Cerebral Palsy, Our Son, Parenthood, Saipan

The Dentist

‘Do you have kids?’ A blank stare in return. ‘Do you have kids?’ I repeat. She smiles, ‘No, but I have a niece, so I totally understand.’ Um no, I don’t think you do.

Sebastian’s first day of school was a big day. It was also his first visit to the dentist. We went to the place we go for swimming and a load of other appointments because they cater to kiddos with additional needs. While I was filling out all the insurance/health forms Sebastian was having a little grizzle and this very nice woman who was waiting with her daughter, also for the dentist, came over and sat with Sebastian and entertained him with a magazine. It was brilliant. The kindness of strangers. Somehow it surprises me every time.

Just as I’d finished up the paperwork a young woman in scrubs came and called Sebastian’s name. I thought she was the hygienist (that’s how it always works when I see the dentist, see the hygienist first), but she was indeed the dentist. I’m gritting my teeth just recalling our exchange that day. Sigh.

I gave her a little history. We’d been brushing Sebastian’s teeth since he got them, although we’d just started using toothpaste in May since we had a difficult time finding the type which is ok to swallow in Egypt. She immediately cut me off and said ‘Well, recent studies show that the risks involved in swallowing some fluoride far outweigh the damage that can be caused on teeth which are fluoride free. So just add a smidge to his toothbrush and he will be fine.’ She repeated this last sentence at least twice.

She then went on to ask what types of snack Sebastian eats. Fruit bars, date bars, biscuits. The kind he can easily chew or that dissolve easily if he bites off a piece which is too big. He doesn’t have a lot of options. But I tend to stick to the organic kind. And did I mention we brush his teeth twice a day? Oh yeah, he likes home made cookies too. And sometimes he has honey on his cereal. And here she interrupted me again. ‘Oh, well you know honey just coats the teeth, I would definitely add another tooth brushing session and those fruit bars they just stick right in there.’ I’m holding myself back at this point. She’s talking to me as if I’m an incapable of making good food choices for my son. Or a child myself. Or both. I don’t remind her that Sebastian can’t eat everything. Like carrot sticks or celery stalks which as supposed to be good for your teeth. I’m pretty proud of him and the things he can eat and chew, so I’m going to give him those things. After all, I make all of his food. So it’s not like he’s eating crap, I want to tell her.

Next on the check list is what is he drinking. He drinks water and nurses twice a day, before nap time –even though he doesn’t really nap these days, but we like to try/pretend– and before bed time. She shoots me one of those looks like, ‘did I just hear that you nurse him to sleeeeep?!’ I ignore it and move on. He doesn’t drink juice. He does drink some soy milk in the mornings. He doesn’t drink juice. She brings us back to the nursing. ‘You know that the natural sugars in breast milk stay on his teeth all night, so you should really brush afterward.’ I’m imagining it. Sebastian laying soundly asleep on his pillow while I just gently shove the toothbrush, with a smidge of flouride on it, into is softly breathing mouth. Um, I don’t think so.

We move to the part of the visit where she actually looks at Sebastian’s teeth. He sits facing me with his legs on either side of my waist and then lays back onto a pillow facing up at her. She takes one of those scary picks and a mirror and starts prodding around. I wish I hadn’t warned her about his finger biting because she continues with annoying comments. I know that kids with CP are more likely to have problems with their teeth. They often have extra saliva in their mouths which can cause the break down of teeth enamel, etc. They have reflux, acidic reflux that can also aid in that break down. They take medicines that have sugar in them so that they don’t taste disgusting. Let’s remember Sebastian takes TWO reflux medications and TWO seizure medications. And YES, he nurses before bed. But he also loves to brush his teeth and we have had a tooth brushing routine since he got his first tooth. Twice a day. Doesn’t that count for something?

She decides that Sebastian has a cavity between his two front teeth but that the rest of the teeth seem ok. However, she is going to refer us to another hospital where they have the facilities to take a closer look and schedule an appointment for him to go under general anesthetic (GA) to get the cavity filled. But while he is under they may decide to just yank both teeth if they deem fit. When I ask her about this she replies that if you give consent for him to go under GA, then you are giving permission for them to yank the teeth, but they would only do that if they need too. Yeah right, as if I believe that with what I have experienced with this system so far. I do not trust that to be true. When I reminded her that this was her opinion she shot back, ‘Well yes, but I work at Sick Kids too, so I know what they are looking for.’ Through our discussion I discovered that these teeth don’t grow back until age 7 or 8. So she’s telling me that my kid might need his teeth yanked and have no teeth for 5 years. I’m trying to hold myself back but slowly I start to unravel.

First of all, I have seen all kinds of teeth. When I taught on Saipan, I had kids in my class who ate A LOT of sugar. I mean, they drank sugar cane juice. They were five and many of them needed their teeth yanked but they just waited for them to fall out. Or part of them to fall out. I couldn’t believe that this woman was telling me that Sebastian may need his teeth yanked if the cavity was too far down. Was she just trying to scare me so that I stopped breast feeding at night? (As if that was going to happen.) He has no pain in his teeth. It’s possible that the cavity is teeny tiny because she didn’t say much about it. Just a lot of lecturing.

She started to lecture me about nursing at night/throughout the night. I stopped her and said, ‘Do you have kids?’ A blank stare in return. I repeated, ‘Do you have kids?’ She smiled, ‘Um, no, but I have a niece so I totally understand.’ I think the look I gave her probably came back to her in a nightmare. It was all I could do to hold it together. I was pissed. I’m still pissed. Unfreakingbelieveable. Seriously. I had three nephews and a niece before I became a mom and I can tell you I HAD NO IDEA WHAT BEING A MOM WAS LIKE BEFORE I WAS A MOM. The fact that she had the audacity to claim that she did, well, it still makes my blood boil.

After she said this I went into a little tirade and reminded her of my son’s CP and his reflux and his many medicines. I talked about the schedule the NICU nurses tried to instill in him for eating every 4-6 hours and it caused his reflux (why I told her this, I’m not sure, but I think it was all a part of the whole nursing thing). I talked about nursing on demand and attachment parenting. She looked at me confused. I told her that I felt she was accusing me for Sebastian’s cavity, possibly worth pulling teeth, because I nurse him at night. She tried to apologize but then said, ‘he doesn’t have a lot going for him in that department (referring to the cp and reflux as additional reasons for tooth decay). Seriously. Do these people take etiquette classes, or what? I think not. She was not interested in our tooth brushing routine, where we use the iPad to communicate that he wants the toothbrush and then the toothpaste. Or the fact that he can brush his own teeth with some help.

She didn’t even give Sebastian a free toothbrush. Or a sticker. Or anything. I did not like her at all. I still don’t like her. I got a call from Sick Kids today. They wanted to schedule another consult. So we will see what they say. I’m also thinking of taking him somewhere in MI. When I told ali about the dentist visit (in which Sebastian did a fabulous job, by the way), his response? ‘No way are they putting him under GA and yanking his teeth.’ And in case you haven’t noticed, but I know you have, his teeth look FINE. He actually has really nice teeth and of course a fantastic smile.

Seb ready to brush his teeth

Ready to brush his teeth with his Elmo tooth brush in his Elmo pj’s.


8 thoughts on “The Dentist”

  1. You must complain about this person. She sounds awful and completely lacking in life experience. I’m glad you let her have it. I wish I could have been there to back you up… we could have left her in tears between the two of us!


  2. UNFREAKING BELIEVABLE. I don’t even have words. Every single paragraph I was in shock. Get another dentist. Ridiculous. His teeth look lovely and clean to me. I actually think it’s wonderful he brushes his teeth and enjoys it. It’s impossible to get kids to brush their teeth so that is an amazing accomplishment which she should have known. I wish you could see our dentist. See somebody else about the cavity. I would think it could probably be left. I was told I had a cavity and would need teeth removed because my mouth was overcrowded when I was about 6 and my mum refused. Got a second opinion. There was no cavity and I never needed braces… So sorry. I think you handled it with amazing grace.


  3. What a horrible visit and the Dentist obviously has chosen the wrong field to show off her non-existent bed-side manner.
    We see an amazing Dentist here which would be about 40 minutes from you. She sings to Elizabeth, she spent 1/2 hr chatting to her while trying to keep her still for an x-ray. She did see a beginning of a cavity between her teeth years ago but flossing with a flouride toothpaste had kept is away.
    Hopefully Sick Kids will give a better opinion that contradicts the previous dentist.
    Glad to hear school is going well.


  4. Kara what a beautifully written post about a lady I now do not like either.
    it is a real shame that while attending a mainstream service professionals do not seem to have experience with something a little bit different. Keep up the breast feeding I am just so proud of you and Seb xx


  5. Hol.Lee.COW!!! How low, low, low is this woman?? I’m a bit fired up now… and I ditto Sarah, I hope you have a place to voice your horrible dental appointment experience.

    Seb, smile on little man!


  6. NO NO NO. You must find a pediatric dentist who works with special needs. They are out there! I took Matt to an awesome dentist who was quick and great! no need (well not always a need) for any anesthesia when they know what they are doing! I say leave the cavity alone and leave his teeth in.


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