“My mouth hurts,” Samson said.

We were eating dinner. Samson’s mouth was hurting.

“It looks like he has cavities,” my wife who is not a dentist said after looking in his tiny mouth. “See those dark spots?”

I am not a dentist either. But I did see those dark spots.

Samson turns five this week. One of his presents? Cavities.


Samson saw his dentist back in November. Our dentist. No cavities last fall. But then our dentist stopped accepting Penn State insurance. And then a global pandemic happened. So we missed his appointment in the spring. And we were put on a waiting list at a new dentist across town. It’s easier to get a COVID-19 test than to see a new dentist these days. And that’s saying something. Test and trace? Who needs it? Not America. Don’t tread on me. But I digress.

Katie called the dentist after Samson started complaining about his mouth hurting. She told them that, waiting lists be damned, the boy needed to be seen. So Samson and I masked up last Thursday. Hit the road early. Arrived at a new dentist.

“It looks like a hotel,” Samson said after looking around the waiting room. It did look like a hotel.

They took our temperature. Sanitized us. Welcomed us in and took us back. The hygienist looked into his mouth. She almost fainted.

“Has he been to the dentist before?” she asked.

My parental guilt kicked in. I explained that he’d been to going to another dentist before the pandemic. No history of cavities. He brushes twice a day, flosses, and uses mouthwash. My defense fell on deaf ears.

“This is bad,” she said.

The dentist came in. Poked around my son’s mouth.

“This is bad,” she said. “We’ll have to refer him to the pediatric dentist.”

I slumped my shoulders. Ten minutes later I was at the receptionist desk.

“This is bad,” the receptionist behind the plexiglass wall said into the phone. “Can you see him today?”

The pediatric dentist agreed to see Samson that afternoon. I guess it really was bad.

Samson and I left the office.

“Are my cavities gone, Dad?” Samson asked.

“Not yet, bud. How would you like to go to another dentist?”

“That would be fun.”

Samson likes dentists. So far.

So that afternoon we masked up, had our temperature taken, and were sanitized again. They took Samson for X-Rays. I waited in a consultation room with no ventilation. The dentist came in about fifteen minutes later.

“This is bad,” he said.

Six cavities. Two were really deep. Samson would need to be put to sleep for the procedure. Felt like the dentist was describing serious surgery to me. My heart kept sinking. The earliest they could get us in, due to the pandemic, was the end of September. I won’t even mention the bill. I might have to sell a limb. Is anybody looking for a forty-year old left arm? It’s kind of hairy…

Samson and I walked out of the office an hour later. Two dentist appointments in one day? And a dental surgery scheduled in September? On the heels of five months of isolation and amidst on ongoing pandemic. I wanted to scream into the heavens. As my dead Jewish grandmother would say: Oi Vey! As my dead Norwegian great-grandmother would say: Uff-dah!

Samson wasn’t phased.

“That was fun, Dad!” He had two toys from the prize-box to show for our day. I felt so bad for him. Poor innocent little guy with a birthday coming up. And now he had dental surgery to look forward to.

Oi vey.



It really doesn’t make sense. His teeth were fine in November. Eight months later, and we have a disaster on our hands? Our dental habits are pretty regular. Brush, floss, mouthwash. We do all of it. What happened?

Samson was always a fierce teeth grinder. He crawled into our bed and the grinding happened right next to my ear. It was a special kind of disturbing.

The dentist told me that the grinding probably created grooves. And sugar crawled into the grooves. Lucky Charms? More like Second-Mortgage Charms. Samson’s mouth became a special kind of home for cavities. Darn it. Uff-dah and Oi Vey.

It could be worse. The procedure isn’t dangerous. And we’ll get his mouth fixed. It was just a sad day for the Tanners. Dentists, in my experience, are usually linked with sadness. Two root canals. Braces. I’ve seen my share of pain. Paid for it, too. And now my boy will begin learning this lesson.

Swing low, sweet cavity. Swing low.

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