It happens more than you think. A child with a bright smile and eager energy comes to the office for the first time alongside mom sharing the same anticipation for the excitement of the first dental visit. What was intended to be a fun experience with a spinny toothbrush, flavored paste and vitamins, and lots of fun new toys take a somewhat unexpected shift. 

The dentist finds one or more areas of dental decay.

Cavities…the loaded word associated with negativity

Some parents expect it because they know their child has room for improvement in oral hygiene and diet while other parents are shocked at the diagnosis. Whenever I first start explaining the presence of decay I try to engage the parent’s response to help frame the conversation. 

Of all the different responses we get, one response is the most troubling for me. 

Mom guilt. 

And yes, I think we can accurately describe it as mom guilt because it’s not a shared emotion from many of our dads although it does exist.

Mom guilt is the idea that you have done something wrong as mom to allow decay to develop on your child’s tooth. Or you haven’t done something enough. That you have failed.

I’m sure you know the feeling because it relates to other areas of motherhood as well. 

Well, in my professional opinion, “mom guilt” about cavities is a lie. Full stop. And at least if you’re talking to me about your child’s cavities, I’m not going to allow your brain to send you down that path. 

Here’s what I know: dental decay is a complex microbiological process within a diverse oral environment resulting from a number of factors. Some of those factors are within your control. Some of those factors are likely beyond your control. 

So it’s time to tell yourself the truth: You’re not a bad mom if your child has dental decay. 

What would be worthy of mom guilt? Maybe having no interest in your child’s oral health. Or being informed of problematic areas for your child’s health and ignoring treatment recommendations. Or knowing your child is at high risk for dental decay and intentionally continuing with high risk behaviors. 

But I rarely (read: NEVER) find that to be the case. So my word to moms: stop beating yourselves up so bad. You wouldn’t have “mom guilt” if you were managing your child’s asthma or another condition inside your child’s body. You’re a good mom and you love your child. 

Find a provider who will work with you to help your child along the road to dental health wherever that may be. And along the way, stay positive inside your head. You deserve it.

Dr. Kevin Kennedy Jr.

Dr. Kevin Kennedy Jr.

Dr. Kevin Kennedy Jr. and staff believe every child is a special gift and deserve the highest level of care. We partner with parents to create great experiences and promote oral health and wellness at every visit.

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