I felt like such a bad mother.
I'd taken the boys to the dentist for their checkup when he informed me that my youngest son, age four, had a cavity. I was horrified! How could that have happened? After all, I'm 35 years old and I've never had a cavity. How on earth did this four-year old have one?
Of course, I did know how it happened. My son is one stubborn little kid, and from about age two he refused to let us brush his teeth for him. He had to do it himself, and he kicked and screamed and made such a fuss, it was easier to let him brush than to fight with him twice a day. (Luckily he still let us floss his teeth, but even that was sometimes a struggle.)
Now we were paying the price. I could feel the dentist judging me, admonishing me silently for failing in my job as a mother. I couldn't even take care of his teeth! What did that say about the rest of his health?
As it turns out, good oral health is a vital part of good health. The healthier we keep our teeth and gums, the healthier we keep our bodies. Here's an excerpt from the Canadian Dental Association's website:
"Poor oral health can affect a person's quality of life. Oral pain, missing teeth or oral infections can influence the way a person speaks, eats and socializes. These oral health problems can reduce a person's quality of life by affecting their physical, mental and social well-being." (To learn more about oral health, be sure to check out our health article, "Brush your way to health," on Primacy Life.)
Uh oh. Had I just set my son up for a life of misery? No wonder I felt the dentist judging me so harshly. I really was a bad mother!
It got worse. The following week, we went to get the cavity filled. Having never had a cavity before, I had no idea of the process. Under normal circumstances, it would be a quick and somewhat painless process. Freeze the tooth, fill it in, seal it, done.
But when you're four, it's not quite that simple. My little guy screamed when they tried to put the needle in, choked on the instruments, cried and wailed in pain. He bit his lip when it was still frozen, and ended up with an extremely fat, infected lip. Our doctor finally put him on antibiotics to clear it up. It was a total nightmare.
I felt worse than ever when it was all said and done. It turns out, however, there was a bright side to all of this trauma. Ever since getting that filling, my son has been more than willing to let us brush his teeth properly. Even he is more anxious to brush them properly. All we have to do is say, "Do you want to get another cavity?" and he opens wide without a fuss.
It's an experience I hope never to have to repeat again. I've always known how important oral health is, but the whole cavity-filling experience really hit home. I, for one, will never neglect my – or my kids' – teeth ever again!
A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.