Monday, 13 January 2020

Dentists’ Dangerous Diet Talk

Pediatric dentists (1)Reader Alissa was just trying to get her kids good dental care. Instead they got a mouthful of bad nutrition advice.

She says:

This was the second time we had seen this dentist. The first time, they went on for a long while about food, but this second time, my mother went with my kids, so I wasn’t there.

Over the dinner table, my daughter volunteered this thought: “When the other kids eat raisins at school for snack, I’m not going to, because the dentist said they were bad.”

I emailed the doctor giving her feedback that my daughter had taken away this horrifying idea from their food lectures, and that perhaps if they wanted to discuss nutrition so deeply, that they get trauma and eating disorder-informed training. Because diet doesn’t occur in a vacuum… there are already social messages being sent to children about food and body size.. and to ignore this just to talk about cavity reduction is naive.

This dentist called me the morning after I sent the feedback via their system, and she was incredibly defensive. She seemingly wanted to call to convince me that talking about food with young children was a totally great idea. She also wanted to convince me that no one has ever complained about it before so why did I complain? At some point I even had to say “Why did you call me?” Eating disorders are on the rise in children, and perhaps pediatric dentists aren’t really helping that, even if they feel like discussing food could help cavity reduction. “

The dentist, Alissa found, sends home a big chart about food, “they basically have a policy against like… all crackers… all dried fruits… all sweets… they are cool with veggies, meats and cheeses. They give a talk in the beginning of the appointment about it”. Her dentist was upset about her negative feedback and claimed that pediatric dentists are being told to talk more about food with the children (who are brought to them for dentistry services.

In truth, this whole thing is obnoxious and quite possibly dangerous. Nutrition (other than discussing things like brushing after eating) should not be the purview of dentists, and certainly not pediatric dentists who are seeing kids in what is often a high-stress situation, of which the kids have almost no control or way out, at a time when the likelihood of developing an eating disorder is raised. Unless they have advanced training in nutrition and preventing eating disorders, pediatric dentists need to stay all the way in their lane and stick to teeth.

If you have kids and you are taking them to a dentist, it might be worth a conversation with the dentist to make sure that there’s no diet talk in their dentistry or fatphobia in their fluoride treatment. A lot of the points from the experts in this article may be helpful for the discussion.

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