Specialist Helps Prepare Children for Dental Surgery

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  An addition to the pre-operating room made all the difference when one five-year-old had to have dental surgery.

Parker loves playing and meeting new people, but his mom was worried when she learned he would need to have cavities filled.

"Parker has special needs. He has autism, and so dental procedures are a big thing. It's very invasive to have people in his mouth," said Jill Chapin.

His dentist decided outpatient surgery at Iowa Lutheran Hospital would be better than doing the procedure in-office.

Pediatric Dentist Rachael Revell with Des Moines Children’s Dentistry said, "If they do require general anesthesia to complete their dentistry, then we can bring them to a facility like Iowa Lutheran to have that completed."

Another bonus is the hospital has a child life specialist to help kids prepare.

"Our job is to lessen anxiety of patients and families,” said Child Life Specialist Kris Crosson.

"The way they fall asleep is with the mask. We try to make it really fun. We put stickers on the mask to make it their very own mask, and then we do a lot of practicing. I have pictures on my iPad that also helps prepare them to see kind of what the OR looks like," said Crosson.

Last year, doctors performed 483 pediatric dental surgeries at Iowa Lutheran Hospital. Dr. Revell has advice to avoid cavities.

"Cavities are extremely common. We don't consider it normal, by any means, but so many children have cavities, and I don't want parents to be afraid of bringing their kids to the dentist," she said.

The Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends babies see a dentist before their first birthday and then every six months. Parents should also help kids properly brush their teeth at home.

Dr. Revell said, "Let your child see you modeling good oral hygiene at home. Kids want to be like their parents, and if they see you brushing and flossing your teeth every day, especially before bed, they're going to want to be a part of that."

While most cavities don't require a trip to the operating room, Parker is glad he had a good experience.

"It didn't hurt that bad, it just hurt a little bit," he said.

The Child Life program at Iowa Lutheran is paid for by donations.