The Rockwood Files: Pow! Right in the kisser.

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

I got a phone call a few weeks ago when 4-year-old Kate was at a gymnastics day camp. The teacher told me there’d been an accident but then quickly added that Kate was okay. I was grateful for the second half of that sentence because my heart immediately jumped into my throat as soon as the word “accident” had been uttered.

Face meets pole. Ouch.

During a spirited game of tag, Kate had run head-first into a pole, and her teacher thought she would need to see a doctor or a dentist or both. So I sped toward the gym and raced inside to find her curled up in the lap of a fellow mama, who just happened to be a nurse who happened to be at the gym that day. (As accidents go, it’s awfully good to have one when a nice nurse is standing nearby.)

When I knelt down to look at the damage, I saw blood on her shirt and her favorite pink skirt and her cut lip had already begun to swell to twice its normal size. The gymnastics teacher told me one of her front teeth had been knocked backward and was barely hanging on. I scooped her up in my arms with a plan in mind. Located in a shopping plaza, the gym was only a few steps away from my dentist’s office so I rushed her over there and asked if the dentist could possibly see her right away.

Three minutes later, we were in the dentist’s chair getting some emergency front-tooth treatment. (One of the top criteria for choosing any doctor, in my opinion, is finding one that will help you out when you’re in a parenting panic moment, as I was then.) The dentist numbed Kate’s mouth and then went to work trying to save the tooth. Somehow she got it back into place and glued it to the teeth on either side of it, hoping that it would stabilize and tighten back up over the next few weeks.

Her lip didn’t need stitches, so we went home with orders to put ice on the swelling, eat only soft foods for several days and watch for any signs that the tooth was turning grey or getting infected. Kate looked pretty rough those first few days – a little like she’d been in a bar fight with those low-life Bratz dolls and had come out on the losing end of it.

A few days later, her lip was getting better and the tooth, although still wobbly, was still there and still white. We cut her favorite foods into small pieces that she could stick in her mouth and chew with her back teeth.

After two weeks of lots of applesauce, yogurt and back-teeth chewing, we went back to the dentist for a follow-up appointment. The news wasn’t good. The tooth was still very wobbly and didn’t seem to be tightening up as we’d hoped. The dentist did an x-ray that revealed the answer – a fracture through and through near the root of the tooth. In short, it was a goner.

I’ll admit I felt a small sense of loss when the dentist said the tooth had to come out. Sure, it was a baby tooth that was destined to fall out at some point anyway, but I was hoping she could keep that neat little row of baby teeth she always flashes in photos. And I knew that losing a front tooth would immediately make her look older, just as it did when her brothers began to lose their baby teeth. We mom-types tend to get sad when the “baby” of the family starts looking less like a baby.

But it had to be done, so we soldiered through our first tooth extraction. Kate was absolutely fearless at the dentist, only whimpering for a second or two when the numbing injection was given. A few minutes later, it was over. When we left, Kate had a cotton roll sticking out of her mouth and was carrying her baby tooth which the nurse had encased in a small plastic treasure box. She was very much looking forward to a visit with the Tooth Fairy later that night, and her older brothers told her that losing a tooth was “cool” which definitely earned her some credibility as a big kid.

In the end, I worried for nothing. Because Kate’s new snaggle-tooth smile is even more endearing than the one with perfect little teeth. And it matches her personality – headstrong, fearless, quirky and cute. I’ll take personality over perfection any day of the week.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.