All Riled Up and Ready to Spit
I hate to diss pediatric dentists, but lately they've left me with little reason to smile.
I’m officially upset with pediatric dentists.
Like, as a field. Not just the ones who don’t take dental insurance (lame), or the ones who expect you to call them to confirm your appointment (annoying). I don’t care if their walls are rainbow colors and they have an indoor fort in the waiting room. They can have all the fun gaming systems imaginable. I’m still mad at them.
It started last year when my daughter's dental hygienist informed me that drugs like Flovent and Zyrtec taken for asthma and allergies can increase the incidence of cavities since it causes dryness.
They couldn’t have told me that before the cavities formed? Like maybe at her first visit years earlier, when I dutifully filled out all their paperwork and clearly listed her meds? I realize it may not have made a difference, but it could have.
Then, last month, I read a New York Times article that noted a rise in preschool cavities and outlined recommendations for young children. The article included quotes from pediatric dentists and statistics from the CDC, but since some of the advice contradicted what we’ve been told for the past five years, I called our pediatric dentist‘s office.
Me: This article says to bring children in before their first birthday. Should I make an appointment for my toddler?
Receptionist: Our practice suggests age two, unless you have any concerns before then.
Works for me! My 17 month old screams bloody murder if anyone in scrubs so much as looks at her, much less tries to peer at her teeth. Later though, I find out that my sister’s pediatric practice agrees with the article, suggesting kids come in as soon as they sprout teeth. Why such a big discrepancy?
Me: The article also recommends using regular fluoride toothpaste from the start.
R: No, that can cause discoloration of the teeth.
Okay, this jives with what I’ve heard and read. So why do the dentists in the article suggest otherwise? And why does my friend’s dentist tell her to use fluoride toothpaste with her two year old and let him swallow it, to make up for the lack of fluoride in their water? Speaking of which....
R: Do you have fluoride in your water?
That’s the same pat response I’ve been giving for the past five and half years. I have no idea what makes me probe further, but I do.
Me: We don’t drink straight from the tap, though, we use the filtered water from our fridge, is that still okay?
R: No, if you filter the water they‘re not getting the fluoride.
Come again? By filtering our water all these years to protect against impurities, I was inadvertently depriving my daughters of the fluoride they need to help prevent cavities? Even more disturbing, every time we went for an annual checkup and the nurse asked if we have fluoride in our water and I said yes, we failed to connect the dots to her actually drinking the fluoridated water?
I knew bottled water doesn’t have fluoride in it, but no one ever told me about filtered water.
I tell our pediatrician, who waves it off because her dentist says it’s okay as long as you cook with unfiltered, fluoridated water (which I do). But I’m only slightly comforted to hear this, because once again, there is conflicting opinion among dentists about a seemingly fundamental dental requirement.
I Google. That's how I find out that common household filters like Brita and Pur don’t, in fact, remove fluoride. Hmmm…interesting. What about the filter in my Maytag refrigerator? I contact the Maytag man, who is kind enough to have Lee Ann E., an e-Solutions Specialist, e-mail me back. And guess what she has to say?
“Your water filter reduces six contaminants including lead and mercury, chlorine taste and odor, particulates, benzene and toxaphene. The filter does not remove fluoride, as it is considered beneficial.”
Eureka! My kids have been getting fluoride in their water after all! Phew. Except, ugh…now I have yet another reason not to trust the advice of dentists. Not in the New York Times, not over the phone, not in the chair and not through word of mouth (no pun intended).
Come on people, get it together!
Look, I’m not a dentist. I didn’t go to dental school because, frankly, I’m not all that interested in teeth and I’m fairly certain I would throw up if I had to stick my hands inside a stranger’s mouth. In this day and age, shouldn’t I be able to trust my family’s pearly whites to the people who did go to dental school?
Well, I don’t. Dentists dear, I'm afraid you'll need to earn back my trust. I’ll be right here waiting. And trying not to clench my teeth.