On Mom Guilt and Root Canals

Dr. Van and Georgie

Three root canals and five fillings. That’s the amount of dental work my 4-year-old recently needed.


Becoming a parent, at least for me, is signing up for a lifetime of guilt. My older daughter Georgie is watching a movie as I type this. I feel guilty she is watching a movie. I let my younger daughter Abigail cry for twenty minutes earlier today after trying again and again to get her to nap. When I finally gave in to her cries, I suffered from guilt when I learned she had an explosively dirty diaper. I’m constantly guilty that I’m not doing enough for my kids, that I’m completely failing at this whole raising kids business.

So you can imagine the guilt I felt when I learned my daughter would need extensive dental work to reverse her cavities. The guilt surged through me as I questioned where I had gone wrong. We hadn’t been vigilant about teeth brushing. We probably let her have too much sugar. We let her eat apples in bed during family storytime.

And now my preschooler needed to go under anesthesia.

I was shaky and emotional the day of the big appointment, but the folks at Gilroy Pediatric Dentistry made the experience as smooth as possible. Dr. Vincent Van has taken over for beloved longtime dentist Dr. Michael McKeever in the nautically themed office on Wren Street. Dr. Van and his friendly staff kept me informed about the process and treated my daughter with so much respect.

Georgie was out of it for a few hours after the appointment, but when she awoke, the first thing she said was, “we forgot to get a toy and sticker from the dentist!” Yeah Georgie, we um, forgot. So we piled in the van and made a second appearance for the goodies.

Today we had a follow-up appointment. Georgie was excited to see her "favorite dentist" and kicked up her typical fashion with a Minnie Mouse dress for the special occasion. She beamed with pride when she got "five stars" for great brushing. What a relief. Moving on in the land of no cavities. I feel safe in the hands of Dr. Van and know my kids will be well taken care of. Flossing has become a militant nightly ritual and apples have been banned in the bedroom. Georgie has three silver teeth that will fall out in several years when her adult teeth come in.

Here’s to second chances. And to letting go of some of the guilt that paralyzes us from our best selves. Our kids will all be OK.