Robyn Coburn

In the interest of maybe helping people see that even scary medical
situations can still be handled with respect and the minimum of coercion, as
well as with the idea that maybe some folk can learn from my horrid
mistakes, I am writing a long saga about Jayn�s current experience with an
incipiently life threatening infection in her mouth. In the interests of
ease and the gentle reader�s sanity, I will make it a few installments.

In March I wrote the following in response to a question (on UD) about
enforcing tooth brushing:

<<<<<< I would rather Jayn had some cavities in her teeth than there be a
gaping, festering hole of my creating in our relationship. I have never
enforced tooth brushing. She is 5, and her teeth did start to come in
"late", at one year. Of course she sees me and dh brushing, and we have gone
through a lengthy process of finding toothpastes that she likes the taste
of. She is also aware of the one large cavity she has in a molar. Rather
than express the inaccurate information that brushing *will* prevent
cavities, I tell her that brushing is more likely to mean fewer cavities, as
well as fresher breath. She also knows that it will be more important to
brush more often when her adult teeth come in. She has recently
spontaneously begun brushing her teeth several times a day, rotating through
her selection of fun toothbrushes, and sometimes flossing. This is actually
unnecessary as her baby teeth are wide apart.

We have taken visiting the dentist very gradually. Six months ago she came
with me to my cleaning, and wanted to sit in the chair and "get her teeth
counted". She asked a lot of questions. Now I am on a quest to find a nice,
gentle, lady dentist (Jayn wants a woman) who uses air abrasion when
possible, instead of drilling. We will be interviewing and choose the person
Jayn likes best, and she is looking forward to the visits. >>>>>>>>

Ten days ago, on Tuesday night, Jayn developed an abscess in the tooth with
the large cavity. The condition is called facial cellulitis and is
characterized by swelling in her cheek near the tooth and some pain. I am
sure the abscess was in her gum sooner, but this is when we discovered its

Naturally our immediate alarm caused us (dh and I) to step up my far too
relaxed timetable for finding a congenial dentist and we made an appointment
on Wednesday for Thursday with a dental office that had been recommended by
another Unschooler as being kind and kid friendly. We explained to Jayn that
we were very concerned, and that she had an infection, and she was very
willing to go to a dentist.

Here�s what has happened since:

At this first place Jayn, being willing and ready, immediately sat in the
chair and allowed three different people to work in her mouth. The Assistant
polished her teeth with the rubber tip and the sucker, did a fluoride
treatment and took a full set of x-rays plus one other one of the bad tooth.
The Hygenist then came in and scraped her teeth with the big old hook tool
(Jayn said it made her teeth feel itchy). Then the Dentist came in and
examined her teeth and the x-rays, recommending urgent extraction, and

Unfortunately (although it turns out that fate had an even better outcome
for us � stand by for the happy ending in a while) the regular dentist, who
had been much recommended, was away. None of the three of us really liked
the stand in dentist much - she was brusque, had a hurried manner, looking
more at the x-rays than in Jayn's mouth. We didn't get a reassuring or
caring vibe from her, unlike the other staff in the place. She also found a
fair amount of other work needed, but much of that is not visible to the
eye, between Jayn�s teeth.

Nevertheless Jayn wanted to return to the same office later anyway because
she really liked the dental assistant, who was delightful, and quite liked
the hygienist.

Jayn was an incredibly brave little trooper, even with the x-rays and
getting her teeth polished and scraped by the hygienist. She answered all
their questions about brushing and flossing and I could tell that she was
really comfortable with the DA because she started sharing her "sky is
falling" fantasy with her. James was actually more nervous than Jayn once it
came to the crunch.

The only difficulty was that they do not do any of this kind of extraction
or anesthesia work at this office, only fillings with nitrous oxide, so they
referred us to an Oral Surgeon. This was disappointing � more on that later.
They also gave us a prescription for an antibiotic. This began to work and
the swelling started to recede at once. We made an appointment for the
following Monday with their recommended guy at 7am. (First mistake!)


Well the Monday was a disaster, and the saga continues.

Jayn being on nights was already stressed, tired and extremely hungry (in
preparation for the sedation) by the time we got to the oral surgeon at 7am.
I had hoped that she would simply be willing to drink the versed and snooze.

Unlike the first dental establishment, this place was very clinical in
atmosphere, and the old guy, who you would have thought would be avuncular,
was not careful, slow or patient in his approach. Some of his first words
were "Stop crying" and he tried to pull Jayn's hands from in front of her
mouth. This was before any sedation.

When it was immediately evident that James and I were not going to support
holding her down at all, he went off to get the Versed. Now Jayn will
usually undertake some ministration or take her medicine if given enough
time, and patient waiting, so we were ready to wait, except that instead of
becoming calmer and more willing, Jayn got increasingly agitated every time
she tried to taste the stuff. I took some on my finger, and it is truly
awful and foul smelling. She just couldn't stomach it, although bless her
she really did try.

The doctor kept looking in to see how it was going. James tried a syringe to
offer the stuff. The nurse that James described as a "battleaxe" said to
him, "Let us go in there and we'll make her take it".

This is not how we live, as you all know. BTW I did come to realize what my
biggest error was at this point, but in the interests of chronology I�ll
tell you later and you can have fun guessing what that might be.

So we finally left there, feeling rather disappointed, went to get some
food, and then went home to sleep at about 9.30am.

We rose at 1.00pm in order to visit the back up oral surgeon that James had
also made an appointment with, through a referral from one of our friend's
dentists. This second person is one who will bring in an anesthesiologist,
something that I saw being recommended a lot on the Very Young Kids Teeth
list for IV sedation.

This man was also not impressed with our evident refusal to back up the
force tactics that seem to be the first option, rather than last resort,
with these people.

He gave me the distinct impression that he was really just too busy to take
the time needed for Jayn to get comfortable and brushed the surgery off as
taking 15 minutes. Apparently he would schedule that small amount of time
(although the office was empty when we arrived.) One of the sticking points
is this oral dose of Versed - and everyone seems entirely unwilling to just
give Jayn a quick shot and let her gently fall asleep in our arms. It is as
if they *want* to create a traumatic experience of being overpowered in the

The dentist also resorted to a strategy that seems to be typical amongst
Western medical practitioners of scare tactics - expressing the worst case
scenario in tones of doom, and exaggerated urgency.

Now I have already researched the infection that Jayn has, as confirmed by
the dentist, and I know that left untreated it is very likely to become a
life threatening infection requiring hospitalization - after it migrates
into the jaw or eye socket. However we are not leaving it untreated (she
*is* taking antibiotics - a necessary step also in reducing her pain and to
allow the anesthesia to work) and a couple of days or a week will not
suddenly plunge her into a life threatening situation.

He rather rudely brushed us off with advice to go to UCLA School of
Pediatric Dentistry, but couldn't give us any names of personnel - even of
his professor apparently. Then he said "I'll be right back", left the room
and sent in the secretary with Jayn's x-ray and a post in note with the
words "UCLA School of Pediatric Dentistry" written on it (as if we were too
stupid to remember those words) and no phone number. When James asked about
the number in astonishment, she suggested we try the Yellow Pages!!! The
dentist didn't even say good bye and good luck or anything at all.

So we came home. James got on the phone. I got on the internet and the
upshot of it is that we have an appointment with the lady that another local
unschooler recommends (did I mention that part of the problem is that Jayn
still wants all her dental folk to be women?) who *sounded* wonderful. She
originally was going to squeeze us in on Thursday, but called and changed it
to tomorrow, Wednesday when she will have a lot more time.

We are told she plays with the kids until they are comfortable, and prefers
local anesthetic. The only fly in the ointment is the early hour of the
appointment - 10.30am. Jayn is seeing this as a meeting appointment, with
the possibility of doing the extraction if she feels comfortable. If she is
not willing, we may have to wait two weeks while the dentist goes on

I want to make it clear that James speaks at length to any prospective
practitioner � he is much better at that than I am. He explains our
parenting philosophy and asks questions about how child friendly they are.
We must be using the same words but have different meanings for them because
even the concept of Patience seems to be differently defined by health

Stand by for Part Two�..

Robyn L. Coburn

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Jonathan had an abcess but we have a great pediatric dentist so the
experience was much different. They gave him nitrous oxide and
novacaine but it didn't deaden the nerve, we later discovered that
both his father and uncle had the same experience. Novacaine and gas
have no effect on them.

The dentist drilled to the point of the nerve and stopped when
Jonathan told him it hurt. He believed him and stopped, he said that
we could take him to an oral surgeon and have it pulled but that it
may be fine just left open like it was. He explained that since it's
open it can't build up pressure but that the nerve might be irritated,
if it became too painful we could just have it pulled.

That was over a year ago and although he will experience pain once in
a while if he forgets and bites down on that tooth, it has been
basically painless. The dentist says that it will just fall out
someday, right before the new tooth comes in.

I don't think most dentists would have gone with this but since our's
puts the feelings of the child first he has more solutions.


> Ten days ago, on Tuesday night, Jayn developed an abscess in the tooth with
> the large cavity. The condition is called facial cellulitis and is
> characterized by swelling in her cheek near the tooth and some pain. I am
> sure the abscess was in her gum sooner, but this is when we discovered its
> presence.
The true measure of a person is how they treat those who can be of no
use to them.