Cavities – Sweat The Small Stuff (Part 6 of 6)

Dentist looking in mouth

Today’s last rant in this series about cavities is about dentists and how they affect your child’s dental health. They’re not all created equal.

I know a lot of dentists and many of them think of themselves as simply “fix it” folks. They get paid for doing “procedures” and don’t get paid a thing for educating on prevention. They’d rather do a filling and get paid than teach you ALL the ways to prevent cavities (and other dental problems) for nothing.

On the flip side, the really good dentists I know are committed to the process rather than just doing “procedures.” Unfortunately, they’re in the minority. These great ones will take the time to educate you in order to minimize the procedures your child might need (fillings, extractions, braces, surgery).

If you find a great dentist, pay them anything they want because they’re worth it. They’ll help your child get into their adult years with the healthiest mouths possible. This will cut down their need for dental care for life. Their WHOLE life.

Dental needs seem to go in phases. The highest risk for cavities are when teeth are new in the mouth and not matured. That means us dentists often see a need for fixing cavities with fillings during the baby teeth years (2-10) and again during the permanent teeth years (6-16). These are only “ish” guidelines, but notice that those two overlap.

Typically a person will have more fillings during their childhood years than any other time of their life. Once a person is into their 20s and beyond, the need for fillings greatly diminishes as the teeth mature. Teeth become more resistant to cavities throughout the bulk of adult life (until the elderly years when a whole different set of circumstances creates new risks).

Great dentists will teach you ALL the things we’ve discussed in this series on cavities. Has your child’s dentist done that, including helping you understand why the frequency of sugar consumption (or other simple carbs) is more important in creating or preventing cavities than is the amount?

Then there are topics of:

  1. Growth and development affecting the timing of orthodontic treatment
  2. When should you look for wisdom teeth?
  3. Is your child affected by Juvenile Periodontal Disease (a type of gum disease affecting children)

The list goes on and on. Preventing bad things from happening is about both education and timing. Does your dentist advise you what to look for at certain phases of your child’s dental life? If not, move on and get one who does. It matters A LOT. Here’s an example where I messed up repeatedly, so learn from my mistakes.

Back when plumbers were traditionally all men, there was an expression that said, “The plumbers wife has the leaky faucet.” It meant that workers don’t like coming home from work and doing the same thing in their own houses. Their own family’s needs were always last on the TO DO list. I suffered from that syndrome over and over. Here’s what I mean.

I let my own children’s wisdom teeth develop way too long before removing them. The longer the roots, the harder they are to get out. It creates difficulties, and even risks, that aren’t there if you get them out earlier. I was so blinking tired from working on patients all day that I just kept putting off taking care of my own children.

I have four children and I repeated this process four freakin’ times. Their surgeries were harder than they needed to be. I would like to publically apologize to each and every one of my children for putting them through this. In this case, the plumber saying would be modified for dentists to say, “The dentists kids get their wisdom teeth out last.”

So learn from my negligence. Start paying attention to what your family’s dentist teaches you. Pay attention to whether they suggest early treatment and preventative ideas OR just wait to fix things as they come up.

Let’s finish my rant about dentists. Get a great one! Pay them whatever they ask. NEVER cheap out on healthcare that will affect the rest of your life. There are no do-overs with teeth. Dentures, bridges, and implants are poor replacements for natural healthy teeth. Braces are much more difficult to do once the growing years have passed.

Don’t wait. Leave your child a great dental legacy that will serve them well for life.

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