My 6-year-old didn’t handle the news well when our dentist told her she had her first cavity. I sat on the other side of a divider, getting my own teeth cleaned, and heard the entire conversation.
The dentist said, “You have your first cavity.” There was a slight pause, and I knew Megan’s face must have clouded over and her eyes had grown teary, because he quickly added, “Whoa. It’s okay. We can fix it.”
When Megan was done with her appointment, she walked up to me, blinking away tears, and quietly held my hand. She said, “I don’t understand why I have my first cavity. I brush my teeth.”
|My brave 6-year-old.|
My husband and I have had few problems with our own teeth through the years. Neither one of us has had a full-fledged cavity. We may have been lulled into a false sense of security about our children’s teeth. Josh and I explained to our daughters that they might never have cavities if they brushed their teeth every day. We were a family with good teeth.
Megan’s cavity left me experiencing some mom guilt. Should I have supervised her brushing more closely? How about when we were camping last summer and sometimes forgot to brush before bedtime? What about that bag of hard candy the neighbors gave us last month that I let Megan indulge in? Why didn’t I make her floss more often? Halloween was coming soon, and I wondered if I should limit her candy intake. We eat fewer sweets than the average family, but I still wondered if we were eating too much.
“Sometimes people just get cavities,” I told Megan. The hygienist did tell us that remembering to floss every day might prevent future cavities, since this one was between two molars.
Thankfully, there are worse things than cavities. A few years ago, in the waiting room of a different dentist, I chatted with the receptionist and another patient who admitted he didn’t like coming to the dentist. I admitted I’d rather visit the dentist than the doctor, and the receptionist added that dentists can fix just about any problem with your mouth, while doctors cannot always fix everything that goes wrong with the rest of the body. I shared the story with Megan to help her feel more comfortable about her appointment to get a filling. Dentists are good at fixing teeth, I told her.
For the rest of the week leading up to her appointment for the filling, she admitted she was still nervous. I told her it was okay to feel anxious. Sometimes you just have to be brave and go through with unpleasant or scary things. Afterward, you feel glad it’s over and behind you, and you feel proud that you did it.
Megan was a model patient, earning praise from our dentist. While Megan was in the back hanging out with an assistant and waiting for the effects of the nitrous oxide to wear off, our dentist came up to the waiting room to chat with me. He said she admitted she was nervous but never showed it. Halfway through the procedure, she told him, “This isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.” I told him how I had explained to her that sometimes we just have to do scary things and how she’d feel better after it was done. “What a great life lesson,” he said.
Now Megan will happily open her mouth to show us her filling, and she talks about how it wasn’t so bad after all. Life lesson learned. Mom guilt eased. All is well. And for Halloween this year? We did lots of extra brushing and flossing!
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