My son came to me this morning with a tooth he’d lost. I flinched with revulsion and said, “Gross.”

Now, before you label me a bad mom (not that you’d necessarily be wrong), this was the 11 year old, and the tooth was one of his molars. Parents of younger children, know this now: tooth loss gets progressively less cute as they get older. I remember well those first few pearly little drops under my son’s pillow. The excitement with which he rushed to me to show me the dollar my husband had left in its place the night before. His anticipation of spending said dollar on yet another pack of fucking Pokemon cards.

I remember when I started losing teeth. And just as my children do, I recall clinging to them until they were just dangling by a single root and my parents were begging me to either pull the tooth out, or let them do the old tie-a-string-around-a-doorknob-and-tie-the-other-end-to-the-tooth-and-shut-the-door gimmick. As an adult, I honestly think that’s one of the grossest parts of tooth loss—the refusal to just have it over with and pop it out. The loose tooth finally gets so loose that it changes position regularly, and can end up at a 90 degree angle to the rest of the teeth, sticking straight out like something out one of those scare tactic pictures at the orthodontist’s office showing people with various dental deformities who did not heed the advice given them and failed to invest thousands of dollars in corrective devices. And it looks nasty.

Only one of my kids was ever brave enough to just have it over with. One of the twins had a really lose tooth that was turning my stomach on a regular basis, and finally one day my husband and I said, “Just pull it out—it’ll come right out.” So he said, “OK” and did it. He got two bucks for that one, and a note from the Tooth Fairy saying that anyone who was brave enough to pull out their own loose tooth (and save their mom a lot of gross out, although she didn’t mention that explicitly) got extra money for it.

We’ve only had a couple of tooth related crises. I’d have expected more with four kids all of whom have big mouths. The first one came when my oldest went over his bicycle handle bars after hitting a rock. He face planted onto a gravely patch and scraped his gums. I took him right to the dentist, who did xrays and assured us there was no damage to the permanent teeth (he still had his baby teeth). Unfortunately what we should have been concerned with was the swelling and bruising around his left thumb which, four days later, turned out to be a buckle fracture that required a cast for 3 weeks. You know I made a point of noting that one on my Mother of the Year award application.

The second incident concerned one of the twins, who was bouncing on the trampoline with his older brother. The twin’s mouth came in contact with the older brother’s head, and it appeared that it knocked one of the teeth loose. Because I am such a wonderful mother (see: broken thumb, four days) I had no recollection of who had lost which teeth (I mean, shit, they do have a ton of them between the four of them), and was convinced that this was an adult tooth. I tried to get him into the dentist, but couldn’t get an appointment until the next afternoon. With strict instructions not to wiggle it, and to eat only very soft foods, I sent him off to school. The next afternoon I was in a panic because the tooth was obviously looser than it had been. When I got him to the dentist, the hygienist looked at it and said, “I’m pretty sure that’s a baby tooth.” “Really?” I asked. “Pretty sure. Dr. Wilson can confirm it, but I’m pretty sure.” Um, oh. Ha ha.

It was.

Well, thank goodness, but I still felt pretty dumb.

The last one (to date) involved my daughter and my oldest son. They were horsing around, and to this day I have no idea what happened, but somehow he managed to knock out one of her front teeth, which was not already loose. Now, one good thing about loose teeth—they really don’t bleed much. Although the blood does taste bad (or did to me), it’s not a very lengthy experience. Rinse your mouth once or twice and you’re fine. Let me assure you that a tooth that gets knocked out, which is not supposed to come out shortly anyway, bleeds like a stuck fucking pig. It seems like it's waves of blood and while it does stop fairly quickly, while it’s happening you’re convinced that the person is going to need a transfusion if it keeps up. My daughter was fine, of course, but she did sort of look like a hockey player for a couple of months.

And I have to confess that almost everything about this process makes me faintly ill, but still I save all their teeth (all that I can—we’ve had a few that got swallowed when they came out. Ew). Why? Every parent I know has a little box of kids’ baby teeth somewhere. Or, in my case, multiple little boxes since I can never seem to find the box I put the previous lost tooth in. And the thing is, even if I had a gun to my head, I couldn’t tell you which teeth belonged to which kid (although I suppose I could make it up, because it's not like the guy with the gun to my head would know the difference). What am I going to do with them? Frame them? Mount them and wear them as earrings? Use them for DNA identification? And yet they come out, and I stick them in a box somewhere.

Although I must say, now that the oldest has started losing really big teeth, I think my days of saving his are over, because molars are seriously icky when they come out. They're so disgusting that it's tempting to skip putting money under their pillows and just give them five bucks to not show it to you in the first place. It's too bad: the big ones would probably make pretty impressive earrings.

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