Saturday, June 6, 2009

Last week, while eating a bowl of cereal before school, Lula said that one of her teeth was hurting. I told her to open her mouth and show me with a finger which tooth it was; despite the chewed cereal mush everywhere, I saw clearly that one of the lower molars had a hole in it. It wasn't a huge hole, but it wasn't tiny, either, and it definitely looked "unnatural"--perfectly round, perfectly smooth, and perfectly terrifying.

Guilt flooded me. Although Joedy and I have given Lula plenty of "sugar lectures" (reinforced with descriptions of the shots I got in my mouth each time I had a cavity), and we've rarely had soda or candy in the house, we haven't exactly raised her on a diet of green tea and raw vegetables either. When we've gone out to eat--for a while, we went out pretty often--we've allowed her to have soda, and sweets in general have played a much bigger role in her life than they did in Joedy's and mine when we were growing up. The juices, yogurts, and fruit bars that have been mainstays of Lula's lunchbox for the past three years have been free of high fructose corn syrup, but they haven't been particularly low in plain ole' sugar, and for at least a year now she's begun each day with a scoop of sweetened cocoa powder on top of her cereal.

For a long time I've had a nagging feeling about the amount of sugar we've allowed Lula to eat, but I ignored it, thinking she ate less than most kids these days and, therefore, that we were doing ok. We told her to brush her teeth at least once a day, and I convinced myself she had Joedy's teeth genes (he's never had a cavity). We kept delaying taking her to the dentist because it didn't seem necessary (and because I'd successfully traumatized her with my shots-in-the-mouth stories).

Seeing the hole in her tooth and hearing her say "ow" when she chewed sent the pangs of guilt straight to my heart. I made a dentist appointment for 10 a.m. the following morning, and braced myself for what was likely to be a tearful experience for at least one of us. The next day, during the twenty-five minutes of frantic scrambling before leaving the house (change Malko! find pacifier! wash face! feed Lula!), Lula emitted a high-pitched whine of fear that turned into screams as we got in the car. My cautionary tales about cavities had more than done the trick--she was terrified of going to the dentist. She was in such a state of apprehension that everything I did during the drive--glance at street signs, check my phone, scratch my nose--sent her into a higher realm of I'm Going To Die.

"Maman, what are you doing? Why did you do that? What were you looking at that car for? Huh, Maman? Huh? Why?! Why, Maman?!"

It would have been kind of funny if I hadn't been worried too. She obviously had a cavity, and there was a good chance she was going to feel some pain at some time during this visit. Memories of the horrible sensation of having your teeth scraped with a metal pick made me feel vaguely ill; I hoped there would be no mention of shots, because Lula would definitely lose any remaining self-possession, and that could be disastrous.

We arrived at the office on time, miraculously, and Joedy met us there soon after. Thanks to the soothing balm of Spongebob on the TV overhead and the gentle kindness of the assistant, who called her "honey," overall the visit went well: Lula's teeth were X-rayed and cleaned, and she didn't cry, although her eyes got red and her foot jiggled. She was composed enough by the end to remind the assistant to give her a sticker, although said sticker--it showed a kid taking a picture of a giant tooth--didn't rate too high, apparently, and immediately ended up on the floor of the car beneath her feet. The visit went well in the sense that Lula was only moderately afraid, but the diagnosis--that she has decay in not one, not two, but three teeth--made my heart stop.

Three cavities, and she just turned five.

Since that day, I've been embroiled in a tangled web of confusing and contradictory instructions from the dentist, the pedodontist, and our dental insurance. If I didn't learn my lesson the moment I saw a tunnel in my daughter's otherwise perfect tooth, or when she cried out in pain and fear, I've certainly learned it now:

Sugar is not my friend.


Anonymous said...

Well, 3 cavities in 5 good years somehow doesn't sound too terrible to me. Certainly not as terrible as the anxiety, of mother and child, before during and after.

In the meantime, here's a website that I have found helpful in dealing with my own little sugar problem: sugarsugarsugaryeahyeahgimmemoreIloveitbabysugarsugarsugarandjustdon'tworryanymorebecausethosedentistswhatdotheyknowanyway@com

grand memorial prout, who has good recommendations for the LOCAL DENTIST IN YOUR AREA, just check it out on my friendly website.

Rosana V. said...

ugh, there is always something isn't there? the adventures in parenting never end...i'm going to go open my daughter's mouth now while she's sleeping and look for holes...

thanks for sharing and stopping by!

packofchicklets said...

hey lady, did you get my message that thea also was found to have around 3 cavities recently? and you know nessa is a health nut- seeminly only feeding her raw nuts and raisins over the last 7 years as far as I could tell- so sometimes it's just the luck of the draw...

ps- i can't read the text with the background this dark green!

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