Non-essential surgeries have ended amid the crisis, but certain procedures must continue through the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with newborns.
Elijah is a four-month-old baby that was born in January with a cleft lip and palate. Normally there would be some planning and preparation in place until surgery happens around four months later. This year has been different.
“We really needed a pediatric dentist that knew how to not only help with the teeth coming in,” said Elijah’s mother Anna, “But also his cleft and the gum line.” Anna and her husband David went to Eastman Dental for care.
This was the only location that offered a Nasoalveolar Molding Device in all of Upstate New York. The device helps mold the lips, gums, and cartilage before surgery. “Elijah was born with a more severe type of clefting of his lip, and his palate, and the gum pads,” said Dr. Erin Shope, a pediatric dentist at Eastman Dental. “So when you look at him, his lip is split into three pieces.”
The family visits the dentist once a week to get the molding adjusted. This all changed when the pandemic hit. “We have cut down our operations by at least 80-85 percent so we’re really limiting what we do,” said Shope.
Thanks to major adjustments of operations by Eastman Dental, the family is able to drive up to the dentist office and get service with Dr. Shope right on the side of the road. The mold is taken and adjusted while Anna, David, and Elijah wait in the car. While these may be extreme measures, it is important to make sure this gets done now. “Babies have very moldable bones and cartilage when they’re first born, so we have this tiny little window to help reduce the severity of the cleft,” said Shope.
The process will make surgery much easier when it comes time. “We can already see how it’s really going to make a big difference for him for years to come,” said Anna. Feeding has become much easier with the mold and this will improve the results of surgery, something that was rescheduled from late April to the middle of summer.
Many dentists are continuing to operate with bare minimum staff and say to reach out if you have tooth pain that keeps you up at night, severe pain from hot or cold sensitivity, or swelling of the face.