Cicero family experiencing drive-through dentistry during COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus

NEW YORK STATE (WSYR-TV) — During the COVID-19 pandemic, dentists are only seeing patients in cases of emergencies. For those and more urgent cases, some dentists are finding ways to keep their patients safe. 

NewsChannel 9 spoke with a family from Cicero now receiving drive-through services for their baby’s dental treatment. Elijah was born with a birth defect and needs to be seen by a dentist once a week. However, the closest place to find that treatment for Elijah is in Rochester.

When the pandemic started and dental services were put on hold, they weren’t sure what would happen. But each week, the family makesca four-hour drive to and from Rochester to get treatment for the baby out of their car.

“Never in my life did I think I’d be taking a baby to a dentist appointment to begin with, let alone weekly drive-through dental appointments,” said Anna, Elija’s mom.

Elijah was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. At two weeks old, he was given an appliance called NAM, a Nasoalveolar Molding Device. It needs to be worn within the first few months of his life to prepare for corrective surgery. An exception for dental treatment during COVID-19.

Elijah’s Doctor, Dr. Erin Shope, wanted to limit the families’ exposure. She meets them outside in full protective equipment, adjusts the device inside, and then sees them off. 

“I didn’t feel super comfortable having the family or the baby come into the hospital or into the dental center if we didn’t need to have to do that,” said Dr. Erin Shope, a Pediatric Dentist at the Eastman Institute for Oral Health and the University of Rochester.

“I think it was more for ourselves, actually. Our ability to care for him if we were to become sick,” said David, Elijah’s dad.

COVID-19 could have halted this treatment during a critical time in Elijah’s life. Dr. Shope said the implications could have impacted not only his appearance, but his speech, his ability to eat, breathe and even hear. Those are consequences Anna and David were sure they’d have to face because of the pandemic, which is why they’re grateful a four-hour drive is the only thing standing between Elijah and a better quality of life.  

“It really made me empathize with parents living in other countries. Because of maybe the way the healthcare system is or their economic situation, they might not be able to get treatment for their children at the time frame when it’s most critical,” Anna said.

Dr. Shope said one of the reasons dental offices are open right now is to handle emergency or urgent cases outside of patients like Elijah is so that people don’t head straight to the emergency room for treatment. They’re putting off surgeries so they can preserve ventilators and anesthesia for patients battling COVID-19.

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For more local news, follow Julia LeBlanc on Twitter @JuliaLeBlancNC9.

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