Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Dental Demons

When I was a little kid, I loved going to the dentist. I anticipated it with the glee normal children reserve only for Christmas morning.

Dr. Hodges the Tooth-Man had a waiting room full of glorious kid-sized interlocking plastic panels in bright primary colors. They could be stuck together to form blocks, walls, or whatever fanciful creation could be dreamt up in the heads of eager grade-schoolers. Upon setting foot in the doors, they beckoned intoxicatingly to me, and I leapt upon them with a joyous fervor, shoving my competition out of the way as necessary (all right, all right - I exaggerate. Truth be told, I actually played well with others as a child) eager to erect my impenetrable rainbow fortress, to stake my claim on the dull blue carpet.

Better still were the goods received upon satisfying completion of my appointments - after sitting patiently while my teeth were cleaned, examined, and proclaimed excellent, I was presented with - joy of joys - a parachute man!

Perfect to toss off our roof at home and watch as it floated gracefully to earth. I adored them. My collection grew with each twice-yearly visit, until one day my impressive array of brave paratroopers fell to earth only to be eaten by the dog.

Yes, Dr. Hodges was good to me. He would beam proudly down, flashing his own impressive set of pearly whites (did I mention that he had been deemed immensely crushworthy by my 8-year-old fantasies?) and proclaiming that "everyone should have teeth like the Thompson kids."


Those days are long gone. I went to my local dentist yesterday, and was informed that I need two fillings. Only one is a cavity - the other is to replace a filling that was done preemptively six years ago to fill a deep groove in my back molar - evidently it's now worn down to almost nothing, and needs to be redone (likely the result of all the angst-ridden grinding and tooth gnashing I do in my sleep).

This infuriates me, because 1) I am militant about dental hygiene and 2) I have only had one cavity - ever - in my almost-30 years of life. I've been very careful about my sugar intake throughout my pregnancy, so I was told that it could be due to all the citrus I've been eating. Damn orange cravings! I knew that teeth are more vulnerable during pregnancy, so I went in for a cleaning four and a half months ago, right when we started trying to conceive. At that point, my teeth were perfectly fine, and now - this.

Given my crippling paranoia about doing anything whatsoever that could even remotely negatively affect the baby, I immediately decided that I wanted to wait to get the cavity filled after the birth. After all, I've had no pain or sensitivity in the tooth and, though I could feel some roughness on my tongue in recent weeks, had no reason to suspect that it was anything serious. However, Mr. DentistMan shook his head, proclaiming "in five months, that tooth could be a problem" and I should therefore get it done now, now, NOW!! (emphasis my own).

From what I've researched online (see ridiculously obsessive research below), fillings are safe to get during pregnancy, as long as they're not the evil mercury-containing amalgam kind, which these are certainly not. However, I was also informed that it will require "one small x-ray" in order to see how deep the cavity is. At that moment, a simply decision turned horrifying. Terror!

Now (ahem - insert rational, thorough, well-educated Me), from what I've read, the radiation from one dental x-ray is almost totally confined to the mouth area, and most dentists will put multiple lead aprons on pregnant women to reduce exposure (instead of just one, as they typically do). Thus, is it very unlikely that any potential scatter would reach the fetus (especially through the aprons). Supposedly, Novocaine or Lidocaine are safe to get as local anesthesia, and the second trimester is the safest time to get dental work (including x-rays) done.

Rational Brain realizes this, yet Mommy Brain is still utterly freaked out. A litany of horrific consequences runs through my head - birth defects, cancer, premature labor! However, after squandering a solid hour of company time over my oatmeal-flax-n'-blueberries breakfast (mmm - good for fetus!) this morning, I came to a logical conclusion: Shut the hell up and get the damn work done already. When I called to make the appointment, I confidently requested that I wear TWO (or, hell - why not three for good measure?!) lead aprons during the X-ray. The receptionist responded "Oh....actually, I think we might only have one."

WHAT?!? What kind of dental office worth their salt only has ONE lead apron? What if there are multiple patients hangin' out, waiting patiently for their teeth inspections? What then, dentist? Huh??

I immediately grew paranoid that the small, three-chair dental office I've been patronizing for the past year is in fact a slipshod operation run by a bunch of half-brains, their credentials dummied up on Photoshop, laughing manically while ripping teeth out of people's heads, not unlike Steve Martin's dentist in "Little Shop of Horrors." How could I trust my X-ray and subsequent cavity-filling to these one-lead-apron-possessing lowlifes?

That is what shot through my head in the span of the 4.2 seconds between her "...might only have one" and my "Oh - could you please check on that and call me back?" Sure, she'll get back to me tomorrow.

Thus, I wait, reminiscing fondly about the days of waiting room fortresses and parachute men, and wondering when things got so complicated.

Oh yes, when I became a mother.

Ridiculously Obsessive Research:

Dental care during pregnancy:,1510,5127,00.html

X-rays during pregnancy:

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