Dental Cares and Caries—by Jamie Levine
Good teeth are very important to me; I’d never date a guy who didn’t have a nice smile, and I’ve been blessed, myself, with a strong, healthy set of choppers. My dorky dentist effusively compliments me on my teeth and makes me feel like a supermodel when I come in for my bi-annual check-up. And while I admit to having a vice for sugar, I do try to keep most of my diet pretty healthy—as well as my daughter’s.
Jayda, like most kids her age, is a dessert-queen. She begs for ice cream before dinner, bases her excitement for birthday parties on the kind of cake that will be served, and cries for chocolate after a challenging day. And she does get her share of treats—but in moderation. I never serve her regular soda or juice, buy her single-serving packets of cookies, and take her out for low-fat frozen yogurt when she asks to go to the “ice cream store.” I’ve also been brushing her teeth carefully ever since she had any—as well as flossing them regularly for over the past year or so—and have been giving her a fluoride-treated vitamin for ages. Jayda visited the dentist for the first time when she turned two, and since then, has returned every six months for a check-up. So how is it that now—when she’s not even four-years-old—I’ve been informed that she has four cavities—and possibly more? It’s horrifying.
Several months ago, after our health insurance changed, I left my beloved pediatric dentist and took Jayda to a dental clinic, where our life-altering cavity-discovery was made. The dentist told me she clearly saw four cavities, but that x-rays would give her a better idea of how deep they were, and if there were any others emerging. The wait for another appointment was several months, and we returned recently to take Jayda’s x-rays and to potentially start filling the cavities. Things didn’t go well.
Jayda was a trooper—but she was uncomfortable with the way she had to fit the bite-wings in her mouth, and the dentist didn’t get the x-ray films she needed. They decided to proceed anyway and fill two minor cavities by giving Jayda nitrous oxide, which they told Jayda would smell like ice cream. After allowing her pick out the flavor (chocolate), they laid my child down on a table, and, as she held my hand—with tubes stuck in her nose—I tried to stay calm. So did she. Until the dentist started drilling. Despite the fact that the dentist had described all of her instruments to Jayda in kid-friendly terms, and had promised that nothing would hurt, the noise of the drill and its strong vibrations scared Jayda—and she started crying and screaming hysterically. Fortunately, the dentist stopped; she said she didn’t want Jayda to associate bad feelings with the dentist—which was exactly what I had been fearful of. So we set up yet another appointment to have all of Jayda’s cavities filled while she is under a sedative. It’s a seemingly reasonable solution—but it still worries me sick. And what worries me more is how on earth my daughter got all of these cavities…and how to make sure this problem doesn’t continue when her adult teeth come in.
I’ve tried to stop allowing Jayda to have lollypops, fruit snacks, and other overtly sweet/sugary treats, but it’s not easy. She doesn’t understand that I’m trying to protect her teeth…she only hears the fact that I’m denying her something she loves—and sometimes, something one of her friends or classmates is enjoying right next to her. And I’ve continued my brushing/flossing vigilance. But that’s probably not enough. Some kids never go to the dentist, eat candy like it’s going out of style, and suck sugary soda through straws all day long—and never get cavities. But my kid isn’t as lucky. And it’s awful…and even a little bit embarrassing for me. I’d like to blame it on genetics (and maybe I can, since I never did learn specifics about my sperm donor’s teeth), but that won’t make the problem go away. I just wish there was something—other than painful dentist visits—that would.