An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

Little shop of horrors

The last time we took Leta to the dentist she was so not having it that he had to inspect her teeth while standing three feet away. That was a long time ago, and we have not attempted the dentist since then because we are wimps. Also, when presented with the choice between a) spending an afternoon with sharp, lethal objects in my mouth being held by someone other than myself, or 2) sitting pantsless on the couch eating puffy cheetos while watching SpongeBob, let’s just say that when Jon walked in and was all, you do realize you’re half-naked and laughing at an animated sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea? I was all, then you take her to that place and watch what happens when that man in the white coat approaches her with a dental hook. Go ahead, I’ll wait here and keep your seat warm.

Side note: last weekend while we were at the music festival in San Francisco, Jon and I waited for over four hours next to the front row railing next to stage that Radiohead would be playing. Which means we got to see them live from the front row, but we forgot to eat dinner. And that detail is only important because we forgot about our empty stomachs when a few hours after the show someone started buying us drinks at a bar in the Lower Haight. By the tray full. And then all of a sudden I’m lying in bed at the hotel with my pants off watching the Olympics, and I can’t figure out how I got there. So I turn to Jon and go, dude, something weird just happened! I think we were teleported! And he’s all, wait a minute, you don’t remember stopping into that convenience store and picking up the tortilla chips that are in crumbs right now all over your chest? Or how you turned to me and whispered, “SHHHH! CAN I TELL YOU SOMETHING? I CAN’T SEE SO GOOD.” Or the cab ride home where you kept yelling BUMPY! BUMPY! BUMPY! at the driver? I don’t remember any of it, and ask him how my pants ended up splayed across the top of the television like that, had Ed O’Brien been in here earlier? And he explains that the first thing I did when I walked in the door was rip off my pants, toss them behind my back and fall face first on the bed missing the nightstand by inches, which you have to admit, is just as sexy.

About a month ago our dental hygienist called and said, it’s been a while, you do realize that this is a first world country? And that many people here have all their teeth? Would you like to keep yours? So we sucked it up and made an appointment, and since then have tried to prepare Leta for the experience. And by prepare her for it I mean that when she asked if going to the dentist was like going to the hospital I told her no, of course not. It’s much, much worse.

Yesterday I volunteered to go first, and it wasn’t that bad, I only lost a pint of blood, and then when it was Jon’s turn to go I held Leta in my lap so that she could see what they were doing to him. I talked her through the cleaning and the brushing and the flossing, and every three seconds or so she would turn to me and say, “But they’re not going to do that to me, right? RIGHT? SAY, ‘RIGHT.'” I tried to steer her away from this line of thinking by telling her to watch her father, but this only made her bury her head into my chest even further. So I tried Plan B which was: “If you don’t let them clean your teeth they are all going to fall out. And then you won’t be able to talk. And then you’ll die homeless.”

One of the hygienists working a station over from ours yelled out, “OH MY GOD! My mother said the same thing to me! AND IT WORKED!” So you see, there existed a parent out there like me whose child did not end up a serial killer, although that kid now spends her days jabbing hooks and knives into the mouths of very frightened people. I’ll be sure to add more hugging to my approach, then.

When it came time for Leta’s exam I held her in my lap, climbed into the Chair of Doom and stroked her head to calm her down. Jon sat near us and held her hands, but she kept ripping them from his grip and trying to claw her way out of the building. If you can think of a reward, we used it to try and bribe her: more princess toys, a Barbie dream house, a weekend in Cancun with Dora, a chocolate pony that shits M&M’s. But she screamed and cried and wriggled like we were branding her with an iron. She and Coco are a lot more alike than she’d like to admit. I mean, we yank the slightest bit on Coco’s leash to get her to straighten up and stop barking at a trash can, and she yelps and flails as if we have just removed her gall bladder without anesthesia. Neighbors will look at us like, what on earth are you doing to that poor dog? And Jon is all, this is nothing. You should see how she reacts when we force her to play fetch in traffic.

Our hygienist is amazing with kids, thank God, and was able to time it just right so that when Jon slid Leta’s trembling hand away from her own mouth for a half second she was able to touch a single tooth with the rubber toothbrush. And it was as quick as the realization that pancakes were not going to kill her, because Leta immediately relaxed, opened her mouth and let the hygienist clean every single tooth. And while she was in a forgiving mood the dentist ran over, got within inches of her face and was able to stick his fingers in her mouth to inspect her gums and teeth. Just like that it was over, and you would have thought she had just taken her first steps because we could not praise her enough. Tons of hugs and cheers and kisses, and that’s when the hygienist broke out an array of princess toothbrushes, oh you upstaging hygienist! Just go ahead and send her to the Celestial Kingdom and give her her own planet, why don’t you?

Because apparently there is no treat quite like a princess toothbrush. She’s had Dora toothbrushes and Elmo toothbrushes and my mother is a horrible monster and bought me this RED? WITH NOTHING ON IT? NOT EVEN THE NAME OF A DENTAL CLINIC? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? toothbrushes, but never has she owned a toothbrush decorated with a Disney Princess. And she cradled that toothbrush for the rest of the afternoon, talked about how brave she had been by going to the hospital and letting those people look inside her mouth, how she would show Her Kids this Most Wonderful Toothbrush In All Of The Toothbrush Kingdom, and then at 5:30 PM she looked up at me and said, “I would like to go to sleep and brush my teeth now.”

I got her to last until 6:30 PM, but then I couldn’t take the pleading anymore, and after we dressed her in her pajamas she stood in that bathroom and brushed her teeth for ten straight minutes. I had to physically remove that toothbrush from her mouth, she did not want to let go, and after stories when I was kissing her goodnight she said, “After I sleep, can I brush my teeth? And then right after I brush my teeth I’ll go to sleep again so that I can wake up and brush my teeth again.” Yes, absolutely you can do that. You’ve totally earned it.

  • I loathe going to the dentist. That little scrapey thing is by far the worst experience. I may have to start demanding cuter toothbrushes from my dentist.

  • when I was a kid I had an “old school” dentist. so much that I didn’t know anesthesia existed until I was 16 and went to a new dentist. He would drill out cavities with nothing other than telling you to listen to the radio. which by the way sucked because it was talk radio. If I find that bastard again I’m kicking him in the shins.

  • I’ve got to see if anyone makes a Backyardigans toothbrush. You may have saved my daughter’s teeth…

  • gladcow

    my daughter got a princess toothbrush on her first dentist visit (along with a toy and some stickers!) and now every time she goes to the dentist she wheedles with the hygienists until they come up with another princess toothbrush. she always gets them to break out the back stock, heh.

  • So… a little something about Stars?

    They played a show in L.A. a few years ago and ended their set with, “We’re Stars. And so are you.”

    I haven’t been able to give them a fair shake ever since.

    Glad you got to see them though!

  • Power to the princess, lol!

  • ritabby

    You and Tina Fey. Please write a book together. You are both hysterically funny!

  • T

    Oh my heck… I AM ROLLING!

  • Anonymous

    When I was little, my Mom told us if we weren’t good, we couldn’t brush our teeth before we went to bed. And it WORKED.

  • I will just say that from the hotel room to the dentist’s office, this post made me very happy.

  • Sam

    You should have spared yourself the trip and moved to KY… it’s where I live, and nobody has all of their teeth. In fact, I think losing a tooth is a rite of passage, like puberty or getting pulled over for public intoxication. Just sayin’.

  • But I don’t have to go have my root canal. Right? Say RIGHT! I wonder if that’ll work any better for me than it did for Leta.

  • The “right? Say right!” still has me howling. God, that kid of yours is so hilarious.

  • I hate going to the denists. And so should Leta. 🙂

  • You taking your pants off as soon as you hit home is hilarious. And makes me feel a little less weird about this practice, so I really hope you’re not making that up or anything. Right? Say RIGHT!

  • If only they made Xanax Chewables. ‘Cause that’s the only way mommy is sitting in that chair of torture.

    And now I have Steve Martin singing in my head.
    “I thrill when I drill a bicuspid”

  • I loathe the dentist, simply loathe the dentist (and she is the nicest person in the world). But going, oh, what a horror.

    But if she gave me a princess toothbrush, well, I can see how that would certainly change things.

    Think I could get away with asking her for one? I probably should mention I’m, oh, a million years older than Leta. Think that makes a difference?


  • STOP! I’m old! Gimme a break, please, I almost died laughing.
    AND I made it this time commenting.*
    AND I wanted to wish you many more ‘let-them-be-nice’ six years with your man and Leta. He must be a nice bloke, licking the dogs scar.
    AND, please, tell Leta that the French Minister of Health and the Rest also wears those pink plastic shoes. No kidding!

    *bloody time-diference always does me in.

  • Wow, right now all I have to do to bribe the kiddo is give her canned pears. You mean I’m going to have to give into the princess bullshit?

    I hate the dentist, but that’s only because the one I went to when I was a kid showed me the drill by drilling a hole in my finger. Cause you know, that’s productive.

  • Bossy in intrigued with the Life of Sleeping part, if not entirely The Toothbrush Breaks.

  • We just went through an experience with the dentist with my three year old. She had a cavitiy-that I was blamed for because she was a nursing baby? I made my husband take her and I get to take her to fix another one next week. I dont look forward to it but maybe they’ll have a princess toothbrush!

  • Helen Tarnation

    My son, who just turned 29 and is fairly well-adjusted, had a supernumerary baby tooth at age 4. The regular-sized tooth was there, with a skinny little extra tooth to the side of it. Or so I thought…turned out the skinny tooth was supposed to be there and the normal looking one…not so much. It had to come out.

    Fearing future orthodontic problems (which there were anyway), the dentist suggested removal. A pediatric dentist was contacted…so wonderful. No parents allowed behind the curtain (keeps the clutching and screaming down!) When they told me I could come back, I asked Junior if he was done and he said he didn’t think so…the dentist said he’d be right back. He came back…with a little blue treasure chest holding the tooth. No shot or gas or anything….he didn’t even know the dentist had pulled it! He did that really forced laughing…like kids do when they’re so glad it’s over and didn’t hurt that they could almost cry.

    I so wanted that little treasure chest….I can definitely see the allure of the princess toothbrush!

  • Our daughter refuses to let me brush her teeth until after she brushes them. That’s right. Two brushings. Seriously, I’m a grown man taking orders from a three-year-old on matters of dental hygiene.

  • ma 2 one

    Raising children is exhausting!

  • Ava’s nanny

    Ugh. I take a 4 year old to the dentist next week. Hopefully there will be princess toothbrushes…

  • Right now this very instant sitting on my dryer is a pile of birthday presents to The Son. In one of those packages? A Thomas the Tank Engine singing toothbrush with matching tooth paste (BERRY FLAVORED!!). I hope he considers it a gift and not something to cross off of the grocery list.

  • Anonymous

    I loved going to the dentist as a kid. I must have been supremely retarded. I always got a beautiful ring with an exquisite colored glass solitaire. I’m not so fond of it now because it fucking hurts.

  • Jennifer

    I love the Leta discovery stories… the tumble bus, pancakes, now dentist and tooth-brushing. They’re so incredibly sweet, as she takes her own interesting path to discovering new things about her world.

    p.s. as an adult – I LOVE the dentist. I think it’s because as a child I got to pick a prize from the treasures drawer after each cleaning. Leta’s off to a good start.

  • My grandfather, and and uncle are all dentists, and my grandpa did all of my dental work as a kid. I still have trouble going to a dentist not related to be.

    I’m 20. It’s a little sad.

    But I also would like to add that my grandparents are the horrible, awful people who give out toothbrushes instead of candy on Halloween.

  • Kristine


  • Yeah, funny story, but what’s funnier? Regular readers of yours–MORE THAN ONE–say, “Oh My Heck” without irony.

  • MrsScrim

    Love your site! Love Leta! I have a 4 year old son who is her male equivalent. We could hook them up later… they’ll either kill each other or make more. And don’t worry… I think I am the same kind of “nontraditional” parent.

  • MrsScrim

    Oh yeah… by the way, Devon …. my MOM is the awful lady who gives out pennies at Halloween instead of candy. Come ON!

  • Hey, at least your pants were in the same room as you.

    We did a dentist visit recently too and made the mistake of reading a book in which a girl goes to the dentist, gets frightened, bites the dentist’s finger, and then runs away. (It is, in case you are wondering, Vera Goes to the Dentist.) And the kid told the hygienist ALL ABOUT IT before her exam started, which I think was giving the poor dental professional visions of it being her own blood that would be spurting around the room.

    But let me tell you, she didn’t bite a single person and she loves her plain purple toothbrush and her travel-sized kid toothpaste soooooo much!

  • Cassie

    Haha, that is awesome.

  • I think you and Jon should have gotten a treat at the end too. What would be the adult equivalent of the Disney Princess Toothbrush? Something tells me it would have a USB port on it somewhere.

    Also, isn’t it cool that the dentist still has all his fingers?

  • talora

    I tell my 4 year old daughter that if she doesn’t let me brush and floss her teeth the sugar bugs will make them rotten and black like a witch’s teeth. That kid now has the pearliest whites you’ve ever seen. The accolades I receive from her dentist do make me feel just the *tiniest* bit guilty though; fortunately, it’s fleeting.

  • Sandy

    Heather, you are absolutely hilarious. PLEASE, please, please get drunk more often and write of your adventures. I mean, the kid is cute and all, but stories about Leta usually just make me giggle and smile, while drunken Heather stories make my sides ache and my nose run (in the best possible way). I freaked my dogs out just now… Hilarious! Keep ’em coming!

  • I’m so glad that you all endured the dentist with a happy ending for Leta. My oldest (now 6) has always had a really hard time in situations like that. While it is kind of funny to look back and think about how crazy of a time it is, I really feel for all three of you in the thick of the situation. It’s hell. If it makes you feel any better, my daughter has gotten better and better with these kinds of events. In fact, she had to get a filling last year and she didn’t shed a single tear.

  • Leta is going to run for President some day, and there isn’t a damned thing you can do about it. And she’ll have nicer teeth than any who came before her.

  • jenny

    disney is just plain evil.

  • Julie

    You are lucky that Leta let them into her mouth! My son, who has a sensory disorder, would absolutely, no way, let the hygienist into his mouth. No amount of bribery worked. We ended up going to the pediatric dentist, who is just amazing. All the dental chairs are kid sized, there are tvs in every room which they play animated Disney/Pixar movies on, lovely decorations everywhere, lots and lots of kids books… and people who work with kids all day, every day. They are great and totally worth the extra expense, in my opinion.

  • moondoggie

    I’ve just started the dental implant process that takes nine freakin’ months, including two ‘go to sleep’ sessions. Does that earn me a new car?

    Oh, and of course my insurance does not cover this…And the oral surgeon looks like a twelve year old–I don’t think he even shaves yet…And he’s on Facebook…you think Leta’s trip to the dentist was scary…

  • Alicia

    So off topic, but I feel better because someone else already mentioned it…where did you get that couch?? It looks so comfortable, and I am in the market for a good couch.

  • Wow, congratulations on getting Leta through a full dental visit! The princess toothbrush would have been a boon to my sister and me when we were kids, hating on the dentist…

    There was the visit to the dentist at age 4 where I BURST into tears like a cartoon character, nearly inconsolable, because they came at me with the pick first, instead of brushing my teeth first (unlike the other 2 times I’d been there). I was convinced that meant I had a cavity, which my Mom had predicted would be the result of all the candy I scarfed down at that age, and my teeth would fall out. The end.

    Good times!

  • Yes and I would love the dentist if I got a princess toothbrush too! Might send a link to this post to my dental hygienist and hope she gets the BIG HINT. My dentist happens to be addicted to plastic surgery and is trying to become Barbie – now that should interest Leta even moreso (if you care to make the trip to Australia for dental visits that is). Its the only reason why I keep going back to her – to check what ‘work’ she has had done lately. I mean after all, I have a self interest – I and her other patients are funding it.

  • Jen

    If Chuck ever gets scared of that M&M shitting chocolate pony, please send Chuck my way!!

    PS. Last time at the dentist, I started to choke on my own saliva ( I know…the vaccuum and the hygentist weren’t playing well together) I reached up and PUSHED the dentist out of my mouth as I sat up. He was not happy. They’re all evil and were probably bullied on the playground thus forcing them to take such malicious careers.

  • Gila


    You are so funny I think I just peed myself. I mean, you are laugh-out-loud funny – but seriously, have you heard of a pediatric dentist? They are fabulous. My kids wear headphones while they are laying back in chairs watching a movie and they don’t want to leave!

    Seriously, I aspire to be less than half as funny as you.

  • Did Radiohead play “No Surprises”??? If so, are you certain that you didn’t remove your pants THEN? Because I totally would have. I used to be a sorta groupie (back when I had a cute ass and boobs that pointed in the right direction) and I’ve been known to do crazier things than that to get a hot musician to notice me.

    Oh, I shouldn’t have shared that. Sorry.

  • Heather your exploits never fail to amuse me! It probably goes against my self interest to say this, but you do know you are being played, right? (by Leta, Chuck and Coco).
    I also admit that my first child and I freaked out together about lots of stuff, in spite of all that at 27 she’s a bright, accomplished, fun and healthy individual and we love hanging out now laughing about our experiences.
    And with the subsequent 5 kids I’ve gotten progressively more practical, but I try and let the crazy mom out if things get too dull around here.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

read more