Originally published on Sweetspot.ca
If you go to a certain dentist in this city, you will see the bright, shiny, smiley faces of my two kids on the "No Cavities Club" wall. Seven months ago, neither of my kids had a flaw to their teeth. That all changed a month ago.
On their second-ever visit to the dentist, my eldest, six-year-old Nate, the boy with the world's greatest smile, was diagnosed with having four cavities. From zero to four in six months. I couldn't believe it. How could this have happened? My kids are pretty good brushers, or so I thought. We hadn't been asking them to floss, because their teeth weren't touching yet. But little kids grow up and one day their teeth do touch, all the way in the back, and we're so busy asking them to hurry up and brush that, well, this mom didn't notice a pretty big grey-brown cavity developing on a molar.
My immediate cause for concern was that my son, by virtue of being the eldest, is a bit... anxious and fearful (thanks to his terrified first-time mom passing on all her neuroses to him). How would he make it through getting a needle (four times, no less) and that awful drill? I spazzed. I panicked. I worried. I called my dentist cousin for advice.
"Who's been giving him all the candy and juice?" he asked sternly. Oh no! Really? I thought we had it under control, but quickly became aware that yeah, he probably was having way more of that stuff than I did as a kid. For example, I don't remember asking for a treat or dessert every day. Yet for my kids, the expectation is daily, sometimes after each meal. We thought that a jelly bean or lollipop here and there to reward good behaviour was OK, without thinking of the habit we were creating. And while I am not a juice fan, my husband (who does not read parenting magazines or sites) doesn't get that juice is a bad idea, no matter how many times we bicker about it. Our daycare also offers juice at snack times, so that's a lot of concentrated sugar on weak baby teeth.
So when I added it all up, I realized we had to stop. Full stop. No more candy or juice in this house. Suddenly, treats are real treats and not the course that comes after dinner. We're all flossing these days (parents can get good habits from their kids too) and I go over every kid's teeth when they are done, just to get those hard to reach spots they might be missing.
But weren't they just baby teeth and so, about to fall out anyway? Were the filings necessary? And oh dear lord, what of this root canal talk? He's only SIX! In the end, the cavities were on teeth that couldn't be extracted for a myriad of reasons. So I sent my calm, not-prone-to-freak-outs husband to the filling appointments and, without his anxious mom there to add to his fear of the unknown, my kid handled what he was dealt with courage and grace. He is not afraid of the dentist and proud of his new awareness of oral hygiene (no longer just mom nagging).
So the cavities weren't all bad. Turns out soft kid teeth run in my husband's family, but I'm not loosening up on the new juice and candy rules.