Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Stories from the dentist's chair

We waited until Riley turned three to take her to the dentist. It was the advice we received from dentists and other parents even though all those books suggested taking her in when she was one. I sort of regret the decision to wait although I don't know that it would have made a difference. Point being... kid has bad teeth. As in lots of cavities and issues with her enamel... or lack of it. She's three! How the heck did this happen?

Superstar patient

I have bad teeth and am not the first in my family to have issues with teeth (and I'm not the one with the worst issues, either). When I was young I remember my dad exclaiming to the dentist "I don't understand, she brushes her teeth regularly" when he discovered my mouth was full of cavities. I went on to have a retainer, then braces, and a retainer again. I've had 13 teeth pulled and the teeth that sit on each side of my upper front teeth used to sit behind them.

I'll let you think about that one for a moment.

When I was younger I didn't have any context as to why my teeth might be so bad since, as an adopted person, I didn't have any history on my biological family. But when I was 20 something I sent away for non-identifying information from my adoption agency. The one and only health type issue listed on there? My birth mother had bad teeth.

It all made sense.

Not even willing to show my teeth.
Yikes! The horror! I don't even remember them being that bad. PS. closest I ever got to Farrah Fawcet hair.
Braces and '80's style at it's finest.
The finished product!

I've always been pretty diligent about taking care of my teeth, but even more so as an adult. I brush three times a day and floss several times a week (ok, I could be better on that front). I haven't had a cavity since I was a child, my teeth are fairly straight, and I receive good reports from the dentist when I go.

Hearing that my daughter had such awful teeth shouldn't have been totally surprising to me, but I was crushed. I felt like it was a reflection on my parenting. Should I have worked harder to clean her teeth? What about those times I put her to bed as an infant after nursing and didn't clean her teeth again? What could I have done better knowing what I know about my teeth?

But it turns out that while genetics could have something to do with it (and perhaps the way we clean her teeth) the culprit might be something else. Some kid's teeth development are impacted by being sick and taking medication. The dentist suggested that it was likely the cause of the issues, but we can't be for sure. I tried to find some information about this on the web, but really didn't find anything. All the articles talked about the regular culprits of tooth decay and we fell guilty to some (often giving filtered water to her instead of tap water), but not others (she rarely has had juice and never pop). But when I talked to another mom about this she confirmed that her son lacked enamel when he was Riley's age and was told it was because of antibiotics. Huh.

Did I miss this information somewhere?

I'm not sure it would have changed my decision to give my child medication had I known, but I feel like I totally missed something along the way. Regardless, it makes me sad that we got this kind of report on Riley's teeth and that she might be in pain (although she never indicates it). And it makes me sad that I couldn't be at the appointment with her (thanks to her daddy who took her).

The upside was that grandma is a dental hygienist so going to the dentist wasn't as scary as it might have been. I heard Riley was a cooperative patient and she was quite excited about the special gifts she was able to bring home. Who knew that a new tooth brush and floss could be so exciting to a kid.

Next up is the follow up appointment. They are going to try and fill all cavities on one visit and will likely need to give her gas (something I absolutely hate). This time I will try my darndest to get out of work to be there. I may not be able to make her teeth all better, but I can at least support her while she gets them fixed.


  1. Yikes! That is scary. I HATE HATE HATE the dentist now - I never had any cavities as a child, but I did as an adult and the first time I had to get one filled I was just bawling. I was like 25. How lame. It was traumatic though! :) I did have a LOT of orthodontic work done though, probably due to my extended thumb sucking.... bite expander, then retainer and braces to correct resulting gap teeth, then full mouth braces and retainer which I lost so when my wisdom teeth came in they pushed my bottom middle teeth all crooked again. Oh well. Now I don't care :) No cavities in several years at least! My mom has HORRIBLE teeth and so did my sister (but they are okay now) - something like 20 cavities in her baby teeth. Hopefully my kids take after me or Ben and not them!! We need to go to the dentist too, ugh.

    1. Grr... I had the same thing happen with my wisdom teeth. They kept telling me that I didn't need them out. Then about a month after I no longer had dental insurance they said they had to come out. And in the mean time they totally messed up my straight bottom teeth. Oh well. I hope Annie has better results than Riley!


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