Category Archives: teeth

Just This Side of Believing. Or Not.

Dear Tooth Fairy,

I thought I should warn you.  I think your days are numbered.  My six year old son, Snags, doesn’t seem to believe in you anymore.  I don’t know why the sudden turn of events.  Perhaps you didn’t leave him enough money last week when he lost his fourth tooth?

Or maybe it’s not really a turn of events at all.  For a good year or two before he ever lost his first tooth he would argue with me, claiming there was no such thing as a tooth fairy.  I wanted him to be a kid and benefit from the lie that there is such a thing, so I insisted he was wrong, that there was a tooth fairy.  His dentist backed me up.  She’s into lies like that.  But looking back, maybe I should have caved then, admitted the truth, and saved myself some money.

Witness this conversation a few nights ago:

Snags: Mom, tell me the truth.  Is there really a tooth fairy?

Me: (Indignant tone) Of course there is! (thinking, SHIT!  Where is your father, now?) Why would you ask that?

Snags: Well, I think it’s really you and dad leaving me money.

Me: (Bewildered tone) Why would we do that?

Snags: Because you want to give me money? I think you get up in the middle of the night and give me money.

Me: Snags! Think about it.  I don’t like to get up in the MORNING.  I’m certainly not going to get up in the MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT to give you money!

Snags: Maybe dad does it.

Me: No, I’m sure he doesn’t.  And besides, your friends Zane and Nicholas and Megan all lost teeth recently and they said the tooth fairy left them money too.

Snags: Maybe it was their parents leaving the money.

Me: (trying to confuse the issue) Well I certainly wouldn’t get up in the middle of the night to let their parents into our house!

Snags: I know there isn’t a tooth fairy because Mrs. V. told us when the tooth fairy leaves you money it’s really your parents doing it.

Me: (thinking “his Kindergarten teacher said WHAT?!”) Why would she say that?  She LIED to you.

Snags: Well… she didn’t say that.  I just said that to get you to admit there isn’t a tooth fairy.  That’s okay.  I believe in the tooth fairy anyway.

So anyway, as you can see, Snags is just on this side of belief.  Or disbelief.  I’m not sure.  But it’s a knife-edge, and he’s wobbling.  He wants the money, that much is obvious.  But it’s also obvious that he doesn’t care who gives it to him.  So long as he gets it. 




Filed under childhood, humor, kids, Kindergarten, life, loose tooth, lost tooth, parenting, Snags, teeth, The Tooth Fairy

Those Pearly Whites

The tooth is leaning forward, a tiny spear pointing directly at his bottom lip.  Push against the outside of his lip and the little tooth might pierce it, poke all the way through like a drill. If it weren’t loose it would be standing up, in its socket, like the rest of his teeth.  But it won’t go back into formation.  It leans forward, a miniature drawbridge across the moat that is the space between his lip and gums.  He can twist it side to side, make the bridge swing to and fro, but it won’t stand back up.  A new tooth is creeping up behind it, blocking the path, a pebble in the gears.  The drawbridge cannot be closed.

It’s been like this for weeks.  Every morning and every evening I ask Snags to wiggle the tooth.  “Harder,” I say.  “Can you twist it?  Try twisting it all the way around.”  It twists some, but it won’t spin. I won’t touch it because loose teeth make me shiver in an uncomfortable kind of way, remind me of the various failed efforts to extract my own loose teeth so many years ago. Snags won’t wiggle or twist too hard because he doesn’t want to hurt himself.

But I am tired of looking at the hanging tooth. It looks painful, although I know it’s not. I am beginning to wonder if I will have to haul him to the dentist and have her pull it.  How many weeks can a tooth hang on?  How can he eat with such a wiggly tooth?  How can he talk with the tiny white spear scraping against his lip with each syllable he utters?  Thinking about it too much leaves me covered in goose bumps.

I’m desperate for the tooth to fall out.  It disturbs me. I want him to yank it out. “Snags,” I say, “Did you know that if you loose a tooth on the night before a holiday that the Tooth Fairy will give you FIVE dollars for the tooth?” Surely, this, the promise of bonus money, will be enough to get him to tug a little harder.

“Really? Wow,” he says, and he reaches into his mouth to wiggle the tooth some more.  But at bedtime the tooth is still hanging on and Snags is upset.  He really wants to earn that five dollars, but he just can’t bring himself to snap that hanging tooth free of the vine that holds it.  He worries over it and wants to know if it’s only the night before a holiday or if the promise of five dollars extends into the day of the holiday and the day after.  I hedge, saying I’m not sure, but that I think it probably extends to those days as well.  The tooth’s remaining days of hanging out in Snags’ mouth are numbered. So is the five in my wallet. 

Morning comes and the holiday, the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. is official.  And the tooth remains.

Schools are closed so we visit a neighbor.  Snags and his friend go down to the basement to build with LEGOs.  I’m in the kitchen, talking to my friend when Snags comes up the stairs, a look of utter horror on his face.  His mouth is agape, his hand extends toward me. “Mom!,” he whispers.  I am taking stock, trying to figure out what the problem is, why he looks so ill.  I start to reach for the EpiPen in my pocket.  Maybe he is having an allergic reaction to food found in my neighbor’s basement.  I ask what is wrong, but Snags isn’t talking.  He looks like he’s hardly breathing.  A frightened ghost shuffling towards me.

My friend figures it out first.  “You lost a tooth!” she exclaims. 

“My mouth is bleeding,” he replies.

I begin to relax.  It’s not an allergic reaction.  He can talk.  He looks stunned and ill and pale because his mouth is bleeding.  This is nothing.  I uncurl my fingers from the Epi Pen in my pocket.

The Tooth Fairy comes that night as expected.  Snags calls to me in the middle of the night.  I glance at the clock as soon as I hear him yell, “MOM!”  I go to him.  “What is it?  What’s wrong?”  In the dark he shows me the five dollar bill that he found under his pillow.

“The Tooth Fairy came? That’s nice,” I mumble.  “Now go back to sleep.  It’s 3:00 a.m.!”  I cannot believe he woke me up for this.

He is six years old. I have a small collection of his baby teeth hidden away. Teeth he lost, teeth the Tooth Fairy left me. 

The first tooth was a great event, and of course, you always keep the very first tooth.  It marks something special, the official beginning of growing up, the loss of the baby teeth, the appearance of the adult teeth.  The second tooth, I have that one too.  And now, I have this third tooth, and I realize it’s a collection.  Of teeth.  Not unlike Kevin the mail clerks’ collection of owl beaks from the television show Just Shoot Me!
So I search the internet.  I am looking for wisdom and advice from other mothers.  What do they do with all of these baby teeth?  Many, it appears, keep them.  They say their children, once they were past the tooth fairy stage, enjoyed looking at all of their lost baby teeth.  Other people, I read, keep the teeth on the hope that scientists might one day extract stem cells from them.  They might one day use them to cure age related diseases.  But in order to do that, the parents have to specially prepare the teeth and send them off to a tooth bank for safe keeping.  All I have are three dried out little teeth, sitting in the back of a dresser drawer.

I just finished reading Alice Sebold’s book, The Lovely Bones, and I can’t stop picturing Mr. Harvey sitting in his basement amongst the bones as I realize that I sleep in my room at night, amongst the teeth.  And I get chills all over again.


Filed under life, loose tooth, Snags, teeth

The Tooth Fairy

The Tooth Fairy stopped by our house last night.  She left my son $5 in exchange for his first tooth.  I thought I’d tell you, just so you know what the going rate is around here.  That, mind you, is for the very first tooth.  All subsequent teeth are worth only a dollar, or maybe two.  I have to find my glasses and read over the fine print again to be certain. 

The tooth had been loose for about 2 weeks.  My son mentioned it at breakfast one day.  He stuck his index finger in his mouth and wiggled the tooth announcing, “THAT’S what the problem is!  My tooth is loose!  Hey Belle, look!  My tooth is loose!  That’s why I can put the other tooth behind it.”

My skin prickled at the pronouncement.  Put the other tooth behind it?  I was picturing the tooth next to it.  The first being so loose that he could lean it far enough forward and to the side that the next tooth over was behind it…  “You can put the other tooth behind it?”   I choked, while pushing my cereal bowl away, because I’d suddenly lost my appetite.

“Yeah, see?”  he said.  He smiled, showed me how when he clamped his jaws shut, the top tooth, the one directly above the loose bottom one, sort of nudged the loose one forward a bit so the tip of the top tooth was behind the bottom tooth.

Okay then, I sighed with relief.  Not as loose as I thought.

Loose teeth, it turns out, kind of creep me out.  Make me chilly; break me out in goose bumps. I didn’t know this about myself until my son said he could “put the other tooth behind it.” Kind of how I didn’t know I had a fear of heights until I was on vacation at the Grand Canyon and got disarmingly dizzy and scared to death.  Just as I never knew that ultimately, I’d prefer to catch my child’s vomit in my hands over scrubbing it out of the carpet.  Isn’t it amazing how we learn things about ourselves?

I’m okay with teeth being loose; I just don’t want the job of having to help remove them.  I remember the days when my mom would offer to help free me of a tooth that just didn’t want to say goodbye.  The tooth would be hanging by that one last nerve and she’d try to yank it, only the spit in my mouth would make it slippery, and my mom’s fingers would slide off, the tooth still hanging on.  And she’d try again and again and again, until we tired from the failures. Or worse, the time she tried the trick of tying a sting around the tooth, the other end attached to the bedroom door knob.  I think it was my idea, actually.  I’d heard some friends talk about the method. How fast and painless it was.  Once the string was tied at both ends, we were supposed to slam the door shut, and the force would, supposedly, yank the tooth right out of its tiny little socket.  But there was that slippery spit again and the string would simply slip down, slide below the edge of the dangling tooth, and it would be a struggle to get the sting out of my mouth, the slip knot having tightened, not loose enough to slide back over the tooth, but too tight to slip, say, a pair of scissors in there.  Remembering all of this, I decided then and there to let my son’s baby teeth fall out naturally.  I wanted no part of it.  Dentist, I’m not.

And so it was that my husband had gone out of town to attend a surprise 40th birthday party for his close friend, Chad.  And I was home with my son, having our own party, party weekend with two birthday parties to attend ourselves.

It was at the first party that the tooth fell out.  I thought it odd when my son ate only two bites of his birthday cupcake before handing it back to me claiming that he didn’t want anymore.  “Are you sure?”  I asked, a bit concerned since he’s never been one to turn down a cupcake.  “My tooth hurts,” he said.  “I just want to get back in the swimming pool.”

“Um… okay then,” I replied, somewhat dubious.

I helped him back into the life vest that he insisted on wearing even though the water in the pool was only 3 ½ feet deep and fell mid-chest level on him when he stood with his feet planted at the bottom.  He climbed back into the pool and started wiggling his tooth again.  And then he looked down at his life vest, and started messing with the zipper near his neck before moving toward me, where I was standing on the pool deck.  His arm was extended, his fingers tight in a pincer grip, holding the prize tooth. The wiggling had knocked out the tooth, but it had fallen, caught on the life jacket.  A preserver of things after all.

Still, I was anxious as he moved toward me.  What we would do if he dropped it?  I wasn’t wearing a swim suit, and he couldn’t swim.  Could I, I wondered, convince another swimmer to dive to the bottom and search for the tiny tooth?  Or would they think I was crazy, call security on us, and kick us out of the swim club?  I wanted that tooth.  After all, the first lock of hair and the first tooth, those are things you are supposed to keep, aren’t they?  Luckily, he made it out of the pool, tooth in hand.

Before I could stow it safely away in my purse, my son had to show it to the birthday girl and her parents, and all her friends and their parents, and anyone else he could snare into looking at the gaping hole in his mouth and the tiny white tooth with a little bit of blood on it.  Thankfully, everyone was as excited as we were (or maybe they just pretend well).  It was a big deal, losing this first tooth!  It meant, after all, that The Tooth Fairy would come, and bring him money.  Money, he said, he could use to buy more fountains.

He talked about it all afternoon. “Pretty cool how I lost a tooth, huh?” my son said, as we headed over to the second party of the day.  I wonder how much money The Tooth Fairy will bring me.”

“I don’t know, I replied.  But I hope she brings paper money so her bag of coins doesn’t clink around and wake us up in the middle of the night!”

That evening, after the parties and dinner and baths, we put the tooth in a little wooden box.  I figured this would be easier for the tooth fairy to find than a lone tooth tucked under the pillows.  My son worried though.  The box was small and he didn’t think the tooth fairy could fit enough money in the box.  I don’t know what he expected, that she’d arrive with a suitcase full of unmarked bills?  I assured him that she would be able to fit some money in the box and if not, she’d leave it under his pillow.  However she did it, I assured him, she’d leave him money.  But, I cautioned him, it’s not like she leaves a lot of money.  A few dollars, probably. Certainly not enough to buy a fountain with.  But that’s better than when I was a kid, I told him.  Back then, she only left you a quarter.

It took two attempts for the tooth fairy to snag the tooth and exchange it for cash.  The first time I entered my son’s bedroom, he was fast asleep; only his legs were hanging off the bed as if he were ready to sit up!  Now what?  I pondered.  He’s going to fall out of bed if I don’t move him.  But if I do move him, he’ll wake up and want to check the tooth box.  If I take the tooth and put the money in there first, he’ll find it and be too excited to go back to sleep…  I decided it best to move him and come back later.  Of course, when I moved him he sat straight up and peered at me intently with open, yet sleeping, non-seeing eyes.  He was staring, squinting, perhaps searching for wings or a wand, or tiny twinkling stars, whatever comes with fairies.  “Shh… I whispered.  You were falling out of bed.  Go back to sleep.”  And he dropped backwards, rolled over, and closed his eyes.  I pulled the sheet up to cover him, and left his room.

I went back in about half an hour later and was able to make the switch. I folded a $5 dollar bill until it was no bigger than a quarter, took the tooth, and put the $5 in its place.

When I went to bed myself, it was near midnight.  My son found his riches at 5:45 this morning.  “Belle!” he called, walking into my room and shaking me awake.  “Look!  The Tooth Fairy came!  I got $5, pretty cool, huh?”  And like I thought, he was too excited to go back to sleep after that.

This morning I noticed his new tooth has already poked through the gum line.  It’s as if he were a baby again, with those pearly white bumps cutting through.  Only they’re a good ¼” behind the hole where his baby tooth used to reside.  I’d always pictured adult teeth as growing directly under the baby teeth.  His baby teeth were nearly perfectly aligned, but this new adult tooth poking through looks like a misfit, suggesting trouble, or at the very least, braces for the future.  Then again, I’m not, as I said before, a dentist.  Nor am I an orthodontist.  Today, I’m simply The Tooth Fairy.


Filed under life vest, lost tooth, teeth, The Tooth Fairy