15 May 2012

Allons chez le dentiste!

Sunday night - Mother's Day - I felt like a big mama failure.

Elias cried in his sleep, complaining that his "cheek" hurt.  I grabbed the massive flashlight we use when the electricity goes out and peered into his mouth, expecting to see nothing.  Instead, I immediately saw what looked to me like a massive cavity in my firstborn's perfect little mouth.

Now, I have always claimed major bragging rights to the fact that I have not ever had an actual cavity.  I assumed that my children would inherit my sturdy teeth and carry on genetically gleaming smiles.  We brush, we even floss (sometimes),we save soda & juice for special occasions...I thought we had a winning routine!  I even felt well-prepared for a non-fluoridated water supply.  How could Elias' molar now be glaring back at me, angry and rotten?

Not getting the Rumble in the Jungle reference?  Find out more here.

After the initial guilt faded, the Ibuprofen was given, and the boy back to sleep, I begin the next stage of parental nighttime worry: How to take my rather excitable 5 year old to the dentist in Kinshasa.

The thought of taking a kid to the dentist in the Congo sounds to many like the most awful idea ever.  I admit, visions of teeth being plier-ed out sans anesthesia, glove-less dentists, and dirty, rusted, pre-Mobutu drills danced in my head.  Or something like this:

The Tooth Extractor 1635.  Theodore Rombouts.

But, I knew that if we let that cavity fester until June, we'd be facing a kindergarten root canal when we arrived Stateside next month.

I checked around, emailed a few people, trying to figure out where to go for this epic dentist visit.  One colleague wrote:
 I know Elias is irrepressible but one might wonder about his reaction to Dr. Neamonitis.
Despite this awesome word of caution, everyone said that this dentist was the place to go. So, we made an appointment and Johan and I debated all day how to break the news to our kid.  "Calm and cool" isn't exactly how anyone would describe Elias when he is faced with finger pokes, immunizations, or even haircuts.

Let's just say I was prepared to sit on him.

We arrived to find the dentist office really sort of beautiful.  Great modern Congolese original artwork - much of it tooth-centric - covered the walls.  Paris Match on the waiting room table.  The slight twang of chemicals in the air.  It was dentist-y in a comforting sort of way. 

Dr. Neamonitis is a burly guy.  He is sort of the epitome of exactly what you would imagine a Greek dentist to look like.  Random find in Kinshasa? Maybe.

After checking out the tooth in question, he looked at me and said, "Mama, ne vous inquiétez pas. Ce n'est pas grave. "  (Mama, don't worry.  It's not serious.)  He then proceeded to give Elias a massive gum massage with numbing cream.  Occasionally stopping to gently stroke Elias' cheek and say, in English, "Strong Boy! Yes! Strong!"  

Then, Dr. Neamonitis gave Elias a huge shot of local anesthetic in his gum.  

Which the kid never even noticed.

We returned home an hour later.  Elias got to watch a movie for his incredible bravery.  And Johan and I, giddy with relief, toasted each other to the best $160 spent in a long time.  

Yes...we took pictures.  It was that good of an experience.

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