Following half-term, I hoped this week would be reasonably quiet and that the family would return to its usual routine. This turned out to be a massively naive wish as I instead found myself receiving a crash course in emergency dental treatment.
If you can picture the scene, it was a manic Tuesday morning. I was in our bedroom, just putting the final touches to my day’s outfit.
Helen and Izzy had been instructed to get shoes and coats on in readiness for the school run. Needless to say, they weren’t following my instructions. They were playing noisily in the hallway instead of getting ready.
The game took a sudden shift when they both started wailing. It sounded like a part of the game to me but then Helen appeared in the doorway of our bedroom, tears streaming down her face.
I could see the problem clearly before she even spoke. Helen has four adult teeth and she’s incredibly proud of each of them. Stood in the doorway, wailing with her mouth wide open, I could only see three and a half of them.
Inbetween sobs she said: “Izzy sat on my head and broke my adult tooth.”
She couldn’t have chipped a more prominent tooth. It was an incisor on the upper row, bang in the middle of her mouth.
I say chipped, that’s an understatement. Half of that tooth was somewhere, but it wasn’t in her mouth.
Yes, okay, in the greater scheme of things, this was a minor injury. I was, nonetheless, horrified. She was nine years old and had a badly damaged adult tooth. I gave her a hug, checked for any blood or other injuries and went into crisis mode.
Only thing is, it was 8.20am. No dental surgery would be open. I knew some accident and emergency departments could handle emergency dental work but the only one I could think of was in Central London.
Flesh wounds, bruises, cuts, sprains: I’d know how to handle all these minor injuries. I’d never handled a dental emergency before and I was flummoxed.
Well strictly speaking that’s not true. We held a summer barbecue a few years ago and one guest fell over while leaving and injured a couple of teeth but she was an adult and not my daughter. This was in a different league.
As I say, it was a relatively minor incident. Even so, an incisor is such a prominent tooth I worried about the impact this could have on my child. With a piece of tooth missing, Helen had developed an instant lisp. What else could it mean?
Just in case she had any bright ideas, I rang Mrs Adams at work. We briefly discussed the situation and decided the best course of action was to get her to a dentist at the earliest opportunity and take it from there. We also decided that if private dental treatment provided better options, we’d consider it (even though we had no idea where the money would come from).
Rather amusingly, this became a communal crisis. Mrs Adams’ boss heard her on the phone to me. She Gogglewhacked what to do in such a situation and the details were swiftly emailed to me.
On my second attempt, I got through to our dental surgery. We were given an emergency appointment for 10.30am.
A period of relative calm now descended on the house. Helen had stopped crying and told me that she didn’t blame her sister because it had all been an accident. The girl’s hugged and Izzy said sorry, although the poor kid was clearly very upset at having accidentally injured her big sister.
We’ve never got to the bottom of exactly what happened. It seems that Helen had been crawling around on the floor at Izzy’s feet and Izzy had ended up tumbling on top of her sister. I suspect Izzy thought she was being funny or tried to give her big sister a bear hug. Whatever the precise circumstances, it all went a bit wrong and Helen’s tooth was the big looser.
In all the excitement, I hadn’t even thought to go looking for the missing part of the tooth. Thankfully Helen knew where it was and we put it in a container of milk, an action that can help preserve damaged teeth.
There was no point taking Helen to school but for Izzy, there were no excuses. We embarked on the school run and I dropped Izzy off a few minutes later than usual.
Soon afterwards, Helen and I were at the dentist’s surgery. My panicked phone call earlier that morning had clearly made an impression because the receptionist seemed to know exactly who I was and was equally concerned for me as she was Helen.
At bang-on 10.30am we were ushered into the examination room. Helen and I relayed the story, handed over the container with the tooth and I told the dentist we wanted to know about all options, NHS and private.
The dentist examined the broken tooth and the chipped piece. Despite the size of the crack, Helen had luckily only damaged the dentine.
If she had cracked her tooth any closer to the gum, the nerve would have been exposed and it would have been bye-bye tooth. The dentist came to the conclusion the best option was to bond the two back together and with incredible skill, this is exactly what she did. The private options would have been no better.
Helen has only ever had dental check-ups. This was the first time she’d had hardcore treatment involving X-rays, drills and so on. I could tell the kid was tense and so I snuck up and crouched next to the chair so I could hold her hand while the dentist carried out the repair.
A magnificent repair it is too. You can’t see the crack or the repair at all.
The NHS may come in for criticism, but Helen’s tooth was chipped at 8.20am. By 1pm she was sat in our kitchen with a repaired tooth having tomato soup for lunch. You simply can’t criticise that level of treatment.
I’m also very grateful for the wonderful dentists my girls have seen over the years. As you can see from this old blog post, they were introduced to dentistry in the most relaxed way and so while Helen didn’t particularly enjoy the treatment, she wasn’t nervous about getting into the dentist’s chair.
Of course, it’s not quite so straightforward. Once the repair was completed and Helen was rinsing out her mouth, I asked the dentist what this might mean for Helen’s future.
Very diplomatically, she said the repair “should last a good few years.”
I was also advised Helen will need to be careful while eating hard foods. Apple, the dentist advised, should be cut up for her in future.
We’ll have to see how Helen gets along, but I’m resigning myself to the fact we may be getting her a dental implant once all her adult teeth are in place. If it were any other tooth, I don’t think the thought would even cross my mind, but an incisor is such a prominent, important tooth you need something that can bite and tear. I can’t help feeling the first unpitted olive Helen bites into could result in another trip to the dentist.
Dealing with a dental emergency was another parenting first. I am hoping it’s a one off.
As for my quiet week, no such luck! The rest of the week has been spent catching up following Tuesday’s events. I am, however, exceedingly grateful for the treatment Helen received.
Have you experienced a dental emergency with your children? If not, would you have known what to do? Out of interest, would you have considered private as well as NHS treatment? I’m curious to know how you’d have reacted so please do leave a comment below.