I spent all of last night trying to psych myself up for today, prepared for Cordy to endure dental torture and probably some kind of sedating agent to allow tooth professionals to perform said dental torture.
No one told me the torture would be all mine today.
We arrived at the dental clinic at Children’s Hospital at 12:15pm. The emergency clinic opened at 1:00, so we took a number (#3 at 45 min. early!) and waited. Cordy was a little unsure of the waiting room, made worse minute by minute as more and more people filled the tiny room, eventually taking up every seat. It became loud and chaotic quickly. I silently hoped that, as #3 in line, we’d quickly be whisked away from the din of that waiting room.
The clock struck one and the registration window opened. #3 was called five minutes later and I approached the window, only to be turned away with a clipboard full of paperwork and instructions to return when I had filled it all out. Meanwhile, other numbers were called and other children were shuffled back into the office. I used my best speed penmanship to complete the forms and rush back to the window. I was again told to have a seat and they would let me know when they needed me again.
45 minutes later, we still waited. The room was still loud, Cordy was begging to go home and complaining of hunger. My head was pounding. When our name was called again, we went to the window only to be given an ID sticker to put on Cordy’s shirt, with the message to sit down and wait more.
Half an hour later, it was time to see the doctor.
We were brought back into a tiny room, where I explained what I knew: Cordy’s lower right back molar was broken, she may be in pain but we can never be sure, and she’s a difficult patient. The doctor coaxed Cordy into showing her the tooth (thanks to my offer to let Cordy cook tonight if she cooperated). The doctor then immediately launched into a lecture on cavities that made me feel about two inches tall. She seemed to assume I fed Cordy a steady diet of Mountain Dew and pixie sticks.
“Wait,” I interrupted, “How does she have a cavity? She doesn’t eat a lot of sweets, we brush her teeth, and I check her teeth weekly. I’ve never noticed even a darkish spot on that tooth. And she never eats hard candy or anything harder than a Goldfish cracker.”
The doctor paused, then told me how fluoride toothpaste can mask a cavity, effectively covering it up with a fluoride shell. I’ll admit, that made no sense to me at all. But then as she continued on, I again felt like she was somehow saying this was all my fault.
She then confirmed what I suspected: Cordy would need general anesthesia to repair the tooth. The better news? As long as it isn’t infected, they will be able to cap the tooth and not need to pull it. Then she told me, “The wait time for dental surgery right now is about 8-10 weeks.”
I stared at her hard for a moment, not sure if I heard her correctly. “You mean for routine stuff, right?”
“No, I mean for any dental surgery.”
As you know, I am nearly-a-nurse. I understand that a parent’s sense of urgency isn’t always the same as a medical sense of urgency. In that moment, however? I was ready to call the doctor a quack.
“8-10 weeks? But what if she’s in pain? We’re supposed to let her be in pain for 8-10 weeks?” I then explained Cordy’s odd pain reception, and how we don’t know if she’s hurting or not. She now won’t let me brush the tooth, so I can only assume she’s hurting. “There’s no way I can let her hurt for 8-10 weeks.”
The doctor nodded. “Well, since she is special needs, and has unique sensory issues, we can then consider that she is in pain and find an earlier surgery date. I believe there might be some spots available in 2-3 weeks.”
Again, a look of stupor had to show on my face. “2-3 weeks is considered acceptable for a child in pain?”
The doctor then tried to explain to me that there was acute pain and chronic pain, and how this is likely chronic pain, which a child can “get used to.” Ah. Well, that explains everything. She can just get used to hurting. No prob.
The entire procedure was explained to me, and I agreed that it sounded like the best possible procedure. General anesthesia gives them a chance to check for any other problems, correct them if needed, and give her teeth a good cleaning while she’s there.
So now we’re waiting to get a surgery date sometime in the next 2-3 weeks. And Cordy has to get a physical, also, to rule out anything that could prevent her from having surgery. (Including “malignant hyperthermia” according to the doctor, which I know can’t be determined from a simple physical.)
I am completely on-board with the procedure. It’s what Cordy needs. I also know that not everyone can walk-in and have dental surgery, despite what the ER led me to believe. I’m frustrated by the long wait, however. If Cordy’s tooth doesn’t become infected, we can save it. But if it does, the tooth will be pulled, which could throw off the spacing in her mouth. As someone who had braces for 5 years, I’d rather not screw up the good spacing she currently has. And the longer it takes to get this done, the greater the chance of infection, not to mention being in pain for longer than I would like.
The entire time the doctor and I talked, Cordy was miserable, sitting near the door, pulling on the doorknob begging to go home. She was scared by the medical equipment in the room, and the doctor often got right in her face, which is good for many kids, but completely intimidates Cordy. I hate that I had to put her through that today, and will have to put her through it again, along with a trip to her pediatrician, too.
We left Children’s Hospital exhausted: Cordy still with a broken tooth, and me with a killer headache and a lot of frustration. Cordy winced tonight when I brushed her teeth, denying that it hurt but showing signs that it did. The prescription painkiller (hydrocodone) did nothing to make it better, and in typical Cordy response, actually made her more alert and awake instead of drowsy.
This is one of those times when I can’t make everything better for her, and it really upsets me. I feel helpless, stuck in the system. I’m not asking for any kind of special treatment, either. In some ways, the special treatment we need is causing this to take longer – if Cordy could sit still and be a compliant patient, everything would have been fixed today in the dentist’s chair.
But as her mom, with all nearly-a-nurse knowledge put aside, I think it’s unfair to make her endure more pain because a condition she can’t control keeps her from being a model patient. I want to rage about how insane this all is to someone who can do something, but it wouldn’t help. It’s not rational, but isn’t that part of what being a parent is all about? We want to protect our children against anything, against all enemies, even if those enemies are reason and logic. Mama bear instinct is strong.
So now, we wait. And I make every effort to relax, while watching Cordy closely for signs of infection and hoping she isn’t hurting.
I hate this.