Nater Tater came through his dental drama on Monday with flying colors! All told, Nate had four cavities (all between teeth), one of which required a crown because it was on the edge of his tooth. He got a white crown (not a silver one like we feared). The whole procedure took two hours and included a cleaning, fluoride treatment, sealants on teeth, and the four fillings. Even though Nate did well, it sure took a toll on his poor parents!
Nate had to fast (no food or liquid) from midnight on the day of the procedure so we loaded him up with as much food as we could the night before. He fell asleep around 6PM and we needed to be at the outpatient surgery center at 6:30AM. Chad and I packed activity bags for ourselves the night before and set our alarms for 5:15, which we hoped would give us enough time to sneak a cup of coffee before Nate got up. Unfortunately, our alarm woke Nate up so everyone participated in the fast. We got in the car at 6:00am and barely made it to the hospital by 6:30 because we got lost.
That is not a normal goldfish.
The waiting room had goldfish on steroids and Nate though they were pretty awesome. Between the fish and his iPad, Nate had no clue he was fasting. The admitting nurse helped us get Nate’s bracelet around his ankle (it was placed there so he wouldn’t scratch himself when he came out of anesthesia) and by 7AM we were in a pre-op room.
The night before, we started telling Nate about his adventure. He’d go to a hospital and he’d get to wear a toga! He would wear a special bracelet and meet all sorts of fun new friends. Which he did. Lots and lots and lots of friends. For a simple dental procedure, we had a pediatric anesthesiology team of two people, two nurses, the dentist, plus a patient advocate who was there to ensure Nate’s experience was the best it could be. As we walked to the pre-op, we passed many adults who had already changed their clothes. So we pointed out their “togas” in hopes Nate would be excited to wear his. It didn’t work. Nate thought the toga was dumb and the grippy socks, which were adult sized, were floppy and Nate refused to put those on.
It quickly became clear that Nate was not very keen on this “adventure” so one of his nurses suggested a shot of something magical that makes Nate forget the whole thing. One minute he was protesting and the next he was quite loopy. We were grateful for the shot because we didn’t want Nate to have bad memories — and he remembers everything. (We’ll go to a restaurant and return a year later and he’ll take us to the exact seat we sat at during the first visit.) After the shot, we dressed Nate in his toga and socks. One parent was allowed into the OR as Nate went under anesthesia so Chad went in. He needed to suit up in the sterile cap and jumpsuit and held Nate’s hand (he was totally out of it at that point) until he fell asleep. Then they put an IV in Nate’s ankle (making it less accessible to pull out when he woke up) and Chad was escorted out.
The dentist called us from the OR to share that he found the additional cavities, none of which needed crowns, and we patiently waited two hours until they said we could go back and visit Nate in recovery. The recovery room was full of patients all, well, recovering but Nate had a special wing with glass doors, a Winnie the Pooh clock, and drawings on the wall by past patients. As Nate came out of anesthesia, they warned us that he may become violent and angry. This is normal behavior for all kids; the anesthesia makes for a weird sleep and they’re very disoriented after coming out of it. Though his procedure was done on a table, Nate was transferred into a crib to recover. Concerned about Nate’s past self-injurious behavior, the nurses padded his crib with special foam wedges and patiently waited with us for Nate to come to. Thankfully, Nate woke up very gently. He knew things were a bit off and wasn’t one bit pleased about the IV removal but, as soon as that was done, the nurse transferred Nate into Chad’s arms and they sat together in a chair to rest. Nate’s patient advocate returned with gifts for Nate — two brand new Matchbox cars! — and, after a few sips of water, we were able to go home. All told, we were in the hospital for four hours.
Once we got home, however, Nate was still loopy. He couldn’t sit up for a while and enjoyed the Winnie the Pooh movie with me on the couch. Nate got braver after that and sat up to eat some snacks but standing was still out of reach. When he tried to walk, it was like a newborn horse trying to find its legs. By 3PM, he was running but still unstable and he took a good spill and bruised his chin. By bedtime, he was active as could be and you’d never know anything had been done.
One of the benefits of autism? The funny things it does to your senses. The dentist said Nate might grind or chomp his teeth because they felt different or run his finger on his teeth for the next few days. He might also need Tylenol to manage the pain. Nate? Didn’t do any of that and needed no pain killers. The only difference was he went to bed a few hours later than normal. Otherwise, he was fine.
Nate goes back for a post-op check up in two weeks, at which point we’ll discuss future dental visits. I’m not sure it’s worth visiting every six months if nothing can be done. The dentist does believe that, for the foreseeable future, this is how Nate will need to get his exams and cleanings done and it will occur about once a year, which is an exhausting thought.