On top of everything else Mom is dealing with, she now has a toothache. Furthermore, Dad’s dementia might have something to do with it.
The last year Dad lived at home, she had just had some dental work done. Dad, far into his dementia at that point, socked Mom in the jaw one night as she was trying to get him ready for bed. He claimed he was “shadow boxing.”
Shortly thereafter, Dad became ill and then moved into the nursing home. Mom put aside her needs and never went back to the dentist to finish the extensive dental work that she had started.
Now she has an aching tooth, and an ache in her heart as she remembered the last time she was in the dentist’s office. Dad was with her, and in wandering mode. As she sat in the dentist’s chair, she would try to peer around and see if Dad was still in the waiting room. On one visit, he left the building and wandered down the street to a fast food restaurant. When he was reunited with Mom later, he claimed the restaurant had spiders and bugs crawling all over the windows.
So for most people, a toothache would be a minor annoyance. But for Mom, it opens old wounds created by Dad’s dementia.
Even though my dad’s teeth were in pretty bad shape, I don’t remember him going that often to the dentist. He was the typical guy that would wait until the pain was unbearable before he’d go get the problem taken care of. I had plenty of cavities as a kid, but the main things I remember about my childhood dentist, Dr. Friedman, was the taste of the toothpaste (kind of like a berry bubblegum flavor) and the huge wooden chest of dollar store toys that you got to choose from when you completed your visit. So going to the dentist wasn’t traumatic for me at all.
My mom on the other hand, had a ton of problems with her teeth. Dr. Wyland was her dentist, and we made dozens of trips there as a family. While Mom was subject to the dentist’s drill, Dad and I had a blast. This place was the most awesome dentist office ever. First of all, I’ll never forget the giant homemade cookies that were in the waiting area. They were amazing. I always grabbed the chocolate chip, while Dad preferred the oatmeal raisin. I know, free cookies at the dentist? What an easy way to ensure a steady stream of future patients!
There was a soda and coffee machine, so Dad would buy me a Coke and he would get coffee, of course. Then, we went into the movie theatre. That’s right, the dentist office had its own theatre! They showed classic, family-friendly movies and Dad and I would hang out in there until Mom finally emerged, with her mouth all numbed up. Dad would sneak out a couple of times for a smoke break, of course, and he would always have the “usher” keep an eye on me. The usher was an older gentleman with white hair and a moustache. He looked a bit like Wilford Brimley. Dad liked to chat with him and I was more than content to eat cookies, drink soda and watch movies all afternoon long.
The dentist practice has changed names, but it still exists!
It’s crazy, but these trips to the dentist were enjoyable for me and my dad. I’m sure Mom would remember quite a different version of events.