by Nicole Loughan
Some kids can use Coca-Cola for mouthwash and never face a consequence, while in others, the sugar content of a carrot can lead to gaping cavities.
I was in the first category, growing up in an era where Sunny Delight was considered OJ and Kool-Aid was fruit juice. I hardly knew a dentist and whenever I got in the chair, I did little more than get a thumbs up and went on my merry way. My mother, on the other hand, had what I thought was an amazing set of mouth jewelry, gold capped teeth.
I didn’t know what to expect for children’s dentistry with such a small amount of experience. I was surprised at a few aspects of it, like the really unceremonious first dental appointment. The official recommendation is to get your children to a dentist at the eruption of a first tooth or at one-year-old, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. I thought there would be some actual procedure or x-ray at this first appointment, but the hygienist does little more than open the mouth and looks inside and hand you off to the dentist. The dentist comes in and says, “No drinks in bed” and gives you a new toothbrush.
It’s a necessary appointment but not much is happening other than acquainting the children with the dentist. This is the dance for the next couple of appointments until kids are about three or four. Once a mature kid is in the dentist chair, they paint the teeth and look for spots which might be missed while brushing. The kids also get a little layer of fluoride on the way out if permission is given for it.
However, after the basic appointments, I was shocked at what was to come. Read on to see what four things shocked me the most about children’s dental work and prepare yourself, you might be shocked too.
Some dentist don’t allow you to go back with your children – I was referred to a pediatric specialist for one of my children to cap a broken tooth and was stunned when I learned I was not allowed to go back. I found this out just after the news story broke of a dentist in Florida accused of pulling extra teeth while children were out, or pulling wrong teeth. His practice did not allow parents to sit with their children. In a panic, I called both my pediatric dentist and my own dentist about it. I learned it was common, though my personal dentist said it’s often better for the children, because they feed on their parents fear and it makes things worse. I tried every dentist within 30 miles who took my insurance and none of them allowed parents in the back.
Children’s caps and fillings are, by default, silver (in some practices) – In this day and age I was surprised to learn that many dentists, unless you request otherwise, automatically go for silver. If you agree to a cap or filling, make sure you discuss the filler material ahead of time and read up on the pros and cons of each.
Appointments and insurance approval take a long time – Our initial appointment took weeks to schedule; then once we were in, we had to make an insurance plan to pay for the procedure, which took six weeks to approve. And even with six weeks for insurance to approve the procedure, it took two months to get back in to do it.
Baby teeth deteriorate faster than adult teeth – At one appointment we were given a clean bill of dental health, and before the next six month appointment approached, a wildly large cavity presented itself. It seemed to come out of nowhere and when I cried to the hygienist about how I didn’t see it, she said it was not uncommon. She said when baby teeth get a cavity, especially between teeth, it can grow without being spotted and much faster than in adult teeth.
These revelations are not universal; some dentists gladly allow parents in the back, some have shorter wait times, some parents pay cash instead of using insurance, and some kids can live on Sunny Delight and never have a cavity.