Brave and Strong and True

Overheard: “Is that a Ninja monk?”

That has nothing to do with this post, but I couldn’t help myself.

Today we went to the dentist. And I learned an interesting tidbit: development of teeth in utero can be adversely affected by a high fever in the mother during pregnancy.

“Inasmuch as fever is an accompaniment of many disease states, it is possible that it alone may exert a significant influence on the developing oral structures.” Prenatal Influences on Tooth Development, by Seymour J. Kreshover and O. Wendell Clough

So there’s nothing definitive in that statement (and only the first page of the paper is online), but when I mentioned to the Best Dentist in the World (we love you Dr. Fran!) that I had the flu while pregnant with Jonah and had run a high fever for about five days, she immediately stated that my fever probably has something to do with the sorry state of J’s teeth.

So imagine a boy who is hardly ever still in a dentist’s chair. Add to that the uncertainty surrounding the dentistry tools and the sequence of events surrounding tooth cleaning, drilling, filling, etc. Add to that oral sensory issues (watching Jonah eat a bite of rice and beans together makes a heart ache—his face contorts, even as he answers my “Does it taste good?” with “Yeah Mom. It tastes great!”).

He woke up at 5:30 this morning, and I’m sure it had something to do with the anticipation of his 4 o’clock appointment. He had an “antsy” day at school, as his intervention specialist put it. In carline, he told his teacher he didn’t want to go to the dentist, but he had to go get some cavities and that he was brave and strong and true. Once in the car, a dozen questions were set to repeat: “How long will it take? Will I cry? Will it hurt? How many minutes? Why do I have to lie down? Will tears run down my face? Will I bleed? Dr. Bruno [the dentist who pulled one of his teeth last year] looks like a little kid. Does Dr. Bruno look like a kid? Will you hold my hand? And Dr. Fran’s helper with the funny glasses will hold my hand too. How long will it take? Twenty million forty eighty-nine hundred? Is that a lot? How many is that? I don’t like going to the dentist. Will it hurt?”

J’s been to the dentist far more than most kids his age. It’s not that he doesn’t know the answers to most of these questions. He’s anxious. And when he’s anxious, the questions flow like snowmelt in spring. We talked about being flexible. We talked about being patient. I told him I didn’t know how long it would take. So we talked about being flexible and patient some more.

And Jonah amazed me. Again. He got x-rays. He had three teeth drilled into and filled. He suffered through a wad of gauze jammed between his tongue and teeth to keep the saliva off so the filling would take (this was actually the most painful part for him). He had his teeth cleaned. He had to put a foam mouthpiece filled with bubblegum flavored flouride into his mouth, biting down for a full minute. He held my hand. In his other hand, he held a mirror so that he could watch Dr. Fran do her work. He asked about the tools. He asked would he die if he swallowed the bubblegum flouride in the foam mouthpiece. He asked if the red ball of goopy cleaning paste was blood. He swished and spit and swished and spit—his favorite part.

The dental assistant said she wished they could video tape him because he’s their favorite patient. Dr. Fran said she knew it was going to be a good day when she looked at the schedule and saw that Jonah was on it. Yeah, I’m tearing up.

As they took off his dental bib he exclaimed, “No tears came down my face!” When we came home, he told our friend who had been babysitting Gabriel, “No tears came down my face!” He wrote his daddy an email:

Dad, Everything went okay. And Dr. Fran used the tools and it didn’t hurt. And we love you so much Dad. I didn’t cry. I got three stars [the dentist’s name for fillings] and I don’t want to say bye, but we have to go to the cheese sandwich shop.
Love, Jonah Caedmon Estes (and mom)

That about covers it. Except to say that Jonah Caedmon Estes is most certainly brave. And strong. And true. The truest. Quite possibly, the bravest too.


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