"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

tooth and consequences

About three weeks ago, Evan tripped while going upstairs. It was an unprecedented event. Evan rarely injures himself. He is sure-footed and agile to a degree, but more than that, Evan is Careful. He watches. He thinks. He practices in his mind. And then, when he's ready and only when he's ready, he Does. I never needed to, though I did, worry as I stood beneath him while he climbed on a playground. He doesn't fight me on the helmet issue when riding his bike. He's even worn a life preserver while running around on the driveway. 

Safety first! 

And so, when we heard that step, step, step, step, THUD! We both jumped up and ran to him. His front tooth had hit the step (and bitten a tiny chunk out of the wood, actually) and there was blood...but not much, and the tooth, though maybe a teensy bit wiggly wasn't noticeably loose. And once the crying stopped, it didn't seem like it had been that bad of a fall. Evan never mentioned tooth pain or discomfort while biting or chewing in the three weeks that followed.

Over the past weekend, though, the tooth started to darken. We immediately Googled it and, based on the symptoms and the timing, pretty confidently diagnosed him with a bruised tooth. It might stay discolored until it falls out or it may lighten back to its original color. We should watch it for signs of infection (swelling gums, pain, etc.) but there's not much to do about it, so there's no real reason to have him checked out by the dentist.

But, of course, like my Boy, I'm a "it's better to be safe than sorry" kind of Mama, so this morning, I called the dentist. After detailing the story to the nurse, she agreed that it wasn't necessary for me to bring him in, but that she'd run it by the dentist. He, too, said to keep an eye on it and that I didn't need to but I could bring him in....for peace of mind.

I took the first available appointment.

After checking Evan's tooth, Dr. M said, again, that it looked like a classic bruised tooth. It may be wiggly, but it may have started to loosen even before the injury...he is of or approaching Tooth Fairy age, after all. And then he said, "And it's not necessary, but since he hasn't had any x-rays yet, I could take some films to really make sure we're not missing any internal signs of infection."

And that's when I started operating not on Brain Functioning or Rational Thinking, but on....I don't know what....it wasn't even Mother's Intuition because my gut was telling me that he is fine. Because he IS.

A few months ago, I read (but don't quote me on it because I can't remember the source) that the new recommendation is to delay dental x-rays in children until 6-8 years old and then repeat them only every two or three years thereafter barring any need (injury, excessive cavities, etc.). The thought being that exposing kids to even minimal doses of radiation through yearly dental x-rays is just plain unnecessary. Sam and I talked about it and decided that, based on our own good dental health, that we would follow the As-Few-As-Necessary x-ray schedule for the kids.

So my brain should have said, "You know what? Let's hold off. We'll take a set at his next appointment when he's closer to six years old." Instead, my mouth said, "Yes. Let's take a look."

And so they covered him in lead blankets, instructed me and the two tagalongs out into the hallway and in less than half a second, Dr. M was looking at the monitor where the images had been immediately sent. Dr. M looked at the screen, head tilted slightly to one side.....brows furrowed....cupped hand to chin....You can picture it. It's the universal pose for "Hmmmm. Now THAT'S interesting."

Which is exactly what you don't want your kid's dentist to be thinking as he's looking at your kid's x-rays.

"What? What is it? What do you see?" I started back into the room before the lead jackets had even been removed.

Dr. M pointed. "You see here? There are the front teeth...that's the one that was injured."

"Yes, looks fine to me....just like the other one, right? Or no? What am I missing?"

"No, no, you're right. I don't see any indication of infection. His tooth is fine. Look above it...see these here? Those are his permanent teeth coming in. They're still quite high."

"Oh, so if his tooth falls out, the replacement might not be right behind it? He'll have a gap? Oh. Well...."

"Well, maybe, but look HERE." And he points to the space between the two permanent teeth.

He points to ANOTHER tooth.

"What is that?" I ask.

"It looks an awful lot like a permanent canine tooth."


"And it's upside down."


What. The. Hell.

So when Evan's front teeth fall out, a CANINE TOOTH WILL APPEAR, UPSIDE DOWN, IN THE MIDDLE OF HIS SMILE. Or it won't. I don't know yet. Dr. M doesn't know yet. We'll need more x-rays (but he assured me that we're not in a rush to do those....the tooth isn't going anywhere). And we'll need to consult with an orthodontist once we know if this is a superfluous tooth or if it's one of Evan's canines that migrated out of place. And then we'll need to figure out if they'll need to move it or extract it or implant a fake tooth as a space-holder or....any number of potential outcomes because, as Dr. M said...."That's something you certainly don't see everyday."

That Evan. He's an Original.

Lesson Learned:
But he's actually following the Bizarre Dental Issues of his uncles....one of my brothers was born without his permanent canines. After wearing a retainer with fake-tooth spacers for a few years (and totally grossing us out by placing it next to his dinner plate) he now has permanent implants. You'd never know. My other brother was having his wisdom teeth removed a few years ago when they found that he had an extra! We always knew he was a smarty.

I know this isn't a catastrophic diagnosis. It does give me a pit in my stomach, though, as I consider what he may have to go through to fix this (extraction? surgery? orthodontic nightmares??)....but that's several years away in all likelihood, so for now, I should just relax. And rest assured that his black tooth, the reason went to the dentist in the first place, is Fine.

I can't help but wonder, though....the day during my pregnancy that little tooth buds were migrating to their correct locations in his teensy tiny embryonic mouth....what happened? Did I hiccup? Eat something too spicy? And isn't it amazing, after seeing something that went wrong during his fetal development, to sit back and marvel at the countless tiny things, and big things, that went So Right?

Life is beautiful.

But man, that might be one funny looking grin.

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