Not exactly “anxiety-free dentistry”

September 10, 2010 at 2:08 pm 4 comments

I wasn’t going to share this story with you.  While I don’t usually hesitate to share my kid-raising shortcomings on my blog, I try to refrain from telling any stories that might be used against me in a future You Really Suck as a Parent court.  However, Brad suggested yesterday that I post about this, if only to help some other young family avoid going through the same financial and emotional ordeal.

So.  Deep sigh and here we go.  I apologize now for the long and convoluted story.

I posted earlier this summer about Alissa’s first trip to the dentist.  What I didn’t tell you in that post is that Alissa had some issues.  As in, cavities.  As in, six of them.

I know what you’re thinking.  SIX CAVITIES?!?  IN A THREE-YEAR-OLD?!?  I know that’s what you were thinking.  Because I was thinking it, too.

I didn’t mention it in that first blog post because – frankly – it made me feel about *this* high as a mother.  What kind of parent lets their child develop six cavities?  Didn’t we brush?

The answer is yes, we did, although probably not as well as we should have, so I take full responsibility for falling down on that job.  And I’ll be honest, my kid has eaten too many fruit snacks and drank too much juice over the last two years.  (More about that in a bit.)

And there’s one other thing – my kids have genetics working against them.  I also had problems with cavities in my baby teeth.  Evidently I received and passed down a mouth that contains a happy little breeding ground for bacteria.

I’ll also tell ya this, and it’s worth mentioning especially for parents of tiny tots out there.  Back when Alissa turned one, I asked our (former) family dentist when they recommended that kids see the dentist for the first time.  The answer I got was three, which I took as something just under gospel.  At Alissa’s first appointment – just after she turned three, but with a pediatric dentist – they told me that they recommend bringing kids in around the 15-18 month mark for their first check-up.  They may not do much, but they can at least see how things are developing and hopefully catch any early signs of problems.

If only I had known.  I’ll admit I said a few not-so-nice words (to myself, nobody else heard them) about the dentist who gave me the advice to wait until three.

But bygones are bygones, and now we had to get the problem fixed.  The dentist needed x-rays of the teeth, so he could see just how deep the cavities in the back were and if there were any problems between the teeth.  And he was going to have to fix the cavities we did know about.

I know Alissa, and the odds of getting her to sit still for any of that were about as high as getting Brett Favre to retire and stay retired.  Gas would have relaxed her and made her more compliant, but would have involved multiple trips to the dentist.

Our best bet was to put her completely under anesthesia.  This would allow the dentist plenty of time for x-rays and fillings.  The procedure is done in the pediatric dentistry office, and an outside surgical services team comes in to do the anesthesia.

Problem #1 for us was this: it’s not a cheap procedure.  I won’t tell you exactly how much it costs, but that’s only because I don’t quite know yet.  It’s painful to think we’re spending this much money on teeth that are just going to fall out eventually anyway.  But it has to be done, and insurance would take care of much of it for us.

Here’s the kicker: we needed insurance pre-approval.  And we were scheduled to change insurances on July 1st.  The soonest they could get us in for the procedure was July 7th, which was not enough time for the insurance company to do the pre-approval.  So they pushed us back to an August date.

But wait!  Our insurance didn’t change on July 1st.  It didn’t change until August 1st.  And we didn’t have our new insurance cards until at least the 6th or 7th.  Which means I was scrambling to get our new insurance info to the dentist’s office, so they had enough time to get it pre-approved before the procedure on August 26th.

Two weeks later: Pre-approval received.  We’re ready to go.

Before dawn on August 26th I rolled Alissa out of bed and into the car.  We had to be at the dentist’s office at 6:45 a.m.  Alissa thought it was a marvelous adventure to be outside so early.  She was excited about everything on the trip: “Mommy, look at that light!”  “Mommy, look at the moon!”  “Mommy, there are stars out!”  Obviously, we don’t make it out of the house that early very often.

When we got there, the anesthesiologist weighed Alissa, then gave her a quick shot.  The shot was to sedate her, sort of a pre-knock-her-out drug.  She wasn’t completely under, but her gross motor skills were turned off.   After the child is sedated, the anesthesiologist starts an IV to administer the drug that puts them completely under.

I have to tell you, seeing Alissa under the effects of that drug made me want to cry.  Or throw up.  Maybe throw up and then cry.  My baby – my active, joyful, lively little three-year-old who never stops moving or talking – looked like a stroke patient.  She couldn’t move her limbs or her head.  She couldn’t focus her eyes.  She couldn’t talk or smile.  Her eyes were slightly open, but she couldn’t recognize I was there.  She couldn’t feel me stroking her hair or kissing her cheek.

Fortunately, she will remember none of that.  Unfortunately, I will remember it for the rest of my life.

I was only meant to see her like that for a minute, though, for after the IV was started I would go out to the waiting room and – well – wait.   The anesthesiologist couldn’t get the IV started.  The first vein didn’t work, so he tried a second, and a third, and a fourth.  Nausea set in as he tried a fifth, and a sixth, and a seventh place.  Anger and frustration began to percolate as he tried veins eight and nine.  By poke ten he was back to veins he had already tried.

That’s when I shut it down.  She’s not a pincushion!  It just wasn’t meant to happen on that day, with that anesthesiologist.  We would let her come around, and try it again some other day.  With another drug man, obviously, ’cause that one wasn’t getting near my little girl with a needle again.

Yesterday was the big reschedule day.  This time we had the “boss man” anesthesiologist, a guy who’s been doing it for a crazy long time and was fabulous with Alissa.  Again with the shot, and the stroke symptoms, but this time the IV was in on the first try and I only had to see her like that for a few minutes before I scooted out to a corner of the waiting room.

Turns out one of the cavities in back was pretty deep.  She had to have a pulpotomy – kind of like a root canal lite.  She also got a partial crown on two of her back teeth.  The other cavities were more superficial than anything, and they were easily fixed.

I definitely don’t want to go through this again with either kid, so as a result we’ve made some changes around here.  Since Wichita’s water isn’t fluoridated, the dentist wrote us a prescription for some fluoride vitamins.  They are a chewable tablet, made especially for kids ages 3 and up.  I had never heard of anything like that before, but my mother-in-law suggested them to us.

As for the fruit snacks and the juice, Alissa and I had a talk.  Sesame Street has a really good episode in which Cookie Monster explains that “cookies are a sometimes food.”  Alissa understands now that juice and candy and fruit snacks and sugar is a sometimes food, not an all-the-time food.   She also understands that water and fruits and vegetables make our whole bodies happy, not just our teeth.


Entry filed under: Life in general.

Product Recall: Play with your veggies toys from The Land of Nod What’s playing in Amy’s ear?

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Huskerwife  |  September 10, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    OH MY!! I am crying with you!! What an ordeal! Thankfully she wont remember it and you did a great job letting all of us know to get our little ones in to the dentist before 3 as I was also told!

  • 2. caela  |  September 10, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    I was told 5 and we took Johannah when she was 5. Ethan and Adrian got an earlier visit 4 & 3 respectively. But their first visits were all cleanings. The second were x-rays and visual poking around. From there we have been good about bi-annual visits.

    But this last time we learned Ethan had cavities and we took him in for them to be filled – the moment the drill turned on he went ballistic. That was 2 months ago, we haven’t even scheduled him with another dentist because it was so traumatic for Dave and Ethan.

    This post encouraged me to make a call. So thank you for sharing.

  • 3. Anne  |  September 10, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Sadie who is only five has had 2 cavities, maybe 3. One of them I neglected to have filled and it turned absess and she had to have it pulled last week! Talk about feeling like a bad mother. We didn’t have to put her under though, she was happy with gas and saying hysterical things, so that was fun ; )

    Now if I could keep her away from the sweets, I think that will be more torture than having a tooth pulled.

  • 4. Jennifer  |  September 10, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Ellie, 7, has had 6 cavaties, all easily filled with a laser that doesn’t required the shots to numb the mouth and tooth area. Carson, 4, just had two teeth filled today. He had to have the shot! He was a super patient but I sat there about the have a heart attack the entire time. Our dentist has been awesome with both of them. We have been using the flouride tabs for a while but apparently these are for the permanent teeth that are forming. We also use a special flouride toothpaste at night for the baby teeth.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Like my Facebook page!

Get my app for Android!


%d bloggers like this: