Pandemic Cavities


I can’t blame the pandemic. You have to have a routine in place to practice good hygiene  or you just won’t follow it. It’s like the 15 lbs. you can’t loose because you just can’t say no to chocolate, especially when that annoying aunt comes . . . she just insists on visiting every month! When it comes to my children, I thought I could be better. I thought I’d have it down: we would never eat sugary foods or carbs and we would always brush our teeth and floss multiple times a day!

When my oldest turned one, we took her for her first trip to the dentist. The doctor was not too worried about her teeth (I don’t think he even looked at her teeth)! But we did as we were told and brushed with fluoride free toothpaste, and then when she turned two, we switched to a children’s fluoride toothpaste. She went to a new dentist at three years old, and all seemed ok. They did ask me to switch to a non-gummy chewable vitamin so I bought a childhood favorite – Flintstones. All was great until one day I noticed these dark brown marks on the back of her molars. I was shocked and well, scared! Did I let her get tooth decay? Was I not having her brush enough? We sometimes forget to floss…but we don’t drink juice and it’s rare we have too many sweets, but man oh man she loves her sweets.

So before we could go to the dentist to get her teeth checked out, my husband got a new job and we lost our medical coverage. We had to wait 6 months for it to kick in. Part of me is mad at myself because maybe we should have paid out of pocket. We just continued brushing and flossing (occasionally) and didn’t change her diet. Then after she turned 4, and we finally had coverage, that’s when the pandemic struck. I was definitely too scared to send her to the dentist. With all the stress of COVID, we didn’t have as strict rules for sweets and brushing and I only have myself to blame.

So fast forward to 2021, as we “hopefully” come out of this pandemic, I finally got the courage to face the music. We made appointments with a new dentist. Let me tell you, it’s so hard to choose the right one. You want someone kind, experienced, and an environment that won’t scare your child. As a parent, it’s also important that you don’t feel judged. So after searching and reading Facebook posts I found a dentist. Appointments were set and I was anxiously awaiting for the day to come. When the day came for them to see the dentist, I couldn’t go! I was too scared, my anxiety had my stomach all upset. I was terrified to hear them say they had bad teeth and also embarrassed.

So here I am pacing back and forth with our 4 month old asleep in the carrier, waiting as my husband texts me the news. So far my oldest has cavities, not just one, but eight! I stop and just think – damn it Erin! You failed her, why are you letting her eat garbage, why are you skipping out on brushing, why did you not make her floss!

I have a mini panic attack, I call my mom and nothing but tears come out. She tells me to calm down, it’s not my fault, I didn’t fail her but deep down I feel like I did. I calm down and decide I’ve just gotta move forward and choose the best option.

The dentist recommended using a laser treatment to take the cavities out. I had to Google to find out what this meant because I have only heard the horrors of having to put your child under anesthesia. When I searched I found that, “lasers zap cavities with an invisible light beam and are very conservative and precise, allowing a filling to be placed there. Yes, it’s awesome. It’s also the most precise way to fix a cavity, which means that dentists don’t have to remove as much of the healthy tooth as they do when using a drill”

Our dentist assured us that she would feel no pain, but rather a cool sensation and they could give her gas to calm her nerves if we wanted. Although this is a much better option than drilling – I just can’t imagine sending my 5 year old in for this type of procedure. Immediately, I remembered my best friend’s son had cavities and they took a different approach. They used the silver diamond fluoride treatment. “Silver Diamine Fluoride is an FDA-approved antibiotic liquid clinically applied to control active dental cavities and prevent further progression of disease. While the ideal way to treat teeth with decay is by removing the decay and placing a restoration, this alternative treatment allows us to stop decay with noninvasive methods, particularly with young children that have baby teeth. Treatment with Silver Diamine Fluoride will not eliminate the need for restorative dentistry to repair function or aesthetics, but has been effective at prevention of further decay”

After weighing options and thinking of my daughters ability to handle all of this at 5, we decided to go with Silver Diamine Fluoride, a treatment to stop the spread of the cavity. They’ll check her teeth again in 6 months to make sure it hasn’t spread so that she doesn’t have to do the laser treatment. That gives me the chance to redeem myself and focus on really taking better care and attention to my children’s teeth. If we can do this than she won’t need further procedures, because eventually the baby tooth will fall out.

Although this battle isn’t over, I have to remind myself that it’s never too late to fix it. Although sometimes you have to fail to succeed, I’m still grateful for this wake up call. Our new routine that our dentist recommends is that I brush my daughter’s teeth going forward, every morning and night. Since she was 4, I’ve let her do it, but apparently they’re not capable of really doing a good thorough job until they’re 8. We floss morning and night since most decay comes from not flossing. The dentist recommended the flosser that is on a stick so it’s easier to reach. I was also not putting enough toothpaste on the toothbrush. I was always told a grain of rice for under 3 and pea size for 4. But now my 3 year old can do a pea sized amount and my oldest can do two pea sized amounts.

We were told to rinse their mouth with water after meals. This is because, although they don’t eat gummies, drink juice or eat other sticky candies, carbs still turn to sugar on their teeth, so even “healthy” options can cause cavities. The dentist also recommended a fluoride rinse for my oldest daughter after brushing and then waiting 30 minutes to eat after that. Now that we have our regimen, I need to keep it up. I hope this helps any other moms who might be curious about preventing cavities or hoping to prevent cavities for their children.

Always talk to your child’s dentist about the best course of action for their teeth and their needs.


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