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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Green

Pulling Teeth Again

Ever since my dad found a chunk of Mom’s tooth on her pillow one morning, we’ve been trying to figure out how to get Mom dental care. She had refused to open her mouth in her Health Care dental clinic, and when we invited a dentist to their home through the Yad Sarah organization, she’d resisted that, too.

No dentist, we were told, would work on Mom’s mouth without an x-ray, preferably a panoramic x-ray that captures the entire mouth in a single image. How, we wondered, would we get Mom to cooperate if she wouldn’t even let someone examine her teeth? Meanwhile, as a preventative measure, the broken tooth needed its roots extracted. Mom wasn’t complaining of any pain, so we kept our fingers crossed that we could solve this issue before any infection presented itself.

On the recommendation of the Yad Sarah dentist, we made an appointment with the Oral and Maxillofacial Clinic at our local hospital. Here, we were told, they could take x-rays under anesthesia, and any treatments could also be carried out under anesthesia.

We waited more than a month for the appointment, but finally, we received a letter with a date. Our appointment was set for March 19. Then, without much warning, the appointment was pushed forward. With one scrambled phone call, I understood that our appointment was in three days’ time. I called back twice to verify the appointment (a first consultation), the forms we needed, where to make the one-time payment, and where exactly the clinic was located. Ok, we can do this, I told myself.

Off we trekked early yesterday morning to the hospital outpatient clinic. The first hurdle was finding parking. Not so easy. After circling the lot a few times, Daddy heatedly ordered us out of the car then parked illegally on a small median strip. Was the tension of trying to park in the overflowing lot a harbinger of things to come?

We found the clinic, then waited as the secretary examined our documents.

“Where’s your x-ray?” she asked.

“We don’t have one,” I tried patiently to explain. “As I wrote when I sent the appointment request, we can’t take an x-ray without anesthesia.”

“We don’t do x-rays here. The doctor can’t examine you without an x-ray.”

“What do you mean you don’t take x-rays? We’re here because we understand you can do x-rays under anesthesia,” I responded. I was getting a little annoyed. Ok, more than a little annoyed.

The next thing I knew, she was on the phone with the dentist who confirmed that it was ok to continue without the x-ray.

We waited for an hour in the hallway until our number was called. I didn’t mind embarrassing myself singing with Mom, but I did try to keep our voices down.

And then, a transformation occurred. The nurse came out to greet us personally, walking us to her office where she calmly asked us questions about Mom’s health. She knew not to direct those questions to Mom. Nurse Ilana was friendly, warm, and open. She let Mom finish her sentences and reassured her that she would take care of us. She told us the dentist would try to take an x-ray without anesthesia, and that if she was needed, she’d hold Mom’s hand. Amazing! She understood Alzheimer’s. She even hugged Mom as she escorted us to the dentist’s office.

And the dentist, Dr. Karas, was, as Mom told him, “charming.” I can’t believe it, but he not only got her to open her mouth, he even convinced her to take an x-ray. She sat patiently in the dental chair as if on a throne, relaxed and unconcerned.

I don’t know when you last took a dental x-ray, but they are uncomfortable. First, they place a heavy lead apron on your body to protect you from the radiation. This one happened to be a beautiful shade of blue, which Mom enjoyed touching. Then they stick the oddly-shaped film in your mouth and ask you to bite down on two flaps to keep it securely in place. Then they swivel the x-ray camera into position in alignment with the film. We all filed out of the room, the technician pushed the switch, and then we all filed back in. And Mom was sitting as still as a statue.

When the image didn’t load properly on the computer, I was sure that it hadn’t worked, that Mom had moved or the machinery wasn’t functioning. Oh, no, we’re going to have to try that again, I thought.

Then it did load, and Dr. Karas was able to plan our future regarding Mom’s dental care.

We’re invited back for an appointment in a month that involves two procedures under anesthesia with two different dentists, something which is not common and which they are arranging due to the special circumstances.

I am grateful to the staff of the clinic for meeting us more than half way. All it took was reaching out to Mom in a loving manner. In an ideal world, all our medical experiences should be so positive.

Some experiences are stuffed with such goodness, it is a pleasure to allow ourselves to review the memories. Being at the dentist with Mom made me smile all day. I don’t remember feeling that way about a dentist visit before. And making these stuffed chicken breasts with vegetables also made me happy. Don’t let the large list of ingredients fool you, this is a relatively easy dish to make, its heart healthy, and it tastes good. What could be better?

Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Vegetables

I like to try new dishes that present me with challenges. My kitchen is my g0-to place on most days, especially when I'm planning Shabbat dinners. And if a dish works, I make it again and again. The second time, it's usually easier than the first, and it allows me to tweak the recipe. Second time around, I added ginger and mustard.

2 chicken breasts, halved and thinly sliced

1 onion, halved and sliced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp fresh ginger, minced

2 carrots, sliced

2 red peppers, sliced

1 squash, sliced,

1 Tbsp sesame oil

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp sweet & sour sauce

1 Tbsp date honey

1 Tbsp soy sauce

¼ cup water

1 Tbsp mustard

Salt and pepper to taste


Cut and slice chicken breasts into “schnitzels” then pound gently with a hammer between two pieces of baking paper. (You can skip this part, but hammering them does flatten the schnitzels and gives you a larger surface area to work with.) Set aside. In a large pan, sauté onion and garlic in olive and sesame oil. Add carrots and sauté for five minutes. Add remaining vegetables, salt and pepper, and ginger and sauté until soft. Let cool. Set up a preparation area with mustard, vegetable sticks, chicken breasts, and a baking pan. Spread a little mustard on each breast. Then wrap 5 to 6 vegetable sticks inside and place into a baking pan, seam-side down. Repeat until all breasts are stuffed. Mix honey, sauces, and water. Pour over chicken. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes covered, and another 20 minutes uncovered. Remove liquids to pot and make gravy by dissolving 1 Tbsp potato starch with 1/8 cup water, pouring into pot and stirring until thick. If you have left over veggies sticks, serve as a side dish.

P.S. After I finished writing this blog, I saw that my dad had also written an account on his blog. Check it out! It is interesting to see the similarities and differences in our accounts.

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