The Thinking Parent’s Dilemma; or, Another Dentist Refuses to Treat my Children

The 20-something dental hygienist, wearing dark purple scrubs, smiled at my children and me as she motioned for us to follow her to the examining room.

“Okay,” she chirped at my 10-year-old daughter, “Mom will wait outside while we take a quick picture of your teeth.”

I could feel my face stiffen.

“We aren’t going to do X-rays this time,” I said, keeping my voice as casual as possible. “I mentioned that we didn’t want X-rays when I called for an appointment, and I also wrote it in on the consent form.”

The young hygienist furrowed her brow. “Ah, okay,” she said, her eyes darting awkwardly away from my face. “Just wait in here while I, uh, go check on that.”

She came back a few minutes later.

“Dr. Y says that you have to have X-rays,” she said, still unable to look at my face. “She says she can’t treat your children without them.”

This was in May, 2010, just a few weeks after the President’s Cancer Report, “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now,” was released. On page 7 of the report, in large font, is a section entitled, “Children Are at Special Risk for Cancer Due to Environmental Contaminants and Should be Protected.”

That 240-page report states definitively that cancer among children (and adults) is on the rise in the United States. Out of 50 countries, the United States has the dubious distinction of rating #9 in the number of deaths from cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 10,700 children ages 0 –14 will be diagnosed with cancer in 2010, a rise of more than 10 percent from just five years ago. While childhood cancer is considered “rare,” it is the second most common cause of death among children (after accidents). It is predicted that 1,340 American children this year will die from cancer.

The numbers sadly confirm the anecdotal evidence among our friends and family. As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, our 14-year-old neighbor Michael is battling leukemia. My daughter’s friend Isaac’s older sister Whitney was 18 when she died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after fighting it for four years, and more than twelve of our adult friends (including my 62-year-old father-in-law who has throat cancer, my 29-year-old friend Faigy who has five children and Stage IV melanoma, and my daughter’s first grade teacher who died at age 59 from breast cancer) have been afflicted by cancer.

The President’s Cancer Report is very clear that radiation (that is, exposure to X-rays) is a known carcinogen and that the more you are exposed to radiation the more likely you are to get cancer. We have all heard that X-rays are harmful. That’s why you and the hygienist leave the room when your child’s teeth are being X-rayed. That’s why your child wears a lead bib to protect the rest of her body from the harmful X-rays. But what I didn’t understand until I started learning more about it, and what most of us don’t think about, is that the harmful effects of X-rays are cumulative. That means that every time you get exposed to X-ray particles, even if the exposure itself is very small, you increase your risk (or your child’s risk) of getting cancer.

According to the report, “…[I]f patients were more aware of radiation exposure due to specific tests and the cancer risk that can accrue with cumulative medical radiation exposure, they might be more likely to raise this issue with their physicians” [my emphasis.] It seems like a simple thing to say, “No thank you. I don’t want my daughter’s teeth X-rayed this time,” but I was worried about bucking the system and a little unsure about how the dentist would react. That’s why I called the practice ahead of time and why I also put the request to not do the X-rays in writing. When Dr. Y came to talk to me about it, I explained that I was requesting we forego using X-rays as a diagnostic tool and only use them if she found something in my daughter’s mouth that was cause for concern.

If you’ve never questioned medical or dental authority before, the idea that the dentist dismissed my family from her practice might surprise you. But if you’ve been gently asking the doctors and dentists and other health care providers who care for your children to intervene as little as possible, chances are this story is maddeningly familiar to you. To Dr Y’s credit, she came to talk to me about her decision not to treat us. She argued, quite reasonably, that the miniscule risk of harm from the X-rays far outweighed the good they would do as a diagnostic tool in looking at my daughter’s mouth.

“They get more exposure to radiation by traveling on an airplane,” she said.

“I know!” I said, hoping to have found a way for us to agree. “I’m worried about that too. Since we travel by plane sometimes and since the effects are cumulative, I’d like to limit radiation exposure wherever I can.”

Dr. Y shook her head and sighed. Our conversation was going in circles. She insisted she did not feel she could provide us the high standard of care that she had been taught in her eight years of schooling without doing X-rays. I explained again that I wasn’t against doing X-rays per se but that I saw no reason to do them unless she saw something to suggest they might be necessary. I said I would of course agree to X-rays if anything in my daughter’s mouth gave her cause for concern.

I also asked her if she read the President’s Cancer Report.

She had not.

“If I’m your dentist, I’m responsible for your daughter’s teeth and I cannot effectively evaluate them without X-rays,” Dr. Y said.

“But as my daughter’s mother, I’m responsible for her health from now until she’s 18 years old and beyond. If she gets cancer at 14 and I come back to you and say, ‘I think the X-rays were one reason why she has cancer now,’ you’ll laugh me out of your office.”

This is the thinking parent’s dilemma. As parents, we are responsible for every aspect of our child’s health, not just today, but for the rest of our child’s life (or at least until they turn 18). While any given health care practitioner has our baby or child’s best interests in mind as it relates to his or her area of expertise, that health care provider is only responsible for a very small part of our child’s heath.

Dr. Y very rightly cares about her patients’ teeth. That is her only concern.

But as my daughter’s mother, I care about her overall health—not just her teeth. Since she has mostly baby teeth anyway, I care much less about whether she might have a cavity than about how her cumulative exposure to radiation might harm her later in life.

This is the second time in three months that a dentist has refused to treat my children.

The first, which I wrote about in this post called “Difficulties at the Dentist,” was because we refused the fluoride treatments. While I appreciate the time Dr. Y spent talking to me about our difference of opinion (unlike Dr. A), I’m greatly saddened by the outcome. I still don’t understand how it is in any way beneficial to the health of a child’s teeth for a dentist to refuse to examine them because of a disagreement with a parent’s request to intervene only when necessary.

This story has a happy ending of sorts. A colleague of Dr. Y’s, who is a fantastic dentist with a great bedside manner and a hilarious sense of humor, overheard the conversation and took pity on us.

Though he thinks I am wrong about X-rays and fluoride, he agreed to put the children on his client list.

It’s official: we now have a family dentist.

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58 thoughts on “The Thinking Parent’s Dilemma; or, Another Dentist Refuses to Treat my Children”

  1. I have been “fired” by doctors who treated (or who I considered have treat) my kids since my eldest was still in the hospital after his birth sixteen years ago. I interviewed pediatricians prior to the birth of my third child hoping to avoid repeats of negative experiences I had had in the past when I questioned or sought to discuss treatment options. In the course of those interviews, two of the pediatricians asked me to leave the office as soon as I said that I was not willing to use the CDC vaccination schedule. The first was polite, saying her practice did not accept patients who varied from the CDC schedule in any way. The second accused me of child abuse.

    Understanding, questioning and participating in your child’s healthcare is both a parental right and responsibility, I think. I have found most doctors disagree with me.
    .-= Jake Aryeh Marcus´s last blog ..US Department of Labor Issues Fact Sheet on New Workplace Pumping Law =-.

  2. Good for you! Excellent reminder that toxin exposure is cumulative. Every little bit you can avoid counts toward your overall toxic load and we now know that babies are born already contaminated with chemicals. As for dentists, I took my 5yo to a small local practice for the first time before she started kindergarten to see if everything was ok. I nervously said “no x-rays please” and she said “Sure, we don’t need those unless there is a problem”. She looked at my daughter’s teeth, said they were fine and didn’t even need a cleaning. I was so so happy with her. Sadly, our insurance doesn’t cover her anymore and I guess I’ll have to pay extra if my daughter needs to go back. We have also been very happy with our naturopath, unfortunately not covered by insurance either. I don’t want to use the providers my insurance covers because they are so mainstream. I am sorry you had to stand up to the dentists and but glad you did, and found someone to work with your family.

  3. I’m glad you have found a dentist!

    I have many friends who have faced similar issues with dentists over their decision to breastfeed at night. Thankfully, so far my kids haven’t had any dental issues so my own night-nursing hasn’t been called into question. But again, it’s a battle between a parent’s concern for the overall child, and a dentist’s concern for teeth. Which may, based on research on breastfeeding and dental caries, be misplaced.

    I will admit, I am afraid to have similar discussions. Although I feel a little sheepish saying that. I really wish that it was easier to question medical authority, and that practitioners were more open to considering a parent’s viewpoint.
    .-= Amber´s last blog ..The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding =-.

  4. Hurray for the new family dentist! How upsetting this experience must have been!

    I tried to refuse an x-ray the other day at the dentist, to put back a crown that had come off. They would not re-glue the crown unless I consented to the x-ray. I caved. Had to have that crown back. Ugh!
    .-= Alexandra´s last blog ..An Evening on the Town =-.

  5. My husband and I are slightly afraid of our pediatrician, although she’s never really been confrontational with us. Our daughter is fully vaccinated, although we do have concerns about vaccines. We just don’t feel like anyone really wants to have a conversation with us about a modified schedule, or forgoing certain vaccines. Sometimes we fib to our pediatrician too. We bought vitamin D drops when our daughter was a newborn, but we only gave them to her about two times. We also let the pediatrician write a prescription for fluoride, but didn’t fill it. Our daughter will turn three in March, and we’ll visit the dentist. We’ve pretty much decided that we’ll allow fluoride on her teeth, but we don’t want her ingesting it. You’re post today gives us something else to think about.

    Ultimately, we’re experiencing the same frustration that you are. There’s an attitude coming from the medical establishment that treats questions as accusations of some kind, and an arrogance that’s really hard to believe. All doctors need to do is examine the history of their own profession to see how many times they’ve been wrong. Why would they think that they’ve finally figured it ALL out?

    Thanks for being a role model. Maybe we’ll start trying harder to have awkward conversations.

  6. I have to say that I kept refusing X-rays for this reason and I regret it! I let a couple of years go by (my dentist put up no fight at all) and my son had five cavities…one molar having to be replaced by a stainless steel crown. It was NOT fun and I felt responsible. The issue was that the cavities were between a few of his molars (he needed three painful appointments and now has a thing about both the dentist and needles, poor kid). There was no way the dentist could see the problem without X-rays. I’m all for limiting exposure, but don’t make the mistake of NO X-rays or your kids’ teeth (and your bankbook!) will suffer.

  7. Jennifer, wow I wish I would have read this last week before my 6 yo dd’s appnt. She did get x-rays but I didnt’ really think anything of it. Everything went fine but unfortunetly she has a few cavitities :( despite the fact that we brush daily/nightly w/o fluoride and no pop ever and hardly juice. so the dentist wants to fill her baby teeth and will numb her mouth to do it and the fillings do have silver/mercury. I don’t know what to do about it yet. Any advise on that?

    .-= Erika Marie´s last blog ..Real Men NFP =-.

  8. I am not an expert on teeth, Erika, but I have trouble understanding why dentists fill baby teeth. They are temporary teeth, they are going to fall out anyway, and I wonder why it is necessary to subject a child to the fillings? I know there are justifications (maybe a dentist wants to weigh in here?) but I really question the necessity of this procedure. I think I would get a second (and maybe a third or even fourth opinion) before deciding to do the operation.

    Our dentist told me last year that my daughter needed a tooth pulled. He said there wasn’t room in her mouth for the tooth coming in. I asked another dentist to look at my daughter’s mouth. He’s a friend and he gave me off-the-record advice. But he looked at her mouth and said, “If it were my kid, I’d wait three months and see. I wouldn’t pull the tooth because I bet it’ll fall out naturally.”

    I called the dentist back and told him we were going to wait for a few months and then reevaluate. Sure enough, as soon as the grown-up tooth pushed up a bit more the baby tooth fell out. No unnecessary novocaine, no dental bills. I was very glad I decided to wait.
    .-= Jennifer Margulis´s last blog ..BlogHer Yes! Conference Swag I

  9. Youch Kimberly. I’m sorry that your son had to go through that. I had some bad dental work done as a teenager and the tooth that the dentist actually destroyed has since been crowned. The dentist ran a fly-by-night operation and filled the cavity so badly that my parents’ dentist who later re-did the work said I was lucky I didn’t lose the entire tooth. To add insult to injury, she sent my father an outrageously high bill. But I know firsthand–unfortunately–just how painful and uncomfortable getting a crown can be. No wonder your son is afraid of the dentist!
    .-= Jennifer Margulis´s last blog ..BlogHer Yes! Conference Swag I

  10. My big problem here is that you told them when you called that you didn’t want xrays. They should have told you then that the dentist would not treat your children.

  11. Wow, another frustrating trip. At least this one has a happy ending. I know that these docs want to provide a high standard of care, but your opinion DOES count.

    Makes me want to toss the lot of them into one of those reality shows that simulate living in 1850 or whenever. How well would they do without all their modern toys? Maybe they don’t trust their own judgment without Xray backup.
    .-= Frugal Kiwi´s last blog ..Field Trip- Felting =-.

  12. Yeah–I haven’t gotten x rays in years. My daughter had one when she was a baby. That hurt, but they thought her toe was broken (it wasn’t). I don’t really understand why dentists and chiropractors are so keen on having them done. The chiropractors bother me more than the dentists because the chiros are claiming to help you be healthy and here they are asking you to step inside an x ray machine. I’m not against these tests when they are seriously needed, but I think there are less risky ways to figure out of a kid has a cavity.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..40 Things I

  13. Oh, and I wanted to add: the reason my dentist doesn’t give me lip about the x rays is because we don’t have dental insurance. I just say that I don’t have the money to pay for them and that is that.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..40 Things I

  14. Wow, Jennifer, you are Super Mom. I’ll bet 99% of parents are not only unaware of all of this research, but probably wouldn’t pay it any mind if they were. Good on you for standing up for what you think is safer. And for me, I think it’s almost a bigger deal that you’re instilling in your kids the value of questioning the status quo, even when you come up again opposition. Bravo!
    .-= Stephanie – Wasabimon´s last blog ..Strawberry Pecan Pastries with Cardamom =-.

  15. What a frustrating experience! You are setting such a fantastic example for your kids. They are going to grow up knowing that it’s okay to question a medical professional and make sure they get the kind of treatment they need–and want. And you are so right about you having to be the one to focus on your the overall health of your children. Until we have more integrative doctors (and dentists), we’re not going to have the holistic approach(es) we need to prevent life-threatening diseases like cancer. Thank you so much for sharing your experience!
    .-= Jesaka´s last blog ..Cognitive Connection- July 30- Writing It- Querying It and Rejecting It =-.

  16. I’m beginning to think you need to take a online course in dental hygiene so that you can take care of your kids’ teeth at home. :o)
    .-= Roxanne´s last blog ..Pounce! =-.

  17. I’m no dentist, but when my daughter had to have cavities filled I asked about the reasoning. According to him, if we didn’t have them filled the cavity could infect her adult teeth and lead to more serious problems. We went ahead and did it but my daughter hated, hated it.
    .-= MyKidsEatSquid´s last blog ..Adventurous Eating- Food Markets &amp Street Fairs =-.

  18. I had SO MANY xrays as a child (for abdominal tumor) that I literally have a sticker on my chart that says that I should be limited to necessary only. I feel the same way about xrays on my children–particularly when they won’t even bother to just look in the mouth first. I mean, please, can’t they just LOOK first?

    We also refuse fluoride. My poor son had that once and came home throwing up violently (and he NEVER has stomach issues–it’s made of steel). Dentist said, “Oh.. sometimes that happens.. it’s still good to fluoride.” I said, “no, we’re not doing that anymore.” and she backed off.
    .-= Claudine´s last blog ..Learning To Fly =-.

  19. You can heal cavities with clay (calcium bentonite clay). It sounds weird, but it works. The mothering discussion board has an entire section about dental health and the mamas there can give you great advice. There are also other types of fillings out there other than mercury. Try looking for a holistic dentist in your area. they might have other ideas for you.

  20. I just wanted to add that not all chiropractors do x-rays. It’s just ONE of the many things that vary from chiropractor to chiropractor. There are lots of different styles and techniques that are practiced and if you try a chiropractor that you didn’t necessarily appreciate, then another one will probably suit you just fine.

  21. There is a thing my chiropractor does with a tuning fork that can tell you if your bone is broken. My DH broke his pinky and it did find it, without an xray.

  22. Accidental ingestion of fluoride can cause death too! Not just throwing up! Good thing you say no now!

    “One death from ingestion of fluoride toothpaste was reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers in 2002.” –

    We haven’t been to the dentist yet, my daughter is 3… but I’m not looking forward to it :(

  23. Thank you for writing this! This is the struggle that my mom had with all four of us kids. We are all adults now with wonderful teeth and we did not ever do fluoride or xrays.

    Now we are struggling with this ourselves and our children.


    It should be a choice, right? Thats what I think anyway!

  24. Jennifer Margulis – my daughter, at almost 4 years old, needed 4 cavities filled. The only reason the dentist suggested it is because the cavities were in the molars and the molars don’t fall out until they are 11 years old. My husband and I felt that filling the cavities were the best option (NOT with mercury, my pediatric dentist does not use that) for her, due to the fact that she will not lose her molars for some time yet. She also has had the x-rays. I’ve had massive mouth issues since I was a little girl, and want any of the same issues, if they should come up with her, to be caught/taken care of early… Each parent needs to make the informed decision for their own child, based on their own issues/research.

  25. I really appreciate this article. I’ve actually never given any thought to x-rays for my child. He went to the dentist for the first time in July at almost 3 years of age. Thankfully they told me they didn’t need to do x-rays at his age. I will probably only have them done, if necessary, to help treat a problem. Anyway, your article had a lot of good information. Information that I’ll probably use in the future. Thanks!

  26. It is true that cavities in certain places can only be seen on x-ray, just FYI. I refused x-rays for 2 years and when I finally got them, the dentist – a holistic dentist – found a deep cavity. He said it looked like it had been there for about a year. I got it filled but now it is causing me pain, and I may need a root canal, although I am pursuing alternative treatment. I will get x-rays every year from now on!

    My kids…no, not until they have permanent teeth.

  27. As a longtime member of the dental profession, I would like to chime in.

    1. “Metal” fillings are 100% safe. They don’t leak materials into your system. That being said, most doctors use composite fillings on all teeth now. (unless specified by the patient or if the dr is “old-school”.) Composite sets instantly, requires less tooth removal (amalgam aka metal fillings, require the tooth to be prepared in a way that the filling can’t fall out by creating a wider base and more narrow top-composites use a bonding agent), composite is cured while in the office rather than over a period of time. That being said, amalgam is strong and isn’t harmful.

    2. Cavities can NOT be cured. The definition of a cavity is a whole in the tooth. You have to remove the decay completely then fill it. By not doing this, you are setting yourself up for the decay progressing and potential root canal or extraction.

    3. Primary (baby) teeth are JUST as important as adult teeth. They hold the place for adult teeth to come in so the adult teeth don’t come in misaligned or cause jaw problems. By keeping the primary teeth decay free you help prevent decay spreading into the adult teeth. Also, by taking good care of your childs baby teeth, you are setting the standard of care for your child in thier lives.

    5. The amount of radiation emmited from a dental x ray unit is less than that of a fluorescent light. A previous poster had commented on how thier child didn’t have x rays for years and five cavities were found. Drs can’t see completely through the teeth or at all the contact points. Xrays become those eyes. Why risk future pain and problems for a miniscule amount of radiation? Yes you are asked to step out to minimize your own accumulated exposure (same with the hygienist or assistant) and you aren’t shielded. What is the benefit of you getting extra exposure? None-so why do it? Your childs mouth is being examined so x rays are needed.

    6. Fluoride shouldn’t be given to kids who know not to swallow it. Yes it can make you sick or kill you. But the amount placed in the mouth is not enough for a lethal dose. They can get sick though. If you know you’re child may swallow it, state that in your refusal. Fluoride is an excellent tool in protecting your teeth. Vitamins for the teeth!

    Visit and review the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. It’s a wonderful, educational tool. I have seen many kids with swollen faces from infections (that can be fatal if not addressed) from parents who didn’t take proper care of those teeth. Educate yourself!!!

  28. To Debra,

    If the dental x-ray until emits less radiation than a fluorescent light, why put patients and hygenists in lead aprons?

  29. Debra-

    While I appreciate you have been educated as a Dentist. I would NEVER, NEVER chose you to help me take care of my Children or myself. There are important studues suggesting otherwise for all you 5 points.

  30. Every parent (or adult patient) has the right to make this decision for themselves -how often to have x-rays if at all. For milk teeth its a tough call, I certainly didn’t give a second thought to x-rays because my son had visible holes that were visibly growing day to day. But certainly with healthy teeth I may have made a different choice. I also sure as heck wouldn’t have done fluoride varnish every 4 weeks or something nutty if it weren’t for my first having so many problems AND I researched it and felt there was a reasonable amount of evidence to support it given the problems (holes in teeth as they erupted).

    That being said I got a second opinion and decided not to go for the “vaccine” for caries in children because the evidence isn’t sufficient given the teeth will fall out.

    I also refused to limit nursing or wean over caries because no matter how bad the caries are its not as bad as the diseases whose risks are increased by premature weaning, particularly given my family history.

    That being said my decisions for my family are just that.

    However you think its nuts having a dentist fire you over x-rays, try having a two year argument about whether or not a gaping hole should be filled given the fact that they were already putting him under to do fillings. And no it wasn’t an issue of “repair is likely to do more damage” it was literally “that’s not a cavity” vs “its a hole that I can’t get plaque and whatnot out of so I don’t care what it *is*”

  31. You should run far away from any dentist still using silver/amalgam fillings, especially on a small child and temporary teeth. There are many mercury-free dentists out there now. Mercury is toxic! Period! The ADA can never come out and admit that amalgam fillings are dangerous because they own part of the patent. There is a lot of literature out there now about the harmful affects of mercury toxicity that we are exposed to from fillings. Do the research and don’t let any dentist or doctor bully you into doing something you are not comfortable with.

  32. I have to share my experience, too. My oldest has my close spaced teeth, eats a lot of carbs and was on well water with no flouride from 18 months to 4 years. He has had numerous cavities BETWEEN his teeth and there really isn’t any good way to see them without the X-rays.

    I agree the dentist should have been respectful of your right to refuse them and not fired you as patients.

    I do think that doing X-rays at least once if there are no visible problems can be a reasonable risk.

    My son is now 7 1/2 years and on prescription flouride and prescription toothpaste. Our dentist has been quite good about checking what he is eating (nothing USDA would complain about it but so not Weston A. Price!!!) and believing me that really he is getting good food and good care.

    She was reluctant/upset to have to put him on the prescription toothpaste this last visit but pointed out that he is still getting cavities while his younger brother has none and that clearly genetics/tooth spacing is the only difference.

  33. This has been an ongoing issue for us, as well. My kids at 7 and 9 yrs have fairly healthy teeth. My youngest did have 2 cavities in her molars last year and the dentist who found them was horrid. I am a pretty easy person to get along with and I usually put people at ease, but this dentist was clearly upset that I would even question whether the cavity needed filling (I had the same question that someone else on here had, whether it was necessary to hurry with this filling for a baby tooth–legitimate question!) Plus, I was labeled as “that” mom when I refused fluoride treatment (I tend to do it about once a year.)

    We found a dentist NOT fully covered by insurance, and so far it’s been worth the extra cost. He uses laser dentistry. While I’m sure this has it’s own risks, and I might change my mind on it later, I thought a treatment that didn’t inject any chemicals into my child, didn’t cause any pain to her, and cost me about $50 extra per tooth (due to the lack of insurance coverage) was worth it. We were in and out in 15 min, and my child was smiling! She was scared to death going in, but came away wanting to come back. SO worth it for me!

    I do realize this dentist pushes the latest and greatest and I’ll have to make sure I research each thing (this last time they suggested a frenulectomy for both my kids, which the dental hygienist quietly said would be ok to wait and see if it’s necessary as they get older. ) Having said that, they seem very open to discussing a procedure, but backing off if I don’t want it (ie: fluoride.) So far, anyway! If only I could find a doctor I’m comfortable with. I feel like I have to hide information, which definitely isn’t great for a doctor/patient relationship!

  34. On doing fillings in baby teeth. These are his molars. So he won’t loose them until well into his teens. The concern is that these cavities will be in his mouth for years and there is the possibility that the bacteria could move through the teeth into healthy teeth or up nerve roots into the brain.

    It probably wouldn’t be a big deal to wait and watch. In most cases there will be pain associated with abcessation but not always. I don’t know the relative risk.

  35. At our last visit to the dentist, which was my 2-year-old’s first time, they had a new test which they said could determine whether a person is more likely to develop cavities. It was a saliva test which measures oral acidity and took less than a minute. After the test (which determined DD#2 is “at risk”) they suggested the CariFree products, which contain xylitol, which I wasn’t interested in using. They didn’t test my 4 y.o., as they said since she hadn’t had problems up to that point, she wasn’t high risk for future cavities. So maybe if you’re unsure about x-rays, see if they can do the saliva test to determine risk.

  36. Debra, I would love to have you work with my kids. I agree with the points that you have brought up.

    As a mom of 3 I understand a parent’s job to protect their kids, but X-Rays and Flouride are tools to help prevent future issues with teeth. As a person with many dental problems since I was young, I know that my kids are genetically more prone to having similar problems (although I am praying they get my husband’s genetics in that area). I am willing to do what it takes to prevent problems that may then cause issues elsewhere in the body (I have chronic migraines due to the weakness of my teeth).

    Also, I would like to point out that you need to allow at least one full set of x-rays when your children are young, and again when their adult teeth are in at least. In the horrible possibility that something happens to your child, those dental records may be the only way to identify your child.

  37. I am not impressed with Debra’s parroting back of such nonsense that mercury fillings are not harmful. Where has this been proven? And if you think this is the case, a true professional would have a number of journal citations to back this up. The burden of proof should be heavily on you to truly prove this, and a blithe statement from you is hardly proof. (Member of the dental profession indeed–I suspect this means she is a dental assistant trying to mislead us as to the extent of her credentials–not a dentist.) Mercury, or as you euphemistically call it, “metal,” is a proven poison. I suggest anyone not yet concerned about all the poisons, chemicals and plastics we expose our children to might want to read the new book, Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things. You might even find it at your local library. This book discusses the fact that mercury fillings are indeed half mercury by weight. It also discusses the fact that exposure to mercury can cause permanent brain damage, cancer, tremors, and other disorders. It is also a suspected endocrine disruptor. We still don’t know exactly how much mercury fillings may harm our children. But why take the chance? I have found also that most pediatric dentists won’t consider using mercury fillings for children under any circumstances, because even though amalgam/metal/mercury fillings hold up better, they are also toxic.

    On a different note, anyone interested in minimizing x-ray exposure should be sure any x-rays taken are digital x-rays, which use much less radiation than old-style films.

  38. Gina,

    That was a little harsh. Debra is contributing to a discussion and while you may not agree with her, you should keep it respectful.

  39. Funny – (Really NOT funny I know…), but this made me realize that the pediatric practice we go to has never tried to do xrays – and my impression would be that they would be an “if needed” thing. I would feel the same. I would think a “fair” solution would have been to have you sign something saying that you didn’t want them and understood it was against her recommendation. Does seem TOTALLY counter productive/not good care to drop your children as patients instead.

    Hope you love your new dentist! :)

  40. I’m glad you found a dentist. I think that it’s most important for a Dr. (of any kind) to respect you and your decisions concerning your children (and yourself) as a parent. I believe it’s ok for one to raise questions concerning certain interventions, but once those concerns have been answered by ones own research and feelings concerning the child (unless further investigation reveals needed interventions), it should be laid to rest. I don’t know how many peds I have walked away from in the last 4 years over the vaccination debate and antibiotics and more recently the dentist over fluoride and amalgam fillings. I recently found a natural dentist, he is 1.5 hours away, but I will make the sacrifice, besides he is right close to one of my best friends. 😀 Happy findings for your Doctors who are respectful of your specific desires and will tailor services to you [all]!

  41. Jennifer, Thank you for your thoughtful article. It couldn’t have come at a better time for me. We just got back from the doctor’s, and I don’t know if my son can start school because of the vaccine issue. Sometimes I feel like I’ve done it all wrong as a “thinking parent”. It is so hard. It’s encouraging to see other people out there asking similar questions. I, too, had to fight for mercury-free fillings, no/limited X-rays, etc. for my children. I’ve had dentists lecture me on my parenting style. I ask myself “why do I do this?”. Yet, how can I not? How can I not learn about all the drugs they want to give my children and the possible consequences. If my children have resilient systems they might be able to endure the bombardment of radiation, chemicals, and preservatives they are given so young in life. But what if they have a sensitivity? I can’t know. Life is too short.

  42. I feel the same way! Sometimes I just feel so overwhelmed, but I have to ask myself, “how can I not do everything that I can?” Especially since there are so many things that are beyond my ability to change, I have to do what I can.

  43. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being a little harsh, Sara, in a discussion like this. We are all grown-ups here I think. What is worse than being a little harsh is to make an unproven blanket statement such as “metal fillings are 100% safe,” holding oneself out as an authority on the matter. Someone earlier was wondering what to do about the fact that she might need to get her kid’s teeth filled, and she has been unable yet to find a dentist that offers an alternative to mercury fillings. It’s not just an idle discussion. If down the road it is actually proven that mercury fillings contribute to a disease such as multiple sclerosis, or a certain cancer, would you still think Debra was just nicely contributing to a discussion? My point is that she is being irresponible to hold herself out as an authority and say mercury fillings are 100% safe.

  44. My dentist, who we drive an hour to take our whole family to because he is so patient, friendly, explains everything, and answers questions as thoroughly as necessary, and doesn’t push anything on us that we’re not comfortable with, this dentist looks at my mouth full of amalgam fillings and says, “Why would any dentist do such a silly thing?” He’s not talking about the years I spent having teeth drilled and filled as a child. He says the amalgams tend to expand after time, causing teeth to crack when biting down on food. I have many cracked teeth, but he is hesitant to replace fillings until they cause more trouble–because he knows I am such a chicken in the dentist chair.

    I am really surprised to hear that there are so many dentists still using amalgams. I am grateful for posts/articles like this that bring out the larger community of caring, intelligent, well-researched parents to share information.

    It shouldn’t be so hard to find professionals we can trust with our health, especially our children’s. And no one should ever take advantage of that trust, nor take it for granted.

  45. I applaud this mom. I feel the exact same way and would have done the same thing! There needs to be more moms like her out there!

  46. I live in the UK and neither me nor my children have ever been ‘offered’ an x-ray at the dentist. It obviously isn’t imperative to good dental care. I don’t understand why looking at the teeth in the mouth and not below the gumline isn’t sufficiant.

    Well done for standing your ground – I hope you find an understanding dentist

  47. Gina,

    Being snarky is distasteful. I *DON’T* think Debra is correct, but she has the right to weigh in and give her credentials/experience, which happens to be more than internet research (that is if she actually does work in a dental office).

  48. Well my first post and I get torn apart due to a differing opinion. Yes, I am a dental assistant and have been since ’97, so I have worked side by side doctors for years. I posted (and am posting now) from a mobile device so it was difficult enough to post something that long. I just thought I would offer some insight. I am sorry if I offended anyone. And, for the record, Gina, I never claimed to be an expert. I never said I was a dentist. I stated at the beginning of the post I was a dental assistant. The ADA website, which I provided does offer insight into all the topics discussed. I just figured, perhaps, some “field” experience would be appreciated.

  49. I apologize. I just read my original post and I thought I stated I was an assistant. My intent was never to mislead.

  50. You are a classic case of the danger of a little information. Yes, if your child had x-rays every six months or so, theoretically there could be an accumulation that might be harmful. The reason the medical people leave is because, unlike you or your child, if they didn’t, they’d be subjected to that same small amount of radiation dozens of times a day. I’m glad you found someone who is willing to go without, though good luck with that if your child ends up with some serious issue which needs treating. You vaccine deniers have been grievously misled. Go buy a book by a doctor named Paul Offitt called “Autism’s False Prophets.” It digs in great detail into the alleged controversy and points out the extreme flaws of the research suggesting anything other than safety for vaccines. It does not cause autism. The only loser who was still claiming that (and who had a medical degree) is being kicked out of the practice of medicine in the UK.

    If your kid isn’t vaccinated, all you do is put others at risk. I’m all for being rationally skeptical and standards certainly do change. But scientific method beats anecdotal and misread science 100 percent of the time.

  51. Oh and just a little more detail. The President’s Report was to focus on an area that frequently has not been recognized in terms of cancer research; ie, environmental causes. It does not, however, come to any conclusions. To the contrary, (quote from the Executive Summary Below):

  52. Wow. After Maria’s judgmental and rude comments Gina’s seem mild.

    I do agree with Gina though. It is not helpful for health care professionals to make blanket statements about the “safety” of something with out giving it some back up. (especially when there is obviously legitimate research that counters their statements).

    But to me the point isn’t whether or not she, as a mother, is wrong or right in decisions. (I respect the fact that she’s a THINKING parent and not just going with the status quo. )

    To me the issue is that a health care provider is a service provider. We are paying customers. and they are providing a service. they need to respect our decisions whether they agree with them or not.

    it would be unheard of if a mechanic refused to provide service to some one who decided not to replace the windshield wipers.

    Doctors/Dentists are the same. They are nothing more than glorified mechanics and they have no right to tell you how to raise your children.

  53. Thank you. I did look into the discussions a little and didnt really find anything like that. There were actually a lot of moms who encouraged getting cavities filled, even in baby teeth, to prevent further decay in the growing adult teeth. So it left me more confused and unsure. I made the appnt and asked to get her composite fillings so I guess we’ll do that unless I find a better idea or suggestion somewhere as I haven’t seen much that I haven’t already done.
    .-= Erika Marie´s last blog ..Small Successes Thursday- August 12 =-.

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