Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dental Hell: The Background

Fair warning: There is a LOT of background.

Unbeknownst to you all (unheard of, I know), I have been engaged in this saga of epic proportions for the past six-plus months. I call this saga Dental Hell. And trust me, it was. Over the course of the past six months, Jack went from being a kid who happily sat through dental cleanings to a kid who refuses to open his mouth in a dentist's office at all.

This journey, as you might expect, has been less than awesome.

At Jack's last regular cleaning, his dentist noticed that he has soft teeth that are kind of crumbly and were decaying at an alarming rate. Because, you know, Jack doesn't have enough to deal with already. Anyway, this dentist, who is our family dentist and whom we love, said that she was going to refer us to a pediatric dentist who works with special needs kids because she thought he might need the kind of drugs at his next visit that she doesn't use.

Three months later, when we were able to finally get an appointment at the new office, the dentist found three cavities in his teeth. They aren't really cavities, but rather the result of these poor, sad teeth Jack has. But for want of a better word, I will call them cavities.

This dentist was especially concerned about one tooth in particular, so she gave us a canceled appointment slot that very day and fixed it. That visit was terrible. Like, spectacularly terrible. You are welcome to read about it in a post I titled "Based On His Reaction, I Don't Think That Was Laughing Gas At All."

I will refer to this dentist as Dr. Laughing Gas.

After that appointment in late January, we were all set up to fix two of his other teeth at appointments in April, with the addition of some pre-appointment Valium. I was nervous, but I was going to give it a try.

Then we got the statement from the insurance company that Dr. Laughing Gas wasn't covered by our insurance and then we got the bill from the dentist and then we decided to do our homework (novel thought!) and find a pediatric and/or special needs dentist who takes our insurance.

Thus began days of frantic searching for a dentist who met our needs. Needless to say, every dentist that someone recommended to us was not in our insurance network and all of the dentists who were in our network we knew absolutely nothing about. After our last experience, I wasn't about to go waltzing into another dental office that I knew nothing about, even if it was covered. Especially considering that unless you are actually holding a chunk of tooth in your hand, and maybe even then, it is near to impossible to schedule a dentist appointment before the next coming of the rapture.

In the middle of all this, Jack suffered from "eruption cysts," which seemed to be giant blood-filled bruises on top of the spots where two of his teeth were coming in. After consulting with both of Jack's dentists and hearing that the solution was, "Give him Motrin when he complains of pain," I spent the next several weeks feeling sad every time I looked at Jack's mouth. And because Jack doesn't complain about pain, especially mouth pain, it was hard to gauge whether to give him medicine every day or not.

Between this, a nagging feeling of OH DEAR LORD, JACK'S TEETH ARE ROTTING MORE EACH SECOND THAT I AM NOT TAKING CARE OF THIS, I AM THE WORST MOTHER IN THE WORLD, and insurance and scheduling woes, my stress level was skyrocketing.

I finally found a recommended, insurance-covered dentist and made an appointment for a consult. This appointment was shortly before his originally scheduled appointments with Dr. Laughing Gas, which I kept on the books, just in case.

I showed up at Dentist Number Three, whom I will refer to as Dr. Useless But Still Embarrassing Visit, having forgotten to bring copies of Jack's x-rays from Dr. Laughing Gas. Between this and my stress, the instant Jack sat down in the chair, I started sobbing.

I still can't explain that.

I had hit my breaking point and it was ugly. Dr. UBSEV and his sister partner dentist were nothing but nice to me and actually attended to me more than they did to Jack, who happily watched the movie on the TV in their office but steadfastly refused to let the dentist put "that spiky thing" in his mouth.

They were actually really nice. In fact, I think that their niceness just made me cry more. I kinda wish that they would have yelled at me and then I would have stopped weeping.

After a day of ferrying x-rays from there to here, Dr. UBSEV said that he thought he could do the dental work, but that they didn't have an opening until July, so I should just go ahead and keep my appointment with Dr. Laughing Gas as long as we didn't mind paying out of pocket.

At this point, I would have given Quinn to Dr. Laughing Gas if it would have fixed Jack's teeth, so we decided to keep his original appointment. Unfortunately, Dr. Laughing Gas insisted on money instead of my third born.

I was hopeful that the promised Valium would help Jack relax enough so that we wouldn't have a repeat of our January episode.

You can just start laughing at my intense fucking naivete now.

We arrived an hour before an appointment time so Jack could get his dose of Liquid Valium for Kids, which we had to hold him down to administer. He spluttered some of it out and it splashed in my eyeball. That was awesome. That also maybe should have been our first clue that the appointment wasn't going to go well.

At least Jack didn't have a paradoxical reaction to the Valium that some kids have.

Minute one.

Minute sixty.

Dr. Laughing Gas, true to form, then gave Jack laughing gas. Which, incidentally, he really does not care for. He started getting a little twitchy and the dentist was nervous about proceeding because she didn't want to numb his mouth only to have him refuse to let her in.

However, it started to look like he was going to let her in his mouth so she gave him the shot and then he started refusing to keep his mouth open, actually popping the mouth-opening clamp out of his mouth with the power of his terror. So she stopped.

Basically, we just drugged him up to the maximum point possible without doing any, you know, dental work.

At this point, Dr. Laughing Gas outlined my options:
(a) Do the dental work at the hospital totally sedated complete with intubation and everything, or
(b) Go to Virginia, i.e. another state, where dentists are allowed to do IV sedation with an anesthesiologist in the dental office, or
(c) Dive deep into denial, ignore Jack's mouth pain, and never visit a dentist again.

To be fair, the dentist didn't actually give us option C, but I was thiiiiiis close to choosing it anyway.

I decided to try option B, head to Virginia and rack up some more dental bills because at this point, really, why the fuck not?

Thus began our relationship with dentist #4, Dr. Happy Smilez.

This dentist office was able to fit us in within the week, which was amazing. It was, of course, unfortunate that it took a solid hour for us to get there—without traffic. Oh, and $5 in tolls. Each way.

But really, it was worth it. Dr. Happy Smilez's waiting room is so fun that I kinda want to take my kids there just to play. The office manager played air hockey with Jack while I filled out paperwork. 

As long as we were there, they decided to try to give him a cleaning in addition to the consult because he was due—it having been six months since this whole debacle began—and because it would give them an indication as to how he would tolerate the extensive dental work they needed to do.

Can you guess?

They polished two teeth.

We left with promises of a call from them to schedule a sedation appointment and a multi-thousand dollar estimate for sedation, a cleaning, and four crowns to decrease the possibility of having to go through this again in the near future.

A couple of days later, our friend from Dr. Happy Smilez's office called to tell us that he had researched our health and dental insurance coverage for this procedure. He reported that our combined insurance would cover $63, the cost of the cleaning.

All the stress that had melted off of me, immediately climbed back on my back and I promptly passed that monkey to Alex and told him that he had to deal with the insurance or I would LOSE MY SHIT IMMEDIATELY AND REPEATEDLY.

I'm still not sure how that whole thing worked out. Alex seems hopeful for some sort of insurance reimbursement, but I just kind of glaze over when he talks about it and then hand my credit card to Dr. Happy Smilez when they ask for it. I mean, we may have to start selling pets...and body pay for it, but I just needed to get these teeth taken care of.

Speaking of which, does anyone want to buy a mouse? Whiskers is kind of an asshole, but she's a bargain at only $500! I'll even throw in one of my kidneys.

Today was Jack's appointment with Dr. Happy Smilez. I was going to write about it here, but I think that this post has gone on long enough and I'm pretty sure not even Alex has read this far. I will continue the saga tomorrow, which for most of you by the time you read this, will be later today.

Basically, the point of this post is that if you need a dentist recommendation anywhere in the greater DC area, I'm your girl. Jack and I have been to ALL of them.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for commenting! May you be visited by unicorns and kittens.