I’m not sure what to do about my son’s dental care. He’s five. We started taking him to the dentist last year. He’s a wiggly boy. Not defiant but wiggly. They never can get an x-ray on him, but they gave him his checkup. He got the all clear both times. A week after his second appointment, he came to my room in the middle of the night crying and in pain. He kept saying his tooth hurt. I gave him some pain medicine and put him to bed with me. The next morning I called his pediatric dentist, but they weren’t open on Fridays. I didn’t want to wait the whole weekend because he was in so much pain so I called my dentist. They got him in right away. They did manage to get x-rays, pretty easily actually. Once they checked him over they told me he had a roaring infection. More than that, they hinted the dentist should have noticed this was brewing. It was so bad they couldn’t save his tooth. They talked to him for a minute and explained they were going to get his tooth to stop hurting. The dentist told him how they’d do it in a way a child could understand. They gave him some nitrous to relax him and the whole thing went smoothly. My big question is I lost confidence in our pediatric dentist. Unfortunately, they’re the only pediatric dentists in our area. So, do I travel to another city? Is there a way my son can just go to my dentist or is that unsafe?
It sounds like you are a great mom who strives to do what is best for her son. Great job following your instincts and getting him in to see someone right away. That was wise. When there is an infected tooth it is considered a dental emergency. These things can spread quickly. Even in the 21st century, people are still dying from tooth infections because they don’t realize how serious they are.
Tooth infections spread. The reason for the severity is how close our jaws are to both our hearts and our brains. Often there’s pain in the tooth at first, but eventually, the tooth dies and the pain goes away. The problem is, the infection is still there and spreading. Once they reach those major organs, it becomes life-threatening quickly. Some patients mistakenly think just taking an antibiotic will do the trick. However, the infection originated inside the tooth. The antibiotic can only help hold it off for a bit. To completely remove it, a dentist has to go in there and get it out of the pulp of the tooth. This is known as a root canal treatment.
Sometimes, as in your son’s case, it is too far gone and the tooth can’t be saved with a root canal. The tooth has to be extracted. If the tooth which they removed from your son was a molar, your dentist would have placed a space retainer in its place. This is because those teeth are supposed to stay in place for 12 years or so. With it gone, the other teeth will begin to drift leaving no space for his 12-year-old molars to come in. This leads to crowding and expensive orthodontic treatments.
Do Children Have to See a Pediatric Dentist?
If your personal dentist is willing to see your son on a regular basis, I would switch him to there. He obviously is good with children. In fact, your son did better there than at your pediatric clinic, even under the duress of pain. This is impressive. Even non-wiggly children will struggle while they are in so much pain.
You asked about the safety of him seeing a general dentist instead of a pediatric dentist. General dentists are qualified to treat children. Each of them did a pediatric rotation. If anything comes up which requires a specialty, they will write you a referral. Because of the situation with your son’s current dentist, you can ask him for a referral elsewhere. I’m sure he’ll accommodate.
There’s one important factor when choosing a general dentist over a pediatric dentist. You want to ask them when they are comfortable treating children. If they say seven or eight years old, then children aren’t really their thing. This obviously isn’t a problem with your family dentist. He seems great with children.
Best of luck to you and your son!
This blog is brought to you by Huntsville Dentist Dr. Steven Murphree.