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Three Cheers for Laughing Gas! How We Conquered a Cavity (& Learned to Floss)

Illustration of parents and child climbing a rope to the top of a molar

Little E got teeth early. Lots of them. For months, my poor wife breastfed a tiny blonde child with the jaws and bite of a great white shark. We did what our doctor told us in regards to her army of chompers. We brushed—first with a spiky little finger condom thing, then with an actual toothbrush, and eventually with a rotating Darth Vader toy. We even gave her fluoride tablets just to be sure we were totally killing it on the oral health front.

And we were…except for one very important thing: We never flossed.

There is no good excuse for this. Did we subconsciously think there were magical fairies scrubbing between Little E’s tiny teeth at night? Or maybe we thought that since she was losing all her teeth anyway, it didn’t matter?

When the dentist uttered the word “cavity” during a routine checkup and told us she needed a filling, my wife and I felt like we’d raised our baby in a shack by some “crick” down in a holler. Worst of all, I worried that this early experience with dental discomfort (which was my fault) would leave her with the same kind of fear that I have (I would rather have my fingernails yanked out with pliers than go to the dentist).

But when the day came for the filling, I kept my emotions in check. I showed Little E my junkyard of a mouth and told her the silver caps and fillings were actually “jewelry,” and that she’d be getting some of her own soon.

Being a 4-year-old, she bought it.

As the doctor went to work, I held her hand, remained in eye contact at all times, and did my best to distract her from the chiseling and drilling going on in her mouth. She got a little wiggly and weepy when the injections started, but once the numbness kicked in, she was able to focus on the milkshake waiting for her at the end of the tunnel.

Parenthood can be a serious juggling act and, no matter how hard you try, some things are bound to fall through the cracks—sometimes even things as important as hygiene. And yet, after all was said and done, Little E ended up teaching me a very valuable lesson. Namely, that everything is better when you’re all loopy on strawberry-scented laughing gas.

Now we floss every night (okay...MOST nights) and she scrubs with her My Little Pony brush for the entire duration of the ABC song sung through twice. So far, the dentist approves of our newfound dental work ethic and that feeling of negligent parenting has all but evaporated.

Now comes the hard part: Convincing her to keep up the good work even though she knows a winged stranger will eventually fly into her room while she's sleeping and trade her fallen-out teeth for crumpled-up dollar bills.

Thanks a lot, Tooth Fairy!

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