Recently I decided to take my kids to the dentist for a check up. You know, establish a relationship with a good local dentist & basically go through the motions so the girls didn’t get scared when the “real” visits were necessary down the line. Little did I know that we would end up in a pickle. Before I digress, the practice of pediatric dentistry is growing & although it seems benign I’m wasn’t 100% sold just yet on a real need to have my children’s teeth checked. This being because when I was little I didn’t go to the dentist until about age 5 or so. And I think most parents these days would nod in agreeance. There wasn’t “pediatric” dentistry at the time I assume because there wasn’t a need. Maybe there were less children with cavities or complicated dental issues, of this I’m not entirely sure. But what I am sure of is there’s definitely a need now.
Back to our first appointment. Everything was going well, Paloma (my eldest daughter age 3 at the time) was doing just fine. She had the headphones on & was watching a movie she picked out. These kids & the luxuries they’re getting, I remember being elated to get a sticker when I would go to the dentist as a child. Our dentist was quick & amenable responding to my questions & doing his checks & prods. This was until he made a small “uh-oh” grunting sound & began grabbing for more instruments to examine what he thought he had found. “Yep” he resolved, “it looks like she has about 6 cavities.”He was sure. The x-rays confirmed his diagnosis. They would have to be filled & “fixed” immediately to prevent further decay & complication. “What?” was my first reaction. “How could this happen?” I just don’t know how this could be possible. Yeah, I mean we were a little slow to get going with the whole toothbrush every night scenario. But we did brush on a somewhat regular basis. I didn’t give my kids ridiculous amounts of sugar or refined foods. In fact since Paloma’s birth we’ve made the transition from a S.A.D (Standard American Diet) to a vegetable friendly vegan family diet over the last 4 years. Doesn’t the amount of broccoli we consume count for something? Of course I felt defeated, another “Mommy guilt” moment in my parenting book. But the shocking amount of cavities, six? Not to say that even 1 or 2 is normal, but still 6 just seemed absolutely absurd.
The next piece of information is something I had a really hard time digesting: the dentist wanted to give Paloma nitrous oxide to allow him to do the fillings. I was told (& later confirmed via second opinion) that this was typical & necessary to accomplish the arduous task of dental work on a young child. Sound the Mommy alarms, I did NOT want to do this. This is the beginning of our ascent into the world known as “pediatric sleep dentistry.” I didn’t want to sedate my child however weighed against the possibility of further decay, potential root canal & further complication due to her current cavities it was necessary. I reluctantly made the appointment & thought we’d be putting the whole moment behind us as soon as possible.
Our first appointment did not go as planned, the nitrous made her sleepily combative.He was able to fill only one cavity. This was going to be tougher than we thought. We conferred with the dentist, and agreed to give it another try. Maybe it was just a “fluke.” We hoped. The second appointment yielded no different. One more cavity now half done remained in her little mouth & now she was growing fearful of these trips. The only other option was to put her “under” what they call mild sedation or pediatric sleep dentistry. I was more than apprehensive about this & sought a second opinion to make sure that this is what our specific situation warranted. After much thought & consideration & plenty of Mom to Mom conversations, my husband & I decided that it was the best thing for us to do for Paloma. The benefits outweighed the risks at that point.
Although my concern was off the charts that morning that we went in for the procedure I have to say that the way the staff took great care of us. Paloma did just fine. And because the dentist was able to do a full examination, cleaning and repair her cavities he also found & treated what would have become an abscess had we not had the procedure. They also were able to detect that she has a enamel deficiency surrounding her teeth, so now we understand why we had so many cavities. No doubt I was grateful that we have a newfound respect for taking care of our teeth.
If you find yourselves in a similar situation. Do your best to not beat yourself up too much. You’ve done your best to care for your little one. If you face the recommendation of pediatric sleep dentistry I highly recommend getting a second opinion. Ask other parents in your community for a good recommendation or get on a great resource site like the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) to look for pediatric dentists near you. There’s no doubt that regular dental hygiene is directly related to heart & circulatory health & therefore needs to be taken seriously from an early age. Another tip: don’t brush your (or your little one’s) teeth less than 20 minutes after eating. Brushing immediately can actually push the acid on the teeth remaining from a meal deeper into the tooth enamel causing damage. If we allow our natural saliva & mouth bacteria to do it’s job just after eating & wait 20-30 minutes then we run a significantly lower risk of damaging our teeth. Crazy? Not completely. Read more on this here.
Another point to consider is that with all the refined foods & sugars in our kids diet it’s more important than ever to move towards a more simplistic whole food diet. Childhood obesity & Type II Diabetes are rampant & their health as adults depend solely on our ability as parents to take this information & do something about it. For me the past few years my whole life has changed by following a more simple diet & health plan. And even though things don’t always go as planned (i.e. our trips to the dentist) it’s such a peaceful feeling to know that you did everything within your power to keep your kids healthy, instead of just giving in to that soda or that sugary treat or goodie. Not having our health just isn’t worth it any longer.
Here’s a couple other resources to help along the way: