- It works best if the tooth is very loose. This will help in getting the floss secured. Also you don’t want to actually hurt anyone. We have done this successfully three times—with many unsuccessful attempts in between. The first time, the tooth was very loose, and it just worked flawlessly. No trouble and no pain. The most recent procedure involved a somewhat less loose tooth, and my daughter experienced some pain. Not enough to phase her, mind you. She was still pleased as pie with the whole affair. But there was a moment of pain.
- Securing the floss. The trickiest technical aspect of all this is getting the floss secured. Use a long piece of floss so you have plenty to work with on both the tooth end and the knob end. The kid has to hold still with her mouth open while you finesse it. If the tooth is actually starting to hang out of the gum, it’s easier to get it to “catch.” If it doesn’t catch, the floss will just slide off the tooth when you slam the door. In our most recent successful extraction, I used one of those single-use toothpick/floss implements with the curved hook on one end to sort of push the floss down to the base of the tooth and into the gum where it would catch and hold more securely.
- The kids decide. My family runs the gamut, from people who intuitively respect a kid’s agency, to military-style drill sergeants who suddenly become convinced that the future of America depends on removing this tooth. Keep the latter people back. The kid gets to decide and can back out at any moment. When you’re about to slam that door and she starts shouting No, no, no, I changed my mind! just clip the floss and go back to the living room and return to arguing about politics. The kids will eventually wander back in with the floss and pester you to try again. America will be safe.
- Don’t count to three. No, I don’t mean pretend you’re going to count to three and then trick your kid by slamming the door without doing it. I mean: openly eliminate it from the procedure. Somehow the counting seemed to amp up the nerves. This is possibly because, being a crazy person, I could not help doing the counting in a very loud, very excited, melodramatic way. Which seemed to elicit a lot of Stop! I changed my mind! moments. Then the grownups would go back to the living room to shout at each other about Donald Trump and whose lives matter and just as we were really getting into it, the kids would be back with the floss. So we just eliminated the counting.
Look for the sweet spot. You want that “moment.” The floss is tied on both ends. Everyone is grinning and giggling like goofballs. The kids are so excited they might pee. The one tied to the door is trying to keep her mouth open while she giggles. Her eyes are gleaming with excitement. Right there. Slam the door!
- Enjoy the moment while fate hangs suspended. Did that tooth come out or didn’t it? Only once did we actually hear the tooth hit the door. The other times, there was a frozen moment of silence and then a cacophony of voices and a mad scramble to locate the tooth. Is it still in the mouth? Is it hanging from the string? Did it fall on the floor? Did it go flying across the room? Find the tooth. The tooth is more magical than Excalibur, the Elder Wand and the Orb of Aldur put together.
- There will be blood. Don’t panic! I don’t remember a lot of blood the first time we did this. But the other two times, there was a fair amount of bleeding. Just give the kid a wash cloth or a wad of toilet paper and go back to sneering at each other about the future of the Republican Party. The bleeding ends quickly. Unlike your father’s diatribes.
- Scramble for cash. Daniel-from-school told your child the Tooth Fairy leaves $1 for every year of her life. So if the tooth procedure caught you off guard, borrow money from your family before they leave for the night, while silently cursing Daniel-from-school’s mom and dad. Their names might be Kathy and Dale.
- Ponder the magic. Your child is now old enough to ask questions about the origins of the universe. Old enough that $1 per year per tooth is no insignificant sum. Yet she still believes unquestioningly that a magical fairy of vague repute delivers cash to her pillow in the middle of the night simply for having lost a tooth. Or wait. Upon second thought, are you really sure who is fooling whom?