Parenting

Why you should get a second opinion at the dentist

Ian writes about how a recent trip to the dentist with his daughter left a bad taste in his mouth.

Lily and her teeth. Photo courtesy of Ian Mendes.

If you stop and think about it, dentists have a lot in common with mechanics.

While wearing white lab coats and holding a drill, both of them enjoy handing out sky-high estimates to frightened customers in the waiting room.

One of these days, I’m just waiting for a dentist to use the classic mechanic’s line and tell me, “Legally, I can’t let you walk out of here with that overbite.”

A couple of weeks ago, we had an experience with a dentist that left us with a terrible taste in our mouth.

We had been taking both our daughters into a ‘kid-friendly’ dental practice here in Ottawa. According to the dentist over there, Lily needed some extensive work done on her baby teeth. On our last visit, we had an estimate for $3,200 in work that they said needed to be done on her right away. Included in that estimate was the recommendation that one of her teeth — the one right next to her front tooth — needed to be extracted.

My wife was very skeptical about the fact that one of Lily’s baby teeth needed to be extracted. It did get slightly chipped while she was learning to skate this winter — the direct result of Lily inheriting our athletic skills. But Sonia wasn’t certain that this was a pressing dental emergency.

“Does it have to come out right now?” she asked.

“Yes, it’s completely discolored. Can’t you see that the tooth is turning grey? This has to come out right away,” the dentist coldly replied.

My wife could not see any grey or discoloration of the tooth. Sonia’s four-year journalism degree may not qualify her to examine kid’s teeth, but it does make her ask a lot of questions.

So she repeatedly asked about why this baby tooth needed to be extracted. Wouldn’t this just be falling out in a couple of years anyway?

But the dentist insisted the tooth needed to come out right away. If we didn’t extract this tooth, it would cause damage to the root and affect the adult tooth when it comes in two years later.

Some dentists have a way of being condescending. No matter how much you’re brushing and flossing for your child, there is always more that you can be doing. And if you don’t immediately take drastic steps, your child will be ostracized when they are teenagers for having a less-than perfect dental structure.

This dentist certainly fell into that category and Sonia came home very upset with the news that Lily’s tooth had to be extracted.  

We started picturing our little princess taking photos for the next two years with a missing tooth. We imagined her reading words like “super” and “silly” and having it come out as “thuper” and “thilly” instead. I love sports, but I don’t want my beautiful four-year-old to look like a hockey player for two of the most photogenic years of her life.

I inspected Lily’s tooth and also didn’t see any grey or discoloration in the tooth. (My journalism degree does allow me to accurately examine children’s teeth).

When we looked at the estimate, we realized that there was a $1,200 fee for anesthetics. The dentist had suggested that we take Lily to the operating room at the children’s hospital here in Ottawa and have her put under for this procedure.

Since our oldest daughter has had several trips to the hospital, my wife and I are experts in anesthetics. And we know that you should explore every possible alternative to putting your child under at the hospital. It’s a very traumatic experience for the child and it takes hours for the effects to wear off.

So we decided to take Lily to another dentist clinic here in Ottawa, just to get a second opinion. We brought the estimate in with us, just so we could give them an accurate picture of what work they wanted to do on her teeth.

The new dentist looked at Lily’s teeth and didn’t see the need for immediate and drastic action to be taken. This dentist did not agree with the assessment that the tooth needed to be extracted immediately. He saw no obvious signs of trauma to the tooth or any discoloration that raised any red flags. And given the certificates and degrees on the wall, I’m assuming he actually went to medical school.

We simply booked another appointment with him and he fixed the chipped tooth. On top of this, he didn’t even use any local anesthetic on Lily’s tooth to fix the problem. He added a little bit of structure to the tooth and it looks as good as new. He said it will be more than good enough to last until the tooth falls out in a couple of years.

And the grand total for this procedure was a whopping $250.

No pulled tooth, no trip to the hospital and no bill that could have sent us on a nice vacation.

And I love the fact that Lily can say “second opinion” without any obvious speech impediment.

Editor’s Note: For more information on your child’s oral hygiene, visit our Oral Care page.