Positive Thoughts From A Negative Mama: Avoiding Decay

A mother shares her son's dental distresses.

While many families are enjoying the last vestiges of summer before heading back to the school routine, we are practically taking up residence at our pediatric dentist’s office, dealing with dental decay. They just might add a specially-reserved chair or wing for us soon.

The truth is that my poor boy was born with less-than-perfect teeth. Well actually he wasn’t born with any teeth at all since he was a newborn, but as he’s gotten older we’ve discovered that genetics and family history have not been all that kind in the dental arena.

Now almost all kids eat too much sugar on occasion or get a cavity or two during their early years. Our boy however has teeth that are prone to decay… and by that I mean EXTREMELY prone. At just seven years old, he’s already had to have three baby teeth pulled, had one filling and is headed for two pulpectomies (basically little kid root canals) and two caps on those teeth. Amazingly, the boy who is otherwise prone to dramatic flourishes of frustration and regular statements of "this is the WORST day of my life," seems to be handling it all quite well. We have yet to see if his younger sister will share a similar dental fate.

Who am I and why am I telling you this you may ask. Well, I am their loving mother – an over thinker, who worries too much, takes things too seriously, struggles with depression and anxiety. Sometimes I aspire to be the Martha Stewart of motherhood, but I more often than not feel far closer to Erma Bombeck and some days I just try to hold on.

Being the kind of mother who worries a lot (did I mention I was raised by a world-class worrier) I could easily work myself into a frenzy over our family’s dental future but I’m trying hard not to do that - this time.

Much like the larger world we all live in, it would be easy these days to get overwhelmed at just about every turn if we pay attention to all the negative stories getting attention from our so-called media. But rather than succumbing to mental decay from this barrage of bad news, what I’m here to tell you is an interesting twist of fate – even a negative mama like me can see there’s lot of great news going on every day and lots of great people changing things for the better. I’m here to share some of that good news with you.

The good news for those of us who are dentally-challenged this week is xylitol. You heard (or read) that right. If you aren’t familiar with it, xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar sometimes extracted from birch wood. Unlike regular sugar which can decay teeth, xylitol does not encourage decay and may actively aid in repairing minor cavities. Originating in Finland, the sugary substance is used almost exclusively there and in most of Europe to sweeten all chewing gums.*

Now while my son won’t chew gum (doesn’t like the chewing, the potential to swallow, the need to spit it out), he will brush with the xylitol toothpaste and he will eat goodies made with the xylitol granulated sugar. You can bet he’ll be packing xylitol in his backpack and lunchbox when he heads back to school!
Don’t forget to visit your dentist for a checkup and me, negative mama, for a bit of preventative good news from the home front and beyond.

*You can find out more information about Xylitol at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xylitol