Seeing the dentist come out of the back room and beckon to you feels remarkably like the moment before getting that A1c result. Despite the fact that it really isn’t rational to do so, or the fact that neither the dentist’s report (nor the A1c) is intended as personal criticism, you can’t help but internalize the state of your child’s teeth and see it as a reflection of the awesomeness (or lack thereof) of your parenting.
Somehow, James ended up with two cavities this time around. These are technically his second and third cavities, the first occurring when he was a toddler, now but a faint memory for the two of us. It’s been years since James has had a problem with his teeth; and considering that he spent the last month practically in competition with Luke for that elusive 100-percent brushing award the dentist gives out, I really did feel badly for him.
This time around, James was really nervous about the upcoming filling. Last time, as a 3-year-old, he had no concept of what the dentist was doing to his teeth. At 10 years old, it’s much more frightening. And I’m not even a great comfort to him, as I’m that odd 37-year-old that has not yet experienced a cavity filling.
Gratefully, the filling was scheduled for just days after our checkup. I feel that if James had been allowed to think about his filling for much longer, it would have been more torturous. Instead, he bravely went back to the dentist and prepared to get his teeth all fixed up.
What does this have to do with diabetes? Well, a couple of things. First, I find it unsurprising that James has ended up with a few cavities. I often have to stick a juice box straw in his mouth at some point during the night. And although the dentist strongly recommends then getting him out of bed to brush his teeth, the reality is that doesn’t work very well for our family. I just hate the thought of James missing out on his precious sleep!
A friend of mine mentioned to me that her daughter with type 1 was authorized for an additional cleaning during the year by her dental insurance company. This may be a solution for us too; I haven’t looked into it yet. I think this acknowledges some of the special challenges that our kids with type 1 diabetes face with their teeth.
Back to the filling…I was a little worried about how the procedure would go. They mentioned that it would be about an hour long. Neurotic me wondered if his blood sugar would go low during it. I worried about having to interrupt the process and insist on sticking a piece of candy in his mouth and how that would end up working out.
Turns out, I didn’t need to worry. His blood sugar was in range prior to the procedure, and it stayed relatively steady. The dentist was also faster than anticipated. Within 45 minutes, James was a happy boy with an in-range blood sugar number and numb, crooked smile. His fear had evaporated. The dentist took extraordinary care to make sure that he didn’t feel any pain or discomfort; James was pretty well distracted from much of the procedure by the animated movie he was watching throughout.
Cavities ended up not being the big deals that I thought they might be. James and I have decided we’d still like to avoid them though. James is more motivated than ever to keep his teeth clean. I’m looking into an additional cleaning per year; and that’s about all we can do. Well, that and recognize that cavities aren’t necessarily a sign of bad parenting or poor brushing. Thank heavens for modern medicine, good pain management and excellent practitioners!
About the author: My name is Jennifer, and I live in Southern California with my husband, Craig, and our three boys. Our oldest son, James, has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I’m thankful for this opportunity -- along with my sister-in-law, Kim, and her daughter, Kaitlyn, who also has type 1 diabetes -- to share our struggles and triumphs with our friends in the diabetes community.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the "typical" experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.
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