Jake went to the dentist Saturday.
He got his teeth sealed. He got a cavity filled. He got gassed.
Seeing how tricky dental care has been with Jake, we decided to use sealants on his teeth to help in the fight against cavities. We missed the scheduled appointment for this because he was sick. Before we made it to the rescheduled appointment, he had a cavity – in a spot we would have sealed. Figures.
So, the plan for Saturday was for Jake to get his cavity filled, and then have the whole area sealed off. Of course, this would be wildly distressing for him, and seeing how he’d have to sit reasonably motionless and be cooperative for the better part of an hour, we made the choice to use nitrous oxide. Laughing gas.
I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Gaston To’olo. He is a giant of a man with a thick Cameroonian accent. He has hands the size of catcher’s mitts, and he is incredibly gentle with children. He is like a walking social story. He never told Jake “no.” He never used negative language. He was soft-spoken, very gentle, and always spoke in the affirmative. He put his open hand, palm side up, next to Jake. Jake missed the cue. “Shake hands,” To’olo said. Jake shook his own hands in tremor-like fashion. “Touch my hand,” To’olo tried. Jake placed his own hand in the doctor’s. “Squeeze,” To’olo insisted. Jake complied.
Dr. To’olo touched the gas mask nose cone against his own face. “This is a hat for your nose,” he remarked. “It is very soft. Feel it. Squeeze it.” Jake did as he was told. Dr. To’olo placed it over Jake’s face and told him to smell the air. He beckoned with his own hand to simulate an aroma. Jake copied the big man. Before long, Jake became more pliant, and the real work began.
The work itself was more involved than I had imagined. There was the “tooth ring” that went around the base of Jake’s teeth, and then the rubber sheeting with the metal framework that created a mini operating-theater in which to work. The area was numbed before this with a topical gel administered by cotton swab. Jake muttered that it was cold and disgusting. No surprise there; only that he was still alert enough to participate. I had imagined that Jake would be lying there, “asleep.” Not true.
The sealants were carefully applied and dried with a UV light. There were gauze pads, scrapers, swabs, syringes and bright blue lights. With Jake’s eyeglasses, nose cone gas machine, and the assortment of dental tools, I felt a little claustrophobic myself. Add in the drill, filling material, and a rotation of suction, water, and myriad other things that all made noise or created a smell, and I was amazed at how calm the gas allowed him to be.
The staff was incredibly professional, and Jake’s care was delivered with expert hands and attention to detail. Jake was made to be as comfortable as possible. I was even allowed to stand at chair-side and stroke his leg and help hold his hands from time to time when he’d get fidgety.
I was more nervous than he was.
In the end, I was wondering if Jake was suddenly tolerant and agreeable, but then the gas was turned off and I saw the moment Jake regained complete awareness. It was like the brightness in his eyes popped back. At lunch, he had some lingering complaint of pain in his “cavity” tooth, but was soon no worse for wear.
I have no other formal way to show my appreciation and thanks for the excellent dental care Jake received today. Dr. To’olo and his staff took a potentially traumatizing experience and made it a positive.
I am truly grateful.