In 4/2014, I took BBZ, who was 5, to a popular and busy pediatric dentist office because one of his teeth looked broken. It turned out to be abscessed and needed to be pulled. He also had issues with his teeth in all 5 sections as they define them. They created a treatment plan that included baby tooth root canals, silver crowns and fillings that would take 5 different visits. (side note, why don’t doctors explain when a child should go to the dentist for the first time? I follow most recommendations, and the early dental visit was not on my radar, apparently)
This was our first experience with a dentist for one of our boys, so I took their word on basically everything. We did 3 of the 5 visits, and then he just couldn't do anymore. He fell apart during a visit and refused the treatment. I felt the dentist was not patient, and did not give him the respect to be involved in his care. Yes he is a child, but once I asked when he began to cry if she could give him a break, and she said that if she did he would learn that if he cried she would stop, and she didn’t want him to learn that. To me it felt as though she needed to stay on her schedule. They pressed me to have the final 2 areas of his mouth addressed, and finally talked me into doing general anesthesia to address the rest of the decay all at once. I researched it and contacted my insurance company, and determined that this would cost our family more than $1000.
Feeling apprehensive, I decided to wait. In the mean time, I took LBZ who was 2 for his first cleaning without x-rays and they found no cavities. Then in 11/2014, when I took LBZ for his second visit, they did x-rays and found decay between the teeth and wrote a treatment plan for crowns and fillings, which would happen over 2 visits. I made the appointments, then cancelled them out of fear of creating the same kind of dental fear my oldest experienced.
I went for the follow-up to LBZ’s visit and they were very pushy about treating the cavities. I held my ground, but they were clearly questioning my choices for my child, and adamant that I schedule the appointments to place the crowns and fill the cavities. It reminded me of the fear mongering that happened in the hospital when I was making my own choices about birthing them. I made the appointments for the work again to avoid the issue, and then I canceled them. Frustrated and hoping for another option, I asked around to some friends who recommended a small private dental office that had treated their child since he was small.
I went to that office with BBZ today, and brought the entire file, which included x-rays, treatment plans, behavior notes and all. This new dentist did the cleaning herself, and they also did their own x-rays. She used a tool to check the teeth for cavities, rather than relying on the x-ray alone. She said that the cavity on the tooth that they hadn't treated yet did not change much since the original x-ray last year, so she wants to watch it and wait. She did not mention fluoride treatment, and said we could talk more about the recommended sealants as he gets more comfortable with her. The whole experience felt calm, and patient, and comfortable.
I do not think that the original office I went to was necessarily wrong, but they treated me as though their plan was the only option, and anything besides that was basically me neglecting the dental needs of my child. The other dentist was not a naturally-minded dentist necessarily, but she was a second opinion, and one that I feel much more comfortable with.
She also has a more laid back approach to meals and snacks. We have avoided juice and fruit snacks and candy since his first appointment over a year ago. When I told her this, she said that people are exposed to naturally occurring as well as processed sugar when they eat meals, so limiting the frequency of snacks in between meals can make a big difference in the longevity of the exposure. That makes so much sense! My boys are snackers, too.
I feel so much better about the state of their teeth. Sure, they will both likely need some kind of treatment in the future, and I hope that she is patient with them when that is necessary. I have a strong feeling that she will give them the time they need to feel comfortable, which is what personalized care looks like to me. Even if they don’t have fancy TVs in the lobby or cartoons on the ceiling.