Gone are the days of visiting the kiddie dentist as a tot to get a cavity or two filled: These days, an increasing number of preschoolers are getting knocked out with general anesthesia so dentists can fix extensive problems, in procedures that cost parents anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000. The New York Times recounts a few disturbing stories, like the 2½-year-old who had 11 cavities in his 20 baby teeth and had to have a root canal and two extractions. "I had a lot on my mind, and brushing his teeth was an extra thing I didn’t think about at night," says his mother.
More preschoolers are showing up with six to 10 cavities or more, and the procedures required to fix such extensive decay are too long for most to sit through without the anesthesia. Dentists say the problem is a result of parents not knowing the basics, like using fluoride toothpaste and cutting down on sweet snacks and drinks. Others simply don't enforce tooth-brushing: "Some parents say: 'He doesn’t want his teeth brushed. We’ll wait until he’s more emotionally mature,'" says one dentist. "It’s baffling."