A trip to the dentist brings smiles and a heavenly toothbrush

Eighteen months ago when it was time for Leo’s first dentist appointment, I did my research and found a special pediatric dentist.
They had fantastic toys in the waiting room. The chairs were all different colors. It should have been fun, but I was miserable.
The staff kept trying to talk me into having my son’s teeth x-rayed—even when I said I didn’t think it was necessary. They asked repeatedly why I hadn’t made an appointment for the toddler in my arms, even after I explained that he had been home from China for just a few weeks. I didn’t dare tell them we still couldn’t get a toothbrush into his mouth.
Then the hygienist looked at our boys and said, “Are they biologically related?”
When that question comes from a professional who has no reason to ask, I get annoyed. I could have asked her why she needed to know, but Leo was listening. So I gave her my iciest smile and said, “No.”
At that point I had decided we would take our children’s teeth elsewhere. But where?

Leo needed a dentist to complete a form for kindergarten. And even though people keep telling me about pediatric dentist offices full of TVs with cartoons and electric trains, I decided to make an appointment for Leo with the dentist John and I see. Forget the tooth-shaped toy box. I wanted to take the boys to people we know, trust, and like.
We got there this morning, and there were no toys and a handful of children’s books. It didn’t matter. Everyone was kind and friendly, and they made our sons feel like celebrities.
Leo loved everything. He laughed as the chair moved up and down. He asked a hundred questions. And I realized how much more comfortable he was there—partly because everything wasn’t designed for children. Leo wants to be treated as an adult.

And after adamantly telling me on the drive over that he would not sit in the chair, Daniel astonished me by jumping right up and letting the hygienist brush his teeth.
As it turned out, the office was extremely child-friendly. The hygienist used cotton-candy-flavored toothpaste. When Daniel got tired of sitting and lounging in the chair, she finished brushing his teeth as he stood on the floor. They didn’t even seem to care when he accidentally spilled water all over the floor.
At the end of the visit, the boys each got to pick a toothbrush, a pencil, a superhero thumb puppet, and stickers. They were all smiles.

On the way home I wondered whether Leo would compare the office to the fun, flashy one we visited last time, but he was too enthralled with his bag of goodies.
“Mama,” he said, “I love this outer space toothbrush so much that I am going to use it forever—even when I get to heaven.”
“That’s great,” I said. “You really do love that toothbrush.”
But I have to tell you, as much fun as it was to go to the dentist, I hope I don’t have to worry about my teeth in heaven. I hate flossing. And I’m certainly not planning to pack a toothbrush.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.