Ah losing your first tooth. It’s a childhood rite of passage. A coming of age moment in the life of every elementary schooler. That moment of excitement, anticipation, and glee as you relinquish that first of many bindings that tether you to childhood. I remember losing mine vividly. Actually, I don’t. I remember not losing my first tooth throughout my entire kindergarten year and never basking in the pride of seeing my teacher, Mrs. Wagner, add my name to her giant tooth poster which commemorated all the other children who had made it to this pivotal moment in their youth. (To all my friends and family who have heard this story a million times already, no I am still not over it and I am now taking it to the internet for sympathies!) But I’m sure when I finally did lose it in first grade, it was a big moment!
For my daughter, however, that moment came much sooner than expected. Despite only having just passed the four-and-a-half-point on the calendar, one day she announced from the backseat on the way home from pre-school that her teeth were “straight out.” Having no earthly clue what that meant, I did what any not “that” mom would do in such a moment: I pretended I was in the know on what the heck she was talking about. I nodded my head, uttered a half-hearted “uh-huh”, and ceased to give it another thought.
That is until a few hours later when she repeated the same announcement to Daddy. “Daddy, my teeth are straight out.” My husband turned to me quizzically. “I don’t know,” I responded, non-nonchalantly. “What are we doing for dinner?” Luckily, my husband was open for further investigation. “What does that mean, Honey Bunny?”
That’s when our daughter took her finger to the top of her bottom front tooth and pushed it forward, nearly all the way out.
Realizing I had failed as a parent yet again, I went into panic mode! “Her tooth is loose! What the heck happened? Why is her tooth loose? She’s only four! She’s way too young to have a loose tooth! What do we do? We need to call someone! Do we take her to the ER? We haven’t decided what to do for dinner!”
After the initial hysteria had simmered down to a dull frenzy, my husband and I managed to gather enough sense between us to call our pediatrician. As virtually all child-related emergencies do, this happened after office hours ended so we had to leave a message for the on-call doctor in the hopes that they might all us back sometime before midnight. As luck would have it, he did. As luck would not have it, he informed us that pediatricians don’t generally handle oral traumas.
“Why not?” I baulked at the audacity of his reluctance to help my distressed child. “The mouth is part of the human body, is it not? You had a chapter on that in medical school, didn’t you?” He then calmly explained to me that there were specific doctors who specialized in this kind of care who would be better equipped to assist us. They are called dentists. “Oh.”
“Can you call a dentist’s office after hours?” My husband asked. “Do they have some kind of after-hours hotline or something?” I had no idea. But for all you other not “that” moms out there who might ever find yourselves in this situation sometime in the future, I can now assure you that yes, they do! The sympathetic hygienist who called us back reassured us that even though our daughter seemed young, four years old was not too young to be losing a first tooth. She told us everything was fine and that it would be perfectly alright for our daughter to pull her tooth out, or for us to do it for her.
Do it for her?!?! Surely she was joking! I am not “that” mom!! I don’t know how to pull teeth out! I barely remember pulling my own teeth out! I mean, there’s a reason we use the expression “It’s like pulling teeth” to describe anything that is difficult and unpleasant! This is not something I want to be doing to my child!
But could it really be that awful? Millions of children lose their teeth every day. And I’ve yet to hear of any one of them needing therapy to recover from it. So it must be possible to survive the incident relatively unscathed. We figured there was only one place to find the method to pain-free tooth-pulling.
We found our answer in a serene, six-minute video posted by a quintessential “that” mom, who deems herself a tooth-pulling expert. According to the YouTube oral extraction virtuoso, the experience should go something like this:
Tie the string around the tooth.
Step back, away from the child, so they won’t feel intimidated.
Apply numbing gel to the gums. This eases any tension they might be having by letting them know you are giving them something for the pain.
Tie a slipknot around your finger with two feet of thread.
Tighten string around tooth.
At this point in the video, the Stepford child offers up this piece of sage advice. “If you’re nervous, you can tell your parents to count to any number that you want. I told my mom to count to 20 and she counted to twenty before she popped my tooth out. So I was not scared!”
Pull straight down. Have the cotton ball ready to apply once the tooth comes out.
Give the child warm salt water to rinse.
Throw the cotton ball away. (I am really glad they included that step.)
And then we are privy to a post conference interview with the youngster that summarizes what a positive and painless event this was.
Mom: “What did you think of your tooth pulling experience?”
Child: “It didn’t hurt!”
Mom: “Are you happy with it?”
Mom: “On a scale of zero to ten, how much did it hurt?”
Sounded easy enough. After baring witness to this tot’s tooth pull, I felt totally confident I could painlessly pry my daughter’s pearly white from her gums. Unfortunately, our version didn’t quite mimic the one in the video. As the great John Steinbeck sort of said in his prized novel, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Here’s how our episode went down.
Mom approaches and asks child if she can see how loose the child’s tooth is.
Child screams “No!!!!”
Mom asks if she can just wiggle it.
Child reluctantly agrees but runs away screaming as soon as Mom puts her finger within a 5 foot radius of child’s mouth.
Repeat steps 1 through 4 until Mom finally screams “Fine! Then have your father do it!”
Dad manages to make contact with the loose tooth for 0.07 seconds.
Child begins crying hysterically.
Mom and Dad come up with the brilliant plan to let the child try wiggling it herself until it pops out.
Child freaks out at the site of blood coming from her gums.
Mom tries the whole thread idea that seemed to work so well for “that” mom.
Child smacks Mom’s hand away before mom can even tie the knot.
Mom and Dad decide not to traumatize the child any further and decide to wait until morning to try again.
Mom panics all night that the child’s tooth will fall out in her sleep and the child will choke on it.
Repeat steps 1 through 9 throughout most of the next day.
Mom and Dad attempt to bribe the child with everything from candy, pool time, and even a trip to Disney World if she will just let them pull that stupid %$&@ing tooth out!
After the 14th freak out from the 14th attempt to touch the child’s tooth, Mom and Dad lose all sense of reason and yell at the child for behaving like a child, using those exact words.
Mom threatens to take the child to the dentist to have him pull it if she doesn’t let Mom or Dad do it.
Repeat steps 12 and 13.
Mom notices the child’s tooth is now turning the color of ash.
Mom declares she’s had enough of this excrement.
Dad hog ties the child down with a bear-hug grip while Mom pulls that sucker out.
Child squeals with excitement about the impending arrival of the tooth fairy!
Somewhere, I am sure there is a list of things you are not supposed to do when your child loses their tooth and I am confident we did every single one of them. If my daughter manages to avoid therapy in her early adult years from this whole ordeal, I will consider myself a success. As I have said many times before, I am an imperfect parent. And I have to say, this is probably one of my most crowning moments as one. But it’s ok. As far as we can tell, our daughter has survived. She even lost a second tooth not long after and only showed minor indicators of PTSD from her first. I can rest assured it’s probably not the last time I will royally screw up when it comes to raising my kids. But because I’m not “that” mom, I am ok with that. Parenting is a journey of trials and errors. (For us not “that” moms, more errors!) Therefore I choose to forgive myself and look forward to my next epic failure!