I couldn't help but smile as I held the camera to my face and pressed down on the shutter. All I could picture were Willy Wonka's Oompa-Loompas twittering around Mike T.V. as the technician brought Ittybit into the closet-sized x-ray room and suited her up for her close-up.
It was going remarkably well. Even Ittybit was confident things were going to be better on this, her third official visit to the dentist: "Hey mom! I didn't even throw up in the car," she said as we pulled into a parking space in the dental office parking lot. "Well, that is an improvement," I admitted earnestly.
The first two x-rays went well, but the third one that was to show the back teeth was tricky. She had to bite on a stick, and the card flaps of the film dug into her gums. It was "ouchie."
I could feel the discomfort in my own mouth, just recalling the procedure. I put the camera back in my bag. No need to preserve the pain.
Still, though, Ittybit was willing to try. She even let the technician attempt five or six insertion variations before we all threw in the towel. She's got a tiny mouth like her mom.
Of course I became worried when the dentist came into the exam room carrying the film. This unexpected visit, I knew, trumped the usual procedure: FIRST the hygienist cleans and THEN the dentist examines.
Turns out the dentist wanted to know if she ever had a traumatic fall, perhaps when she was a toddler, because the roots of her top front baby teeth were fractured clean through.
I was stunned. How is it possible to have damage to the root and not to the teeth? The doctor kept talking and I kept trying to remember a fall that would cause such an injury?
I tried to extract the lost memory.
"Could it have been more recent?" I ask after not being able to dredge up one traumatic early fall.
"There was that time when she was two, we were visiting her grandmother in Maine, when she fell off a chair and onto the dog's water bowl. No, that injury was really along her chin line. ..."
Perhaps it happened at the babysitter's house.
"Do you remember falling at your babysitter's house? She said you 'took a header,' do you remember that," I ask Ittybit.
"NO! That wasn't it, mama," she chides. "I hurt my hand and chest that time."
I couldn't let it go.
"I vaguely recall her hitting her face on something recently and there being blood in her mouth ... I thought she'd bitten her tongue or her lip."
And I thought my inability to prevent cavities in her little mouth was going to make the "Somewhat-Marginal Parents’ Union" parental advisory board rescind my application for "Mother of the Year." Not noticing that she’d suffered a "traumatic" injury was likely to get me permanently barred from membership.
"Don’t beat yourself up; this isn't uncommon," said the dentist, noticing my alarm. "We just have to watch it to make sure it doesn't get infected and damage the permanent teeth."
Another thing the injury changes is the course of action for her two cavities that are smack dab in the middle of her front teeth. She's not going to have to get them filled now.
"But I want to get the cavity fixed today," she wailed, no doubt wanting her "perfect princess teeth" to indeed BE perfect.
"They will be fine," I try to reassure her later. "The cavities are in your baby teeth. Eventually they will fall out and be replaced by permanent teeth that don't have any cavities."
"When I am five or eight."
"What do you mean, five or eight?"
"Yeah. That's when my teeth will fall out — when I am five or eight."