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Dentist Series: Cavities in Kids Teeth

Dentist Series: Cavities in Kids Teeth

So my two girls, who were 3 and 5 at the time, had dental surgery under general anesthetic that totalled $7,587. They are only three and five.

Gwen had 10 cavities and Stella had 18.

My first instinct, and most likely yours, is to judge. That’s crazy—how could they have so many cavities? And holy shit, that’s a lot of money.

Often parents are subject to blame and shame around anything child-related, even if it’s not the parent’s fault.

Did you give them bottles or nurse them in the night?

How often do you brush their teeth?

Do you floss?


Do they eat sugar?

Are they grazing all day?

And sometimes, sure, some kids may have too much sugar, their oral hygiene routines are poor and parents could stand to kick it up a notch.

But most of the time, parents are doing the best they can.

There are so many factors at play, from temperament to genetics, external stressors, education, and financial resources. It’s easy to feel guilty, and to judge, but really the best thing we can do for our children and ourselves is to be kind. It’s the only way to ensure that we stay connected.

In our case, the dentist and people around us were fantastic, assuring us that it was their genetics (soft teeth) and crowded mouths that caused all of the cavities.

There’s nothing more that we could have done.

We had taken them to a pediatric dentist since they were toddlers, brushed twice daily and limited sugar. We recently switched dentists who completed x-rays and discovered all of these cavities. Same pattern for both girls except Stella’s were worse because she’s two years older and further down the line of decaying teeth.

Trust me, I wanted to blame the original pediatric dentist for not doing x-rays. In fact, I had started to go down that road with the new dentist (“Why would she overlook something this important?”), but I stopped. I simply wanted to blame someone despite knowing it was no one’s fault and I couldn’t change the past. We were here now.

Mark’s first reaction to the embarrassing amount of cavities was to say:

“We’re bad parents.”

He felt really bad, like it was something he had done or not done. He was tiring of doing his best and still having things go wrong.

I get this. I totally do. It was similar with my fertility struggles, nauseous pregnancies and his ‘incurable’ cancer. You do everything imaginable and still it doesn’t go as planned.

And our, well at least my biggest lesson in all of this these past several years, has been to be aware, accept and surrender. Not to give up but to know that not all of this life is in our control.

There’s so much we can do and the rest we leave it up to what is.

Talking it out with Mark as we drove home from the dentist’s office, I noticed a shift in my response.

I didn’t make it about me and my worth as a person, woman or mom.

I didn’t take it personally or go into victim mode, like “why us, why this, why now?” (There’s no judgment if this is what you do, but there is another way.) I’ve been there but over time I’ve learned I can bounce out of that mindset SO much quicker—or not even go there at all.  It feels so much better.

Cavities in kids teeth

I immediately reminded Mark of the truth.

We are awesome parents. We’re not perfect, no. But we are loving and engaged. No further justification needed.

We, like most other parents, love our children to the moon and back (even those times when they push our buttons) and would do anything for them.

It’s the interpretation—how you see and explain the events to yourself—that shapes how you respond to them. This is where the magic lies. The gold is in knowing you can choose how to respond.

Awareness. Compassion. Practice. Guidance.
Love vs. fear.

And so I got a second and third opinion before moving forward. However, I knew in my heart that this was the best thing for the girls and also felt grateful that we were taking charge. We would find a way financially to cover the unexpected expense. Because it was important.

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