Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Untold Story #4: Chip's Teeth

Here's a story that hurts my heart.

In July, I took Chip for his first dental check-up. Perhaps I would've taken him earlier had we not gone without dental insurance for awhile; at any rate, three isn't very old. Chip was perfectly cooperative, even for the x-ray, and our family dentist said everything looked fine except for a spot on the back of one of Chip's front teeth. He recommended that I take Chip to a pediatric dentist who works more regularly with children.

Chip was just as cooperative for the pediatric dentist, who looked at the x-ray from our family dentist and checked Chip's teeth with instruments. She agreed that everything looked fine except for the spot in the front. "I would probably put him under to fix it," she said, "or we can just watch it closely for the next couple of years until the tooth falls out. It'll be one of the first to fall out."

"What would you do if it were your child?" I asked.

"I'll tell you what," she said. "Let's take some additional x-rays and get a better picture of what's going on in the back of his mouth. That will help us make a decision." So Chip had bite-wing x-rays taken.

After looking at these new x-rays, the pediatric dentist announced that Chip had eleven additional cavities in the back of his mouth, all "flossing cavities" between teeth. She said we needed to put him under in the hospital so she could correct his problems. She recommended silver crowns for all his back teeth.

As you can imagine, I was stunned. We'd gone from talking about one little spot in the front that could be "watched" to talking about twelve cavities, surgery, crowns! I couldn't fathom how things had gone so wrong. "I don't understand," I said. "I mean, this is my fourth child, and I've never really flossed my kids' teeth, but we've never had problems like this. What do you think happened?"

"If I were guessing," she said (and she was a cold fish), "it has something to do with his being the baby and spoiled. Did he have a bottle longer than the others?"

"I nursed him longer than the others," I said. "I nursed him for two-and-a-half years."

"That might be it: nursing him in the middle of night without brushing his teeth, afterward," she said. My heart may well have broken with that statement. I felt like such a bad mom, and there was no warmth in this pediatric dentist. I felt judged and very much...mowed over.

The receptionist seemed no more compassionate. She asked for over $400 to schedule surgery; told me to expect to pay over 4K out-of-pocket to the dentist; and advised that I should expect to pay additional money to the hospital for anesthesia, etc. Gripping the counter, I said in a small voice: "I think I might be sick."

"Did you say you think you might be sick?" she asked. I nodded. She just stood there, staring at me.


I wish you could see me, now: typing, deleting, typing, deleting. I can't quite decide what to tell you. I run the risk, always, of your thinking I'm crazy. And I can be a little off: especially when I'm not taking mass amounts of Omega-3. My non-lubricated brain is a suspicious, relentless machine. It's convinced that it's smarter than most everyone else's brain and that it can solve any problem it likes. It's prone to anger and despair. It's willing to stay up all night, churning and burning. Reading.

Long story short: I didn't sleep much for awhile (and ended up getting very sick), but I learned a lot. I took Chip to another, more conservative pediatric dentist. She verified that the problems in Chip's mouth are real but said no silver crowns. Then she said I had time: just a little bit, but time.

I've driven through six states for milk and beef. We'll call it twenty-seven hours of driving. I'm not exaggerating; thank God for my extended family, nonetheless. I promised to tell you a story about a butcher. In Kentucky, he slaughtered and butchered one of my parents' cows. He wrapped and sharp-froze the meat, and my dad and I packed it into five coolers along with my brother's dry ice. And, really, this is just scratching the surface. Whether my baby (with his heart murmur) has to undergo surgery, or not, I believe in the measures we've taken. We'll know more in a couple months. In the meantime, I beg your prayers.


  1. My two youngest had a bunch of cavities at age 3/4. I couldn't believe it. I asked our pediatric dentist, "Was it because I had them so late in life?" The others didn't have cavities. I believe (think of Dr. Granny here) that they drank a lot of bottled water and gatorade (along with tons of milk and other healthy foods) because we were at the soccer fields since before they were walking because their brothers had soccer games. All that stuff probably didn't have floride - and Wa-La - cavities! I nursed the last two the most, too. Not as long as you did but more than the others. You CANNOT beat yourself up over something you cannot decide whether you were culpable in anything. That's what makes me so made about all these scientists saying what's good or not - they don't always know. I'm right there with you on the price tag. I remember how much having all those cavities filled hurt the pocket book - and made me feel like fainting when I heard the price. My 4th is more susceptible to cavities because his mouth just produces more stuff that doesn't help. I'm sorry you're going through this :( {{HUGS}}

  2. Aw, poor little fella!!! :-(

    Sending many prayers and good wishes for Chip!


  3. For Pete's sake! A mouthful of silver crowns at THREE? Watch and wait is the best possible advice. If it turns out you do need to do something about it, he'll be that much older. And the heart murmur should not adversely affect a surgical procedure, if indeed, it is ever needed. As long as the docs know it (dental surgeon and anesthetist) there should be no complications. I am so sorry this happened to you (and to him) but you CANNOT BLAME YOURSELF. What a twit that dentist was. Sorry to be so harsh, but there is no excuse for that kind of language or behavior in a professional office. Good grief.