Trust your parental instincts and do not ignore your child’s dental abscess.
On day four of having our little Emilia home from the hospital, we were still in zombie parent mode. Our first girls totally spoiled us. They slept long stretches through the night, even when we first brought them home. Emila not so much. That’s ok, though. Emilia is such an adorable baby. I think we’ll keep her anyway!
THREE GIRLS, THREE UNIQUE PERSONALITIES
We now have three amazing daughters. It is too early to determine my youngest’s personality traits. She is only one-month-old. Now, Lucy, my oldest reminds me of myself. She is more analytical and cautious. She likes to check things out, observe for a little while, then take action. From what I can tell thus far, my middle daughter is the opposite, and I appreciate her fearlessness.
Violet does not typically survey situations before moving forward. Rather, she vigorously jumps into those situations, often head first. At two and a half years old, this leads to the obvious head abrasions, cuts, scrapes, bruises, and all of the like.
A TRAUMATIZED TOOTH
About three weeks ago, my little Violet was running clumsily, tripped, fell, and landed flat on her lovely little face. This type of fall is not an uncommon toddler injury. Children fall all the time. Unless you plan on wrapping your child in bubble wrap, they will inevitably suffer from the occasional injury.
Unfortunately, Violet landed on her front tooth, and it began to stream blood. After she would finally let us look at the injured tooth, we discovered that it became very loose.
She hit this exact tooth one other time as well, six months prior. The on-call nurse at the time told us to keep a watch on it, but that the gum should firm up again within 1-2 weeks and the tooth would return to normal. To our delight, after two weeks, the tooth was no longer wiggly, and it did go back to normal. However, the recent fall was more severe. The tooth remained loose for about a month.
DISCOVERING THE DENTAL ABSCESS
Then, on day four of having Emilia home from the hospital (two days before Christmas), I noticed a large pimple-like bump above the injured tooth. After Googling this “bump” for quite some time, it seemed to be what is called a dental abscess. Of course, I have a terrible tendency to become consumed with medical conditions, symptoms, and treatments. I can’t help myself. I have to look up everything on the internet. My parents happened to be over when I noticed the dental abscess. My father kept saying, “Don’t obsess over this.” This directive I am all too familiar with because I’ve been a worry wart since I was a child.
I snuck off into the other room to call our pediatric dentist, knowing they were off for Christmas, but hoping for a referral contact. Luckily, on their voicemail, they provide a number to call in the case of a dental emergency. I speedily dialed the number and left a detailed message.
The next day was Christmas Eve. Since I did not hear back from anyone, I decided to call again. Too much of what I read online suggested this dental abscess, this bacterial infection, should not go untreated.
AN ABSCESS IS A DENTAL EMERGENCY
When I called again in the morning, the dentist picked up. Yeah! She apologized and said she did not receive my previous voicemail. From my description alone, she said it did sound like an abscess. She had me take a picture and text it to her for review. After that visual confirmation, she said there was no doubt it was a dental abscess. She ordered a prescription to clear up the bacterial infection. The bombshell was when she stated that they might need to perform an extraction. Truthfully, it was not a bombshell, based on the information I found online. I was just keeping my fingers crossed that it would not come to that extreme.
Apparently, when the tooth suffers trauma such as this, the root is sometimes broken or destroyed, and the tooth permanently dies. We scheduled Violet for an examination as soon as possible, which was two days after Christmas when the office reopened.
A SECOND OPINION
Coincidentally, my aunt Barbara (who is a dentist) came to visit the new baby the day before we were scheduled to visit our pediatric dentist. Getting a second opinion was great. She confirmed that often with a child’s dental abscess, you must remove the baby tooth to preserve the permanent tooth.Without an x-ray, she could not confirm this 100%, but at least we felt reassured this was a standard course of action for this situation. My aunt also said that sometimes they perform what is called a pulpotomy, a “baby root canal.”
COURSE OF ACTION
At the appointment, they examined the tooth, the abscess, and reviewed the x-rays. It was a big bummer because the dentist confirmed that the tooth needed to come out. On the x-ray, she pointed out the infection and the destroyed root. I asked about a pulpotomy, but she said they do not typically perform that procedure on someone so young. It was also more invasive and would not guarantee to resolve the infection. The only guaranteed way to get rid of the dental abscess, prevent the bacteria from spreading, and preserve the permanent tooth was to extract the infected and dead baby tooth. Apparently, if left untreated, the dental abscess can migrate to other parts of the body and become quite dangerous. See Dear Dad. I am glad I followed my motherly instincts!
MY POOR BABY
After the dentist diagnosed the tooth and recommended treatment, I got a little teary. In conjunction with my, “just had a baby” hormones, I welled up for a few reasons:
One was guilt. Was there something we could have done to prevent this dental abscess from forming? The dentist reassured me that there was nothing we could have done. Half the time children fall, a traumatized tooth returns to normal without significant issues, and half the time the tooth develops an abscess and becomes infected. Again, unless we plan on wrapping our children in bubble wrap, they will suffer the occasional injury. Unfortunately, in Violet’s case, it was just too bad a fall this go around.
Second, and purely superficial, was the gap that would remain in her mouth. Violet’s permanent front tooth will not come until she is 7 or 8 years old. This gap was also closely tied to the guilt factor, feeling like there was something we could have done to prevent this from happening.
The third and the most emotional reason I began to cry was at the thought of the procedure, the tooth extraction. My poor baby was going to have to go through this ordeal at two and a half years old!
Like I said, the last few weeks have been very eventful.
The next step was discussing options for the extraction, nitrous oxide vs. anesthesia, and preparing our toddler for the big day.
What dental emergencies have you faced with your child?