Covid Dental Work Disaster

Mix dental work with the added fun of a pandemic, and you’re in for quite the unexpected treat. Our regular cleanings for the kids scheduled for March 2020 were pushed for months. When we finally were able to go, we got the news that my 6-year-old autistic son had his first cavity. We go to a dentist that specializes in pediatrics, and who is fantastic and extremely patient with our son. But even with all that they do, a regular cleaning is next to impossible. So,we knew that getting this taken care of would likely involve having him sedated. Our doctor works with a couple of local hospitals and said that the procedure would take place there.

We were slightly familiar with the procedure of going to the hospital and being put out for dental work since just a year earlier my daughter had to have this done as well. Our dentist works with two local hospitals, one is just a general hospital and one is a children’s hospital. From past experience, I always opt for the children’s hospitals whenever the option is given, but unfortunately, we were told that due to Covid the availability to get into the children’s hospital would not be for two months. The other hospital had availability in 3 weeks. Just between the time of our appointment and scheduling, I was able to tell that my son’s tooth was starting to bother him, so we went ahead and opted to take the first available slot. There were still a couple of hurdles to jump to make this all happen. Small hurdle number one, get a physical from his pediatrician at least 2 weeks prior to the procedure, easy enough. Much larger hurdle number two, navigate through all the additional Covid procedures put in place.

We received a call from a hospital nurse about 6 days before the procedure giving us the rundown of everything. She told us the hospital would call the day before the procedure with the general information: Time to arrive, how long to fast, what he should wear, etc. Then she told us 3 items that concerned me.

Issue number one, order in which patients were seen for these procedures were based on age. Most of the kids needing sedation for dental procedures are likely younger than my son. My concern with this was keeping him away from all food and water the entire morning of the procedure. My boy is an early riser and that could be a long morning of him not understanding why he can’t have something, with a potential risk that he finds something on his own as well. I pushed the issue stating my concerns, which they said they would definitely take into consideration, and we did end up with a pretty early slot at 7:30 in the morning. We also opted to stay in a hotel the night before, just to help reduce the chances on him getting something we were trying to keep him away from.

My second, and largest concern was that we were only permitted to have one caregiver come in with us. I saw this as a problem as my son is quite strong, quite fast, and doesn’t love going to the doctor in general. Extra hands in this case would not only be important, but truly a safety factor. I discussed our situation with the nurse and thankfully after talking with her supervisor, they were willing to make an exemption and let us have both parents come with him.

Final issue number three, we were required to have him get a Covid test. I had not had one myself at this point, but had heard that the nasal swab test could be quite invasive and painful. I asked if there were other testing options for him? I mean, we are having to go to a hospital to have basic dental work completed! So, I can only imagine how well a Covid test would go. The only alternative they gave me was to swab around the nose and not go as far back into the nasal civility as they did for adults. I accepted, as I had no other real option.

The Covid test was a drive-up facility at the same hospital we would be going to later that week. We did not have to get out of our vehicle. We arrived at our scheduled time and someone came out wearing just shy of a hazmat suit to get the swab. I tried just rolling down the window for her, but of course, my son would not even let he get close to his face with that thing. I asked if I was allowed to help and she said yes. Luckily, we rock a minivan, so I was able to open the sliding doors to get better access. After essentially sitting on him so that I could keep his hands down and head still, we got the swab completed. We were told that we would be notified only if the test was positive and otherwise, we should just wait for the call the day before the procedure with final instructions. Just an hour ride home of crying and we were one step closer to getting this thing taken care of.

The call came in about 1pm on Wednesday, with just the general no to eat after midnight and that they would see us at 7:30am at the hospital the next morning. We get everything ready and when my husband gets home from work that day we head for the hotel. We grab food ahead of time to eat in the room and head in for a pretty quiet night. Damion falls asleep around his usual 8:30pm and we just chill for a bit before trying to get to sleep ourselves.

Unexpectedly, my phone starts ringing about 10:30pm. I figure it is probably my parents who are currently watching our other two while we are away, but look down to see a number that I don’t recognize. I pick up and am greeted with our dentist’s voice. He said that he just got off the phone with the hospital and we would not be able to get the procedure done tomorrow because my son tested positive for Covid.

Extremely surprised, I ask if they were sure? I mean, none of us have any symptoms, not even a runny nose. On top of that, we have essentially been nowhere. It is summertime at this point, even parks are still roped off, so our adventures are kept pretty much to our backyard. He says that unfortunately even if it is a false positive (no way to really know), and that the hospitals policy requires at least 4 weeks before he is allowed to be retested and rescheduled for his procedure. I was frustrated, but knew it was not his fault. I was curious though, as to why we weren’t notified until 10:30pm the night before? I mean, they called earlier in the day to confirm, my husband had taken off work, we worked our babysitting for our other kids, and we obviously had already paid for this hotel we were currently in. He graciously gives me the phone number for a nurse at the hospital to address our remaining questions and concerns.

I call the number first thing in the morning; the nurse is very nice. I asked why we were not notified any sooner of the positive result and she said that unfortunately they notified the dentist as soon as they found out. The hospital at that time did not run the tests themselves, and all tests were sent to Ohio State University Hospital to be run. With lots of backlog, the hospital was taking longer than expected to get the results back to them. She actually even said that there was a patient waiting for surgery that same morning that still had not gotten her Covid test result back yet. I asked if there was anyway the next time around that we could get it done a few days sooner? Unfortunately, it was required to be a certain number of days before the procedure so that way not possible either. All I could really hope for was that return time for testing was more standardized a month from now.

My husband and I decide that we should also go get tested to see if we are positive as well. We called our doctor and at that time they would not authorize a test. We were just advised to quarantine. We didn’t love that answer, so we did fortunately find another drive up test center that didn’t require a doctor’s referral. Two days later both my husband’s and my tests came back negative, we had a few family members we had been around opt to get tested as well and all their tests were negative too. My best guess would be that he had a false positive, although I’m not a doctor, so I can’t say that for sure. Regardless, it would still be another month until my poor guy could get his tooth taken care of. The story of that actual procedure is a whole other adventure in and of itself. So, all I can say for now is; to be continued…