WEDNESDAY, Feb. 11, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Lucia Garcia couldn't believe the call she received four years ago.
Her sister, who was babysitting Garcia's 4-year-old son, Jonathan, said the boy was complaining of a toothache.
"When they start talking about a toothache at that age, you have to wonder, do they really know what a toothache is?" says Garcia, a dental assistant in Chicago. The boy had had a general dental screening at age 3 and everything seemed fine.
Garcia took her son to the dentist, and found out he did indeed know what a toothache was. He also needed about $3,000 in dental work, including one extraction, three root canals and caps for his four front teeth.
"You really don't think there's much that can go wrong with baby teeth," Garcia says, looking back. "They fall out when they get their permanent teeth and that's it."
Garcia now believes her son's diet had a lot to do with his tooth decay. "He ate a lot of pastas, some candy, a lot of juice," she says.
She and her husband also hadn't started brushing Jonathan's teeth until he was 3 years old, and then only every other night.
The dental work was tough on the child. He behaved well during the first visit, although he was a bit scared. "He was OK with the local" anesthetic, Garcia remembers.
But on the second visit, Jonathan "flipped out," Garcia says. "He was tired. I brought him in late in the afternoon. He just walked in and said, 'I don't want to do it.'"
Garcia had to take him home and schedule a third visit. That time, the dentist sedated Jonathan and performed all the necessary work at once.
Garcia took the lessons learned from her first son and applied them to her second boy, Isaiah, who is now is 2. Jonathan is 8.
"His first two teeth, we were brushing," Garcia says of Isaiah. The boy had his first dental visit by his first birthday, and cleanings every six months after that.
"He is doing great, no cavities, no nothing," she says. Jonathan also has a healthy smile now, too.
Garcia says it can be difficult to get a child Isaiah's age to sit still for a brushing. So she makes it a game by giving him the toothbrush after she's done to let him have his turn.
"You just have to make it fun for them to want to do it," she says.
She also got Isaiah interested in brushing by getting him a battery-powered spinning toothbrush for children. "We don't have to play any games with that one," she says.