Four-year-old Has 5 Cavities; Needs 4 Fillings and a "Pulp" and Crown?? - UPDATE

Updated on February 14, 2011
E.M. asks from Carrollton, TX
15 answers

Hi Moms! Let me start out by saying that I know my first mistake is waiting until my son was four to take him for his first dental check-up. Just so you know my history, I've had a dentist phobia since I was a child (had work done very young) and just recently started seeing a dentist again after 10+years. Not proud of it, but I'm working through it (with laughing gas! hehe!) and am trying not to pass on my phobia to my child.

Took my son to a Monarch Dental this past Friday, and they found 4 cavities by sight, and a 5th during his x-rays (they did standard "bite down" x-rays, then the "spin-around-the-head" one; sorry, don't know what they're called). My son did extremely well, and followed the dentist's orders and was very calm; he loves being at the doctor's, and this was no different. They told me after looking at the x-rays that 4 of his 5 cavities can be given fillings (they'll do gas and shots), but the 5th one is so deep it requires "pulping" and a stainless-steel crown. It's on one of his lower back molars. I asked "Won't he lose that tooth anyway?" but was told it'll be another 4-5 years before it falls out, and they're afraid that waiting that long would not be good for him.

I'm not one to immediately second-guess a doctor or dentist's advice, but coming from my phobia and thinking about my poor son going through the gas and shots... How do I get a second opinion? SHOULD I get a second opinion? My husband was immediately suspicious (our nephews just had dental work done by a dentist who it turns out was doing unnecessary work just to collect the money, so he's a bit paranoid). It seems like their facility has quite older machinery, so the x-rays were on film and not digital. I thought about calling my dentist to see if he'd review them independently and give me his opinion, but I'm not sure the physical film can be sent to him. I know my insurance won't pay for a full second set of x-rays.

Am I over-reacting? My mom says my twin sister and I had the same things (fillings and crowns) done at this age (thus the beginning of my dentist phobia!) and I don't want to put my son through something that I'm afraid will affect him for years to come. But I obviously want to fix what needs to be fixed, too, so I'm really just struggling with this.

Have your children had to have this work done at this early age? How did they handle the gas/shots? What advice can you give? I've made our first appointment (to do 2 of the 4 fillings) for this coming Friday, and really just am hoping for some advice to calm my nerves about the whole thing. Thanks, Moms!!

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So What Happened?

Thanks to everyone for your sound advice! I found a pediatric dentist in Carrollton who's more than willing to give a second opinion. I spoke with my insurance company and they do pay for a second round of x-rays this year, but the new dentist and I agreed to wait in case we need those during his cleanings later this year. I called the original Monarch Dental office and they agreed to send over the physical x-ray films to the new place. Our appointment is next week, and the facility is much more modern and definitely kid-friendly. If my son and I both feel more comfortable there, we'll probably have all his work done there from now on.

I appreciate everyone's kindness!

PS - For the few of you who asked: no, my son doesn't eat or drink a lot of sugary things! He's a milk-and-water kinda kid, like me! He's great about brushing everyday, too. I feel like his problems are probably inherited (as a lot of cavities are) from his father and me, poor kid! But we'll continue to maintain his good habits at home, and hopefully keep those future cavities to a minimum.

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answers from Dallas on

I agree to get him a 2nd Opinion before doing anything. It would really be bad to have him go through this for nothing. Both my husband and I have gotten 2nd opinions and glad we did because we didn't[' need the work done after all.

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answers from Dallas on

Yes, you can get a second opinon. I would recommend seeing ONLY a Pediatric Dentist for the 2nd opinion though. Just as your Pediatrician specializes in "little people", the Pediatric Dentist specializes in "little teeth". They also receive an extra 2-3 years of additional training based around the differences between primary dentition (baby teeth) as well as the psychological implications of working on children. A GENERAL DENTIST will have none of this knowledge, nor are most equipped to deal with the emotions (scared, worried, anxious and even tantrums) that a child presents during treatment.
Pediatric Dentists work on ONLY CHILDREN, so nothing your child throws at them (literally and figuratively) will be new or bothersome.

The xrays are available to you upon your request. The office has 30 days from the time of your request to release them. This is Texas State law. They will likely not release the original records, rather they will make a duplicate copy and release those to you. Sometimes there is a nominal fee for the duplication process.

Additionally, Pediatric dentists tend to be more on the conservative side. Saving healthy teeth by not crowing them is of utmost concern.

Send me a message, I can refer you to someone in Carrollton. (Josey & Hebron area, next to Tom Thumb.)

- C.

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answers from Phoenix on

Yes, get a second opinion!!! I didn't get my kids to the dentist until they were about 5-7 years old. I'm also a dentist phobe and I hate pediatricians (including dental.) My son's pediatric dentist said that he had 7 cavities and they wouldn't use white fillings. Only silver. So we took him to a dentist that would do the white fillings and this dentist said that he didn't even have any cavities. I just took my 4th son to a pediatric dentist who wanted to give him gas to clean stains that could possibly be cavities that would need to be filled right away. sounds like what I went through with my oldest. I stick with our family dentist whom I trust. Get a second opinion. I wish you the best!

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answers from Jacksonville on

I was curious so googled the practice. They apparently have a LOT of offices scattered throughout TX. Several got shady reviews. Some for shoddy work, some for rudeness, some for apparently alleging work was needed that other dentists said was not, etc.

I am pretty sure I would get a 2nd opinion from someone else. Can you ask around from your network of friends and acquaintances and see whom they use and recommend? Our family dentist (not a pediatric specialist) is GREAT with kids. Our kids LOVE him AND his hygienist. And he told me that often pediatric specialists in orthodontia are often very aggressive with treatment b/c once the patient reaches a certain age, they lose them. So they max out the insurance benefits while they still are in their care, before they are not longer a patient due to "aging out". Not very conservative treatment philosophy. I wonder if pediatric dentistry is the same?

I think you should ask around, and ask specifically when you meet/interview another dentist what exactly his/her treatment philosophy IS. Our dentist is very conservative. Less is usually more. He is more likely to wait something out a little bit. Kept me from getting a root canal, by advising me to wait. A tiny thing, that the more I messed with it, the more it bothered me. He said LEAVE IT ALONE for a while. If it doesn't start to feel better in a month or two... take another look. Sometimes our bodies DO heal themselves, lol. I still have all my intact teeth... no root canal. 10 years later.

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answers from Charlotte on


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answers from Oklahoma City on

My grand daughter went to a Pediatric dentist and was put to sleep sleep in an out patient surgery center at Children's hospital. She had general anesthesia and had several fillings and a root canal and crown put on a broken tooth. Going to sleep and having it done was the best. She had the work done, woke up happy, and wanted to go out to eat. I can't say how important it is to take care of their teeth, you know that too.



answers from Scranton on

My son "B" will be turning 4 next month. Over the past year he has been to the dentist 9 times. Last year I noticed his two front teeth were discolored. I took him to a pediatirc dentist and found out that he had four cavities on the top. The filled them with tooth colored filings. After about two months two fillings had fallen out. I took him back and they re-filled them and discovered two more small cavities on one of the back molars. Another month past and one of the front fillings fell out again. At this point I really began to panic because there was a huge whole in his tooth and we were in Ocean City, MD on vacation. Lucky for me it did not bother him and I was able to get him in when we returned. At that point I asked about getting a crown put on. They said it would not hold. So we filled it again. At this point my insurance for the year was just about up to the max. He was fine for about another month when he was starting to complain that it hurt when we brushed in the back. Well, his filling on his molar came out. I took him back and they put a silver crown on it. In Sept. the filling on the front tooth came out again and at that point we went ahead and put two white crowns on the front teeth. They held up until last month when he was comlaining about his front tooth being sore and there was a foul smell on his breath. I was able to get an emergency appt. and had found the tooth was abscessed. I elected to have the tooth extracted. That went find. Last week my son fell on his brothers bed and banged his front tooth and the crown fell off. I got him in right away and they said they could fix it. I spoke to the dentist and asked about extracting the tooth. His tooth has been through so much trauma and the fact they other tooth is missing it just doesn't appear to be safe. So we had it pulled. I am now in a panic because the other two are discolored (they were filled, so it is normal I was told). But in the back there are some that are yellowish. I cannot get over the anxiety I have. We have had so many problems with his teeth. We brush two times a day/rinse with Listerine/floss. He eats well. He is not allowed any juice. He does not really eat any candy. He occassionally has a soda when we go out for dinner. I limit his drinks to sugar free options. He eats fruits and veggies. I just do not know what I am doing wrong. I have had different dentists in that practice, two feel for me and cannot believe we are having such bad luck. And the other dentist we had when he had the abscess made me feel like a horrible mother. I just do not know what more I am supposed to do. I just feel so bad for him. Everytime he has gone he has had local ansthesia. They do not let the parents go back. At first it bothered me, but I know it is better for him that way. I just have this feeling in the pit of my stomach that he has more. He is scheduled to go back in April but I called today to get him in to get a cleaning and examined. It has gotten to the point that I am on the computer all day reading message boards looking for ways to put my mind at ease. I just wanted to let you know that you are not the only one out there going through this. Good luck!!


answers from Los Angeles on

My oldest son has had this done. His teeth were so tight together that at his very first appointment the dentist told me we were gonna have trouble, they shaved in between all his front teeth to give them more room but at his 5 year check up the Xrays showed that his teeth were just too squished and everywhere his molars touched turned into a cavity...he has 3 silver molars now and he did great with the gas and the shots! Kids are a lot more resilient then we are...good job trying to not pass on your phobia, sounds like your little guy did great at his first visit!

If you feel you need a second opinion, then by all means find another childrens' dentist and go for it...but it doesn't sound too unreasonable to me, since we have been through it already.

~ I was freaked out when I was told about what he needed too but I got over it.



answers from Washington DC on

Why spend all the money and put him through that when they will fall out? My daughter started losing her teeth two months BEFORE she turned 5... and she is 6 now and has lost SIX teeth. my other daughter who is 7 has lost TEN... everyone is different with this as far as when they lose the teeth, BUT... Well, I'd just get a second opinion. DON'T tell other dentist about first dentist's diagnosis!

Good luck

PS: (In reference to a mom who responded) GENERAL ANESTHETIA IS RISKY! My rule with my kids is, ONLY in cases where it is life-threatening or otherwise VERY serious, will my kids get general anesthesia... My three year old didn't get an "optional" surgery -although the doctor really wanted it done- (a problem with her thumb) because of that. I was so happy when I found out the problem corrected itself a year later anyways!



answers from Dallas on

I personally don't like Monarch, my husband had some work done there that they said "had" to be done and come to find out was completely unnecessary. You should be able to get the x-rays from Monarch and go to a different dentist for a second opinion. Your insurance may not pay for this but it will give you peace of mind and know that decision would be best for your son.


answers from Tucson on

Can't they just pull that molar and leave it out till adult one comes in? I have found dentists to be very shady. One dentist charged me $600 over and didnt refund me the money until i figured it out. Then it took them 6 months to get me the money. Second one did an awful job on a filling and missed several other ones. He did refund my money. The one i go to now is probably shady too, but he does good work. My 5 yr old sister was put out for a root canal.



answers from Los Angeles on

Definitely get a second opinion. Shady dentists are more common than you think. I'm pretty sure I got a root canal that wasn't necessary when I was in college only b/c I didn't know any better then :(



answers from Boston on

Get a second opinion. There are some shady dentists out there. I would only do gas if necessary he might do fine with just novicaine just bc you need gas does not mean he will.

Also one mom recommended you just leave the teeth alone because they are just going to fall out please do not do not do that! That can cause infection, pain, and even problems for his future permanent teeth.

Edited: after reading parent reviews for them I wouldn't take my child there even if it was the last dentist on earth! If you don't want him to be traumatized and have the dentist fear that you have look around and do some research.



answers from Phoenix on

After getting a second opinion from a pediatric first thought is what are you feeding this kid? Why does he have so many cavities to begin with and what can you be doing at home to improve his dental hygiene and circumvent these many dental problems? It sounds like you need to stop all candy, sugary drinks and make sure he is brushing and flossing twice a day.

Or you'll be right back in there after all this dental work for round two of the same treatment. And then you might have inadvertantly passed on your dental phobia.

From personal experience, my 4 yr. old sucked on a thumb pop every day for 2 weeks which he bought with his quarter to spend at the vacation bible school snack bar and this ended up putting a huge cavity in one of his teeth. The dentist told me that normally when they see this deep of a cavity there are many more teeth involved, but my son was lucky. I said, no, he actually enjoys good nutrition and dental hygiene, he did this too himself at VBS.

So he had the gas and shots and the DDS put a silver cap over it. Well, I was fine with the silver husband insisted on the enamel front purely for aesthetic purposes which I was opposed to.



answers from Seattle on

This is my exact situation. My son just turned 5. I waited too long. However, my insurance (and most state laws) allow for general anesthesia for children under 8 years old. My son will be totally put out for his dental work and then I will be a NAZI when it comes to helping him brush his teeth.

The dentist said this is the best way. He won't even see the needle coming. He'll be asleep during the entire procedure.

You should go this route.

GOod Luck!

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