Losing sleep over teeth

I’ve always feared losing my teeth. Even when I was younger, I had nightmares in which they’d start to wiggle and fall out, leaving holes in my mouth. Now that I’m older, I lie awake sometimes at night worrying about the day they’ll be gone — and what that will mean.

I assumed that my secret neurosis was far from my son’s three-year-old world, but one night about a month ago, as Finn lay in silence supposedly dozing off to sleep, he suddenly asked, “Mommy? When I’m five, will my teeth fall out?” He had the week before seen a five-year-old friend wiggling her first loose tooth, but we hadn’t spoken of it since. “Just one at a time,” I told him. “And new ones will take the place of the old ones!” He was quiet again, and then started to cry — a loud, wailing cry. “Don’t let me turn five, Mommy! Don’t let my teeth fall out!” It was such an innocent statement, so funny and sad, and I hugged him to me, telling him that everything would be okay.

Then a couple of weeks later, fresh from the bath and wrapped warmly in a towel like a little burrito, he pulled away while armless and fell flat on his face, smacking right down onto the tile floor — and his two front teeth. Relieved to see and feel that they were intact, I at first believed that only his lip had been cut and that the teeth were fine, but the next morning I saw that the gums above his front teeth were swollen and had been bleeding. An hour later, we were at the dentist. They may heal on their own, she said. We’ll do an x-ray in a month to check on the nerves, but until then, all we can do is watch for discoloration.

Now, as I repeatedly relive the past moment of impact and worry about the future, Finn celebrates the present, laughing, playing, smiling. Ahh, to be three.