Remember that scary shark mouth close-up in the movie Finding Nemo? Last year our family had its own kid-size version. My seven-year-old son found new teeth growing in right behind his baby teeth. Nightmare in suburbia.
I consulted with my kids’ dentist and without hesitation he said, “Give it a week, if it’s not out we’ll numb it up with some nitrous oxide, perhaps a touch of Novocain. A quick extraction. Don’t fret, they’ll be out in a second.” But guess what? That’s exactly what I did: fret. Big time.
As we all do when faced with the prospect of subjecting our kids to pain, I winced and worried. Initially I felt compelled to follow “doctor’s orders” but then I hesitated. Was the trauma I’d put my child through be worth it? To this day, I remember the pain and horror of having four teeth removed at the age of five. Was this medical intervention entirely necessary? But if I waited, would his front teeth be forever crooked?
This is just a minor example of the kind of medical dilemma many parents must face sooner or later. When should you go ahead with strabismus surgery, ear tubes, tonsillectomy, or medicate for Attention Deficit Disorder? Should we as moms ever have our tubes tied or use hormone replacement treatment? Procedures that were once routine such as tonsillectomy for repeated sore throats and tube tying after your last child are no longer so common. More and more evidence shows that sometimes today’s popular medical intervention is not worth the risks it involves.
Why Some Parents Disagree with Doc
James S. Gordon, MD, Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington has written about the drawbacks of a health care system that “places overwhelming emphasis on expensive and often side effect-laden surgical and pharmacological treatments.” He cites the New England Journal of Medicine, in which a study of knee surgery was described. Amazingly, the placebo group (those who only thought they had surgery) did just as well as those who were actually operated on.
Dr. Gordon chaired the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy, which concluded that instead of using more and more expensive high-tech interventions, the importance of an informed public, of self-care and self-awareness (nutrition, exercise, and mind-body approaches) should be stressed.
Are Doctors Too Reactive?
Today, it seems that more people are concerned about overmedication and are looking for alternatives. A 1998 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 42 percent of all Americans are using alternative medicine to complement or as alternative to conventional medicine.
Mothers and fathers are getting more educated about medical interventions by using three important sources: asking for second opinions from others in the medical profession; reading the abundant literature on the subject; and increasingly these days, turning to the web for information. There is a world of information available online that can provide useful insights into treatments and their side effects, and help you enormously in your decision-making.
Use Your Parental Instincts
Only you can decide what’s best for your child. You must take into account both the physical and mental impact of the proposed intervention. “It’s a gut reaction,” says Elizabeth, a mom from the San Francisco Bay Area, who decided, after trying every exercise, nutritional and other alternative for two years, that her son needed to be on medication for Attention Deficit Disorder. “In two days he was a different person, and could operate happily in the real world,” she says.