Cavities :: An Unwelcomed First


We’ve had many firsts in our family that we’ve celebrated, some of which were a pretty big deal. We’ve also had some not so exciting firsts, and cavities were one of those unwelcomed ones.

According to, cavities develop when a tooth decays or breaks down. A cavity becomes a hole that can grow bigger and deeper over time and, among other things, is caused primarily by bacteria. All children have bacteria in their mouths, but Johns Hopkins Medicine further explains that some kids are at a higher risk of developing cavities.

Your child may be at a higher risk for cavities if:

  • They have high levels of bacteria in their mouth that cause cavities
  • They eat a diet high in sugar and starches
  • They drink from a water supply that has limited or no fluoride in it
  • They have poor oral hygiene
  • They have less saliva flow than normal

We found out during a routine dental visit that our four-year-old had a cavity and would need to be referred out for X-rays and treatment. This was a lot for me to take in. I had many questions, starting with why we would need to be referred elsewhere for treatment. I knew we might have challenges getting our son to sit still in a new environment.  

Here’s what we learned from that ordeal:

There aren’t always symptoms

Cavities don’t always have pronounced symptoms. Especially if you’re not looking for them. There were no complaints of a toothache, sensitivity, or areas that were easily recognizable. We thought we’d followed the recommendations for oral care and hygiene, so we never thought cavities would be an issue. After all, we managed to raise a teenager with no problems (so far). Still, it was something we didn’t want or expect to hear.

Not all dental practices are the same

As a family, we had established a relationship with a family dentist. Naturally, we made them our children’s dentist as well. We’ve always had a wonderful experience and trust them completely. We were surprised to find out, however, that they could not treat cavities in children our son’s age because they didn’t have the equipment to do so. I was a little disappointed that we’d have to go into a new environment to complete an X-ray and have the cavity treated. I was also worried my four-year-old would not do great in a new location. But, despite all of that, I was trying to keep a positive attitude.  

Get a second opinion

The first pediatric dentist we saw said our son would need a crown, and getting a crown in place would require anesthesia. We had a lot to consider, given the fact that these are baby teeth and they’d fall out eventually. Did we really want (and need) need to put him through all of that?

Although I see the benefit of anesthesia in some situations, for my family, this was not something we were comfortable with. We discussed using another method that would relax him without putting him to sleep. The dentist informed us that we could use laughing gas but that there was a possibility he may not sit still throughout the process, and we’d have to be sent to yet another facility for the use of anesthesia. 

On my drive home I contemplated not worrying about this and letting the tooth just fall out on its own. But everything I read said to have it fixed before it becomes a bigger issue and my husband, being in the medical field, agreed. So, I started researching and looking for other local pediatric dentists and reviewing their philosophy, until I finally found one that I liked. 

We went in for a consultation, and the environment was so kid-friendly that my son, who is typically nervous, was easily relaxed. The dentist said she could put a filling in, and that it shouldn’t fall out. Wonderfully, no anesthesia was needed.

Preparing for the appointment

My son is very curious, so naturally, he kept asking questions. To help him feel more comfortable, we did a few things before our appointment. Despite me being extremely nervous, I kept a positive attitude (at least on the outside) so my nervousness wouldn’t affect him. Any time we go to the dentist, I tell my son that we’re going to clean out the broccoli in his teeth, and it always seems to do the trick. So, I told him the same thing when we went to get his cavity filled. We also watched a YouTube video of kids his age having cavities filled, and I really think this helped too.

During the appointment, the dental staff was very friendly, and my son even got to watch his favorite show on Netflix throughout the procedure. He was a champ the whole time! It’s been a year now since that appointment and his filling has stayed in place just fine, and now, we’re preparing for his first wiggly tooth. I’m so glad we got a second opinion, and that a crown and anesthesia weren’t necessary.

While cavities are common in kids, it wasn’t something we’d thought much about. The experience was a challenge but ultimately, we found the right dentist and learned a lot from it.

What was it like when your child had their first cavity?


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