(This story is part two of a three-part story. Read part one.)
By Lindsey James
I have always enjoyed going to the dentist. As a child, my great-aunt worked as an assistant to my dentist. Visits to Dr. Gary meant seeing Aunt Linda… and getting to pick a prize from the beloved treasure chest.
I don’t recall ever having a bad experience at Dr. Gary’s office, even when the reason for the visit wasn’t very pleasant. I definitely had my share of cavities and my baby teeth were eventually replaced by awkward peg-shaped teeth, a few of which had to be pulled prior to getting braces (which I wore for 5+ years!). Still, dentist visits were never something I feared. Keegan’s first “real” visit to the dentist, however, was something I had been anxiously awaiting and fearing at the same time.
“What if he freaks out and refuses to cooperate?”
“How am I going to keep him in the dentist’s chair?”
The only thing I could think to do was practice and prepare him for what to expect… and pray that neither of us would burst out in tears.
I ordered a copy of “Carver’s New Smile” from the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias. We read it often, in fact I’m pretty sure we read it at least once each day for an entire month before his appointment in May 2011. (It’s still one of his favorite bedtime stories… Carver Claeys – you are Keegan’s hero!)
Tooth brushing became a BIG deal, and an important part of our nightly routine. I kept reminding Keegan how special his tooth was and how we needed to take extra care of it. I would help him brush his tooth, as well as his gums, and “pretend” to examine the inside of his mouth while he sat patiently on the bathroom counter with his mouth wide open.
I don’t know if any of this really made a difference, but when the big day came my little 3-year-old sat perfectly still (well, as close to perfectly still as can be expected) with his mouth opened wide and let Dr. Stanford and Dr. Murrell examine him and apply fluoride varnish to his pointy little tooth. Quite an accomplishment for an active little boy – Proud mommy moment indeed!
When it came time for the x-ray, Keegan was starting to lose patience. I think it scared him to be left in the exam room alone with the “big camera.” He started to get upset and cry. Unfortunately, they were only able to get two partial photographs. Both of which showed only one tooth.
The excitement that was felt with the arrival of Keegan’s first tooth was briefly replaced by disappointment that it was his only tooth. I quickly reminded myself of Keegan’s great accomplishment – sitting still for his exam – and decided that was cause for celebration.
(And what better place to celebrate than IHOP?)
We continued playing dentist at home and when we returned to Iowa City two weeks later, Keegan again achieved ROCK STAR status and sat for over 30 minutes while Dr. Stanford built-up and re-shaped his pointy tooth with a resin material.
Keegan’s smile had already been changed, but we would return in August to have impressions made for his “training denture.”
We were sent home with a Keegan-size impression tray. I stopped at a grocery store on our way out of Iowa City, and loaded up on instant mashed potatoes. We incorporated “potato training” into our nightly routine.
While making supper each night, I would mix up a bowl of instant potatoes; fill the denture tray and place it in Keegan’s mouth; pressing up on it as I imagined Dr. Stanford would. Of course, Keegan protested and gagged at first; but day by day, it became easier and even something that he looked forward to.
(of course, who doesn’t like mashed potatoes!?!?)