Quite Cheeky

I am now mercury-free. The fillings, not the planet.

I kicked off my weekend with a trip to the family dentist who was delighted to line my old tooth craters with composite resin and his wallet with dollar bills.

I settled into the pleather recliner and adjusted the plastic-lined headrest.

“How are you this morning?” asked the good doctor, snapping his latex gloves.

“Actually a bit anxious for some reason,” I replied, “Just being honest.”

“It has something to do with sitting in this chair, I guess,” he said with a wink.

Now, I know I had nothing to fear. This is a dentist my children have grown up loving. But there’s something just wrong about two people putting both their hands inside my mouth at once, while I control my gag reflex and try to think about Bali.

“I’m going to use this spacer in your mouth,” he said, wrapping my lips around a plastic ring, “and this bite block should fit comfortably just here,” he popped a plastic wedge into my right jaw. The assistant clipped a blue bib around my neck and giant windshield glasses went on next.

Everything after that is anyone’s guess, because I closed my eyes and prayed for the dawn.

He held numbing gel on a long Qtip in my cheek, then went diving with his syringe a couple of times. He hummed a little tuneless tune and made a comment or two on the weather.

His assistant was lining up the implements of torture.



Cross your feet the other way.

Unfist your hands. There. Good job.


I need to swallow. Oh no. He told me not to because at this point tiny shrapnel is flying from his drill and quicksilver doom is everywhere.

I used the secret hand signal: grabbing my throat.

“Suction,” he said without skipping a beat.

I made it through three re-fills, got a pat on the head, and sent to the lobby to pay.

And that’s when the novocaine kicked in.

Half of my mouth, cheek, chin, and lips were frozen, so when I smiled and asked for a pen, only half of me smiled and only half of the question was understandable.

Thankfully, the people here spoke Novocaine.

Starting the car, I realized my tonsils were gone and upon further investigation, so was half of my tongue. I tried not to drool.

I drove to the grocery store. Shopping hungry is never a good plan, but I had to fill time until I was able to eat again. Or at least have a cuppa.

I gathered up my reusable bags (thank you California voters) and hit the dairy aisle. Somewhere around the egg display, my left eye socket went numb.

It felt like my eyeball was sitting in a frozen shot glass, with a film of ice forming over it.

I dashed through the store, because things were just getting weirder by the minute.

My sinus cavity was tingling.

What if this stuff leaked into my brain? Huh? Did anyone think this through?

No one spoke Novocaine at the checkout. I ducked my head and swiped my debit card.

I discreetly dabbed at my nose. Was it running?

What’s happening?

I threw my groceries into the backseat and reached for a mirror.

I gave my nostrils a flare-check. The left one was definitely drooping. There was no reviving it. The entire left side of my face was gone. There were no worries, no emotions anywhere in the landscape. My perfectly smooth cheek had given it up.

My lips, on the other hand, felt fresh out of a cosmetic plumping.

I poked around.

The left side of me was a svelte pouty movie star and my right side was a wrinkled anxious hot mess.

Then my ear went cold.

I drove straight home before my left arm and leg decided to go on strike.

Ya’all, the novocaine lasted all day. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t drink. Not without it all coming down my shirtfront.

Had the stuff travelled to the center of my forehead and abolished the wrinkles there, it might have made up for an entire day without tea.

But I doubt it.

I’ve been compensating ever since: I threw a big tea party here and sampled every sweet and drank POTS of tea, and today we had a grilled cheese and soup lunch at work involving bacon and butter. I may have paid a visit to my masseuse to spread the fat around evenly.

Sitting in a camembert stupor, thinking of tea and cheese and orbiting spheres, it came to me how closely I resemble a Hollywood celebrity after all:

Wallace is just me without hair, having a Grand Day Out. Did you doubt?

Cavity Complaisant

Every six months two of my sons and I go to the dentist for a simultaneous mass cleaning.

It’s easier to schedule, harder to forget and impossible get out of.

It means there are three nervous hygienists asking me to “confirm” our appointments for the month leading up to them, via text, email, phone call, and talking drum.

If for some reason we didn’t show up, the office could close down for a happy hour.

But I think they’d rather have my money.

The boys and I hold a running competition to see who is cavity-free each time; the winners get to go immediately afterwards to the nearest Starbucks for a huge sugary drink to wash the squeaky clean out of our mouths, and the loser has to go back for further pick poking, cattle prodding and oral needlework.

This month, youngest child lost.

Tooth number 20 and tooth number 29 required a two-surface resin based composite filling that involved numbing half of his face and half of my checkbook.

I waited for him in the reception area, watching HGTV on a plasma big screen (which I’m sure I paid for, plus a year of cable) until the kid’s mouth was restored to “pre-owned certified”.

He sauntered out, I paid up, and we headed over to the high school to drop him off.

He flipped the car mirror down and started feeling around his jawline.

“Mom,” he said, squinting at himself, “My whole chin is gone. I can’t tell I have ears. Where is my tongue?”

“Well, your dentist said he wasn’t sure he could work on both sides of your jaw in one appointment. I’m glad he figured it out so we don’t have to come back.”

“I had everybody’s hands, tools, lights, and torture devices in my mouth at the same time. I can fit a lot of food in my mouth at once, but I think this might have been a record for me. He said not to eat until I can feel my mouth again.”

Knowing what a deprivation that was, I said, “You don’t want to accidentally bite your tongue or your cheek. You wouldn’t even know you were bleeding. Then you swell up and can’t NOT bite yourself. Just wait.”

He stuck out his tongue. Then he used his fingers to arrange his mouth into a pleasant resting position, a roguish half-smile

“Well,” he said, resigned, “I have no way of knowing if there’s drool dripping out.”

“Are you telling me,” I asked in my Mean Mom voice, “that this little experience didn’t hurt? Did you learn a lesson here?”

“Yeah, don’t lose a contest. The dentist never hurts. He’s nice. Can we swing by Starbucks?”

I gunned it straight to the school and as the kid exited the vehicle, I resolved to slip a little note to the dentist next time we go in.

Dear Dr. M,

My adorable little sugar addicts are allergic to flossing. I’m lucky they take the fuzz off their teeth twice a week. Which is the most shaving they will ever have to do.

Can you please let them feel just a little pain for their lack of discipline? I think they’re old enough to take it.

I understand the song of your people is, “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you, but I like iiiiit, but I like iiiiiit….”

However, I feel that your ‘gentle dental’ approach is more of a job security thing, and not quite the reality check it ought to be.

I would do it myself, but I think they send moms to jail for chasing kids with large drills and hypodermics.

And you are totally getting paid for this skill set.

Sincerely yours,

PS: Next year, please take a portion of my check and invest in some new magazine subscriptions.

I like “O”.


Natural Selection

Maybe it was a middle child thing.

Maybe it was a subtle effort to thin the herd.

Natural selection.

She naturally selected the child who had to go.

And she did it with such an innocent angel face.

The hour before bedtime takes only second place to the hour before dinner time as the most cringe-worthy, wretched time of day in the life of a stay-at-home mom.

The kids are by turn, grumpy, hyper, whiny, messy, and clingy.

And that includes the Hubby.

I was just hanging on for fifteen more minutes.

I’m telling you. If you ever want to bless a mother, give her sleep.

This particular evening, five kids were running amok in the den, clean, fed, and jammied up, in direct defiance of the upcoming bedtime.

These weren’t little toddlers, these peeps went from kindergarten through high school.

But fifteen minutes of free time in a whole day must be used to full potential.

Middle child was lounging on the sofa, fiddling with a long pink scarf.

She dangled it over the back of the couch, and said, “Here, fishy fishy fishy!”

Low man on the totem pole, and eager to be included youngest child, decided to be the fish.

Of course.

Up to the bait crawled Little Man.

He obligingly bit the end of the scarf.

And middle child reeled him in.

The girl’s no rookie.

She knows if you don’t yank the line and set the hook, your fish gets away.

With a mighty yank, the scarf whipped right out of the fish’s mouth.

Along with it came one of the fish’s front teeth, sailing across the room and hitting the wall with a tiny “plink”.

Everyone took a collective inhale.

I came running as the screaming began.

Everyone in the room was screaming but Little Man.

It took a minute to register the blood pouring from his mouth, his puzzled face, and the horrified looks of the witnesses.

Across the room was a single bloody tooth.

In his mouth was his other front tooth, wobbling half in and half out.

This is not a job for sissies.

And you’d better believe I already had our family dentist on speed dial.

We plopped the rogue tooth into a cup of milk. I placed a wet ice-filled cloth on Little Man’s mouth. Hubby cleaned up the blood and sent everyone to bed.

Our dentist, bless his big, expensive heart, answered his emergency line from a family dinner in a restaurant somewhere. I explained the situation in a slightly high-pitched voice.

This wonderful man met me a half hour later at his dark, closed offices and plopped Little Man into a giant exam chair.

He was kind and gentle and patient.

Little Man held my hand and waited like a champ for 45 minutes while the dentist removed his last front tooth and dug around, making sure there were no leftover bits of tooth in his poor mangled gums.

We weren’t charged for this.

Years of loyalty from a big family, maybe.

Possibly we had already paid for his family dinner out.

Now you know why Little Man is missing his front teeth in every photo for four years straight.

And why middle child is smiling like that.

She is still pretty certain that three children was plenty and enough.

But let’s all be glad Little Man tops her by a good eight inches today.

Who’s the fishy now?