I got the feeling that I don’t take my kids to the dentist often enough when, on their way out of their latest appointment, they were handed toothbrushes, and one of them said, “That’s not a prize. I already have a toothbrush.”
So clearly we’re missing something.
Sure, you could say that there’s no point in taking kids to the dentist, because their teeth are going to fall out soon anyway. But one could argue that if anyone doesn’t go to the dentist their teeth are going to fall out.
And you definitely want to go in with them. You don’t want to drop them off in front and tell them to go in themselves, because that’s basically your approach to telling them to brush, and you know how often they do that.
I also have zero reason to believe that my kids floss, because I’ve had the same carton of floss in that bathroom for several years now, which my wife and I take turns moving for routine cleaning.
So in general, we basically spend all year either taking kids to the dentist or saying, “You know, we should really take the kids to the dentist.” It doesn’t help that it takes forever to get appointments. My kids are on a health insurance whose official company slogan is, “Maybe they’ll grow out of it.”
For example, on Pesach, my daughter was in a lot of pain, and I figured out that she needed a root canal, based on my extensive experience of getting a root canal every year or so. So first we had to wait two hours to be seen by the dentist, all for him to look into her mouth and say, “Yup. She needs a root canal. We don’t do those here.” They had to give us a referral—which took two weeks to get—to the one dentist in town who accepted our insurance and did root canals, and he apparently does them once a month, because the appointment for that was Erev Shavuos. Then he did the actual root canal and said, “I’m done. Now you have to go somewhere and put on a crown.”
“You don’t do that here?”
Dentists are always treating crowns like they’re a separate procedure, like some people say, “Nah, I’ll just have metal posts in my mouth. It’ll make it easier to floss.”
So we had to go back to the first dentist, who took some X-rays and confirmed that “Hey! She needs a crown!”
“I know! Right?”
“We need to get approval from the insurance!” Because the insurance that approved a root canal is not going to approve a crown.
So they called back a couple of weeks later and said, “It’s approved! We could see her in like two months.”
In the meantime, I brought her back to this office for a cleaning, because you need a cleaning every six months whether or not you’re in middle of another procedure. I actually brought everyone in for this cleaning, because my wife had the bright idea that I should take them all at once. Notice that it was her idea, and that I would take them all at once. This is how we split the household duties, when we’re not taking turns moving the floss.
But what I didn’t realize was that if you come in with a bunch of kids, it’s not really much faster. You’re just there all day. Well, not all day. They shut the entire office down for lunch about halfway through the day, like it’s a matzah bakery and they have to wash the equipment and clean the bits and pieces off the floor.
My wife was originally afraid of bringing all the kids at once, because she didn’t want them to watch what happens to each other and get nervous. Which is silly, because before we go into the room, we’re sitting in the X-ray waiting area, listening to screams from all of the exam rooms. And this is combined with the loud noise coming from the X-ray machine.
The good thing about taking them all at the same time, though, was that they got to be there for each other. For example, at some point the hygienist brushed their teeth with some kind of paste that she said tasted like strawberries, and my kids unanimously agreed that it did not. Do these people even know what strawberries taste like?
It tastes like you brushed your teeth and then ate strawberries.
But then at some point the dentist took all the kids who’d had their cleanings to another room for exams, leaving me with just my 7-year-old, who right then decided that, without the other kids’ moral support, he was scared of getting his teeth brushed.
So he ran out of the room and into the hallway, where I had to stand and negotiate with him in full view of all the nervous kids waiting for their X-rays. Finally, I just picked him up and carried him in, plopped him on the chair, and held his arms while a hygienist held his head so another hygienist could brush his teeth with bad strawberries. So what I’m saying is, we probably freaked kids out for later. That’s how it works: Every kid who screams scares another kid, who later screams and scares another kid, and by the end of the day, every kid is screaming. I think this is why they shut down the entire office halfway through the day.
Point is, I think it’s my other kids’ presence that makes the first kid calmer. So I’m totally bringing everyone along for the end of my daughter’s root canal.
I hope the 7-year-old doesn’t run out.
Though if he does, I’m giving him change for the meter.
By Mordechai Schmutter