Select Page

My confession for the day: I hate dentists. Nothing to be ashamed of, right? Everybody hates dentists.

But I don’t just hate them–I don’t really believe in the whole practice of dentistry. I don’t think I would ever go to the dentist if my husband didn’t make me. And I would certainly never take my young child there. Especially not my sensitive three year old.

But I do go, and I do take my daughter, mostly because I haven’t been able to find any good options to traditional dentistry.

Three months ago I reluctantly took my daughter for her first dental visit, mostly because my husband’s dentist (who he loves–he loves the dentist! seriously, what’s up with that? I mean, my husband is awesome, but what kind of crazy person loves dentists?!?) said she should go when she was three. So my husband kept reminding me till I finally made the appointment. And wouldn’t you know it? She had a cavity. All my efforts to feed her healthy, unprocessed food; all my husband’s efforts to floss and brush her teeth: all wasted, apparently. Maybe cavities are genetic and she got it from me. Heaven knows I’ve had enough of them.

The pediatric dentist then proceeded to ruin any chance she had of not being hated by me (slim chance anyway, since, uh, she’s a dentist) by informing me that the reason my daughter has a cavity is because I breastfeed her at night. Excuse me, but no. If anything, breast milk may actually help prevent tooth decay. But this dentist just rolled her eyes and made a note on her chart when I told her that. So we didn’t exactly get off to a good start.

And then she told me about my options for treatment.

“Well, you can fill it now,” she said. “Or you can wait a few months and then fill it.”

So my choices are a filling, or…a filling.

And that’s the real reason I hate dentists: the way we treat tooth problems has never seemed right to me. If you think about it for a minute, just from an objective perspective, the way we treat cavities sounds about as sensible as the way medieval doctors treated fevers. Hey, there’s a hole in your tooth, so let’s drill it and make it bigger! Then we’ll put some foreign substance in to replace it. (We used to use poison to fill it in, but we realized that wasn’t the greatest idea so now we’re using different chemicals. Don’t worry. They’re perfectly safe.) Seriously, does this make sense to you? Why not just pull out some leeches while we’re at it?

It just seems like there isn’t a lot of focus on prevention, or holistic treatment, or any of the big-picture, get-at-the-real-cause cures that I like about alternative medical approaches. The only preventative measure that you hear about is brushing your teeth. And flossing. Yay. That’s never done me any good. What about diet? What about environment? Isn’t there anything we can do to get at the cause of cavities instead of just fixing them after they appear? Or heck, even fluoride rinses would be better than fillings. Isn’t there any way to help a tooth repair itself instead of destroying it more and replacing the damaged part?

And yes, maybe I’m just bitter because I’ve had a new cavity every time I’ve visited the dentist in the past ten years. After a while it gets old. And I don’t want my daughter to go through the same kind of dental experiences that I have.

After we found my daughter’s cavity, I did some research into alternative dentistry. It was discouraging. Most of the alternative things I’m into, weird though they may seem at first glance, do have science to back them up. I couldn’t find a lot of scientific studies on the results of ozone therapy or the benefits of the Weston Price diet. In fact, most “holistic” dentists are actually regular dentists who don’t use mercury fillings. Not really my idea of an organic, whole-body approach to dental health. But all the alternatives to traditional dentistry seem like–I hate to say it, because people could say this about a lot of things I love–but they seem a bit like quacks to me.

I did try some treatments while we waited three months. I used MI paste, which is supposed to help teeth remineralize, and lots of xylitol (which the dentist recommended). We even switched to fluoride toothpaste. I was hoping we could at least stop the growth of the cavity, and maybe not even have to treat it, since it is a baby tooth. But no luck. Three months later, the cavity is growing. So we went to get the filling.

I won’t even go into describing the nightmare of trying to get the filling done yesterday. (I wasn’t even there for most of it–my husband was with her in the room, but I couldn’t be there since they were using nitrous oxide and I’m pregnant. But the little that I saw has actually given me nightmares.) Suffice it to say that they managed to drill out the cavity, but they couldn’t get the filling finished. My daughter is now walking around with a hole in her tooth, and we’re going to have to go to a different dentist and have her sedated to finish. This is all just awful to me on so many levels. I mean, I’m the kind of mom who’s scared to give her kid Tylenol. I can’t even put into words how scared I am to have her sedated with Versed.

Everything about the situation–forcing her to go through something so painful, drugging her, drilling her tooth–feels wrong to me. I know there are times when you have to do things that your kid doesn’t like for their own good. I get that, and I have no problem with it. (Just watch me respond to her bedtime reluctance, or telling her no to juice or candy. I’m a hard nose. Really.) But it’s really hard to force your kid through something they hate when you’re not convinced it’s the right thing to do. And I’m not convinced. I just can’t seem to find any good alternatives.

If anybody knows some, I’m all ears. Just send me some scientific studies to back them up, okay?