Yesterday, the Little Man had to have a cavity filled in a front tooth. He is three, so it is our fault that he had that cavity in the first place. We found a children’s dentist that came highly recommended and when we went there the first time, I think the experience was really good, considering the fact we learned about the cavity. We scheduled to get it filled and were given several options: they could calm the Little Man using laughing gas; they could use a “pampoose” to restrain him; or they could sedate him. Both Kelly and I objected strongly to the pampoose because it just seemed horrifying. The poor kid would be unable to move and he’d be frightened and likely never want to visit the dentist again. We chose the laughing gas to calm him down.
Turns out it was a bait-and-switch.
The Little Man was very brave and the laughing gas seemed to calm him for the first half of the work. But when it came to the second half, the various assistants and the dentist himself made it clear that the only safe way to proceed was to use the pampoose. We basically had no choice. And, of course, once the pampoose went on, the Little Man screamed and shrieked like you’d expect of someone interrogated by the inquisition. Kelly–who is the most calm and stable person I know–said she felt sick. I felt terrible, too, but all I could do was hold his hand and tell him it was almost over.
When it was finally over, he was hyperventilating, but relieved, I think. Both Kelly and I felt terrible, and while the dentist explained that this was par for the course, I wanted to throttle him. But it wasn’t his fault, I suppose. Kelly and I failed to ask a key question in that first appointment: how often do you have to use the pampoose after starting with nitrous oxide? My guess is that the answer would have been: almost always. If we had known that, we would have opted for sedation in a heartbeat rather than put the Little Man through that kind of trauma.
We did our best to make it up to him. We kept him home from school for the rest of the day, and took him to Target and let him pick out a few little toys. Still, my guilty conscience wasn’t assuaged and my dreams last night were littered with his helpless screams. He may forget the incident, but I never will.