that no anesthesia is used because a preemie’s lungs can’t take it, and their nervous system can’t process the pain anyway. I spent the entire day in a state of high anxiety, contemplating her agony. If I can spare her any pain now, I will!

  41. Brigitte

    I think I want to cry now, thinking of my own and my daughter’s and everyone else’s dental stories! :-(

  42. michaelb

    Ok I think I’ve made it through your grossest of posts without much if any discomfort – but as somebody with serious dental phobias – this post really had me skeeved.

    Really, really skeeved…

    Just a suggestion – your next post needs to be about puppies, flowers, unicorns, shiny cars, food, home repair – whatever.

    Anything to counter oral surgery!

  43. Janet

    My daughter unfortunately inherited my “female” problems. It took me years and finally finding a fantastic doctor to figure out that I had to keep iduprofin in my system to be able to function. Luckily I know how to help my daughter so I keep her on a steady dose of motrin when she is in pain. Since it is forbidden to have them at school, I put her two pills in a tiny piece of plastic and have her stuff them in her bra. All she has to do is go to the bathroom and pop them in her mouth. She can put water in her hand from the faucet if she needs to!
    And yes I know I am probably teaching her how to break rules but I can’t leave work and I refuse to let my baby suffer if I can help it…

  44. mamaspeak

    Kathie–you need to find something that will give you pain relief before your child’s birth!

    My mom & brother had the same issue. My mom was a dental hygienist before kids, so she knew her way around a dentist office. My brother has an extremely high pain tolerance, so when he was having teeth pulled at age 5 (I think) and the asshat pediatric dentist told him to “stop being a baby”. (Who works w/kids and talks to them like that?) First I went over & told the dentist he doesn’t cry easily, so something must be wrong. Dentist told me to move along, so I marched out to the waiting room & got my mom. When I informed her of what the dentist said to him, let’s just say he got torn a new one.
    Hoping Chickie is feeling better. The whole deal sucks. Eat lots of ice cream!

  45. chris

    I have done the same thing with OTC medication and my older kids. Shhhhhhhhh.

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