Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: The Dentist

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Dentist

I imagine that going to the dentist for the first time with your child is a challenge for anyone. When your kid has WS, however, it puts a different spin on things. You are frightened of hearing what the dentist has to say about your child's teeth. You don't know if he will mention words like microdontia, enamel hypoplasia, or hypodontia. There are frightening photographs on line of anonymous children with teeth that look monstrously abnormal. Not only are you afraid of what the dentist will see, you are afraid your kid's permanent teeth might simply not exist beneath the surface. Not only do the medical issues bring great anxiety, there is also the fact that you are exposing your child to a new environment filled with crying children, an obscene amount of overstimulation, and shrill noises you would normally avoid at all costs in the Williams world.

Brian met me at Erik's school, and we left Erik's class early this morning. I found myself in a horribly surly mood in parent group, anyway, and the less I said, the better. I was feeling anxious and angry. When we arrived at the dental office, we sat in a small waiting room that was obviously once intended to be an exam room filled with magnetic sketch boards, stuffed animals, books, and tiny padded chairs in primary colors. Everything looked impossibly clean to me. Erik had long ago lost the will to focus on anything for more than five seconds at at time by now. He was squirmy and agitated from his lack of nap. The two dental assistants helped with paperwork and led us to an examination area where oldies music blared and another army of stuffed creatures and glassy-eyed dolls lined the walls. Dr. Mike soon made his appearance.

I find it necessary at this point to identify two things that bug the dickens out of me:

(1) People who call themselves "Doctor" followed by their first name. I find this exceptionally pervy, even in a pediatric setting.

(2) The fact that any given dental office can't seem to effectively function without "Hang on Sloopy" blaring at full volume.

Okay, I'm done venting now.

I expected "Dr. Mike" to be 12, maybe 13 years old by the sound of his name. My first thoughts when I saw him: Ah, crap, he's old. What if I like him? Is one more person in my life going to leave me hanging and let me down? I reassured myself I would detest the man, who would know nothing about WS and talk to Brian about golf instead. He was a strikingly handsome man in professional attire, including an actual tie, and an unnaturally white, straight set of choppers. Silver fox, indeed. But I digress. He talked to us about five prior WS patients of his, and Brian and I bit our tongues trying not to bombard him with questions about where they lived, how old they were, etc. We hear about people with WS as if they were mythical, like unicorns. We have yet to see one who lives here. We talked about acid reflux and its devastating effect on enamel. Dr. Mike explained there was no guarantee Erik's permanent teeth exist under the surface but that at least the front teeth likely would come in when his baby teeth fell out. He said that x-rays to find out which teeth were going to come in would not be of much use, as they wouldn't create teeth that weren't there. Time would tell. He said that there have been great advances in porcelain veneers and that most cosmetic issues were fairly easily rectified.

He had Erik lie back on Brian's lap, and he showed Erik on a doll how he would examine his teeth, which seemed utterly ridiculous until Erik seemed to be watching and said, "Teeth." Erik whined and cried a bit as Dr. Mike pried his mouth open with gloved fingers and looked inside on two separate occasions with a breather for Erik in between.

At the end of the exam, he said he was "thrilled" about Erik's teeth. They were in great alignment and were not decayed. Erik will likely need braces as a teen, but he explained his WS patients in the past had been eager to achieve a perfect smile. We will have to go to the dentist every four months for now to coat Erik's teeth with a special fluoride lacquer of sorts to fill in weak spots and protect them from damage. He gave us a printout of the WSF website page on dental anomalies and went through each of them with me, explaining that Erik looked extraordinarily better than the examples provided.

Erik was given a small, stuffed baseball, an orange balloon, and a photo of himself enthusiastically labeled "Erik's First Dental Appointment!" by the assistant. We were given terrycloth finger cots to clean Erik's gums, some plastic mirrors to examine his mouth, and a Blue's Clues toothbrush. He said that Brian and I were doing everything just right, and I shook his hand at least three times, although I felt like grabbing him and kissing him directly on the mouth. With tongue.

Most of my fears had evaporated by the time we made it to the parking lot.

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Blogger Aspen said...

I am already dreading the day that we take Daven to the dentist. For fear of bad news, a terribly uncomfortable child, and the dollar signs racking up. Sigh...

Glad to hear it was surprisingly great!

Gotta love those handsome doctors!

3:00 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

Nancy, you had me laughing out loud at the end of this post. I am so happy for you and for Erik to get such great news about his teeth. Love it!!

6:42 PM  
Blogger Kerry said...

Like Aspen, I can't WAIT to bring Brady to the dentist! I am very glad you went first. :) I'm glad Erik had a good visit. BTW, I think "Hang On, Sloopy" is required to be playing at dental offices.
Love ya!

9:16 PM  

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