I had to take my 4-year-old son into the dentist on an emergency basis because he had a toothache. He’s fine, thank goodness, but it ended up needing a baby root canal and a silver cap. He’s just so little, it never occurred to me he might be having any issues and hadn’t scheduled his first checkup yet. He honestly never made a peep about the tooth until the other day when, all of a sudden, he was in tears and holding his jaw. Poor little guy.
I was already beating myself up about all this, but then the dentist said that it was on me that it got so bad because I apparently should have taken him in for a checkup years ago and had him on routine visits. I don’t think I ever went to a dentist until I was in school. Is this just him being an authoritarian or did I really miss the boat here? Also, were there signs I should have been looking for before this thing blew up into an emergency? I really didn’t see anything at all. But now I’m looking back at everything that happened and questioning whether I missed something I should have seen.
The dentist said my son has three more cavities that need to be taken care of or they’ll become issues too, and then gave me a big lecture on how I should be taking better care of him. I feel like this could have happened to anybody, but I’m really at a loss here. I want to do the right thing. And I plan to take my son in for the other things. I just don’t understand how all this happened and am truly devastated by it all. Am I as bad as the dentist made me seem?
-Anonymous Mom in IL
Take a deep breath, Mama. It’s ok. You don’t know what you don’t know until something comes up that introduces you to it. The doctor shouldn’t have come down on you like that, particularly since you were there doing the right thing and getting your son the care he needed when he needed it, but let’s go over some of the details to fill the gaps.
The guideline now is that children should be seen in the dental office before their first birthday, within six months of their first tooth making its debut. From there, the dentist can guide you in best practices, but it’s usually good to have a checkup every six months, even if the doctor is just taking a quick look to make sure everything is developing normally.
Your child’s pediatrician should have given you a heads up when he was due for a dental checkup. Asking whether the patient is getting dental care or not is usually one of the screening questions at medical checkups. If that’s not happening, where else would you learn? Some people find out through friends and family or through awareness campaigns. Others, like you and your son, find out the hard way.
As soon as teeth emerge, they can have decay. There are certain things that influence it, like how much juice a child is allowed to sip throughout the day and whether little ones are put to bed with bottles. Genetics and other factors come into play too. The other catch is that younger children aren’t always self-aware enough to know when something is starting to flare up. Without a doctor’s eye on their teeth, a big toothache might be the first obvious symptom. That’s why the early visits are so important.
It doesn’t sound like the doctor you saw was a fit for you and your son, so it’s a good idea to get established with someone you can trust for routine checkups and to take care of the remaining cavities. The other ones could turn into a dental emergency at any point too, so get on the books as soon as you can.
This blog is sponsored by Dr. Steve Sirin, an Elgin dentist offering same-day emergency appointments.