Agonising wait for dental help

21:02, Oct 19 2014
Zander Loper
RELIEF: Zander Loper’s days of taking pain medication for toothache are over after a successful campaign for treatment.

A Christchurch dentist's last-minute change of heart has spared a preschooler six months of "excruciating" tooth pain.

Zander Loper, 4, had been waking up at night screaming in pain after three dentists refused to treat him because he would not sit still for an X-ray.

He was facing a six-month wait for two fillings at Christchurch Hospital, where the procedure could be done with an anaesthetist.

Zander Loper
RELIEF: Zander Loper’s days of taking pain medication for toothache are over after a successful campaign for treatment.

However, after inquiries from Fairfax Media, he was admitted for treatment at Halswell Dental Centre.

"It's so hard to see your child in pain," Zander's mother Ingrid Loper said.

"Why should you have to wait that long to get a simple procedure done?"

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About a week ago, Zander was in "excruciating pain" and had to be admitted at the hospital for a night, Loper said.

The doctor prescribed ibuprofen and antibiotics three times a day and codeine for when the pain became unbearable.

"I'm not happy about giving my kid that amount of medication every day," she said.

When Loper complained to the hospital dentist, she was told there were worse cases on the list, such as "kids with teeth falling out and children having to be on pain relief constantly".

Halswell Dental Centre treated Zander earlier this year. They gave him a liquid sedative to extract one of his teeth.

Manager Andrea Campbell said Zander had spat out some of the liquid. He was still sedated enough for the procedure to go ahead but had been agitated.

When he needed a filling, the dental centre tried to do an X-ray but he would not sit still.

The dentist said he would need an anaesthetist and referred Zander to the hospital.

"If he doesn't even sit still through the X-rays, it's going to be a tricky one," Campbell said.

The centre had to refer 20 per cent of the children they treated to the hospital, she said.

"Unfortunately, they have a huge waiting list. For a child who gets stuck like that it can be very hard."

Loper could not afford private health care.

She went to two other Christchurch dentists and asked them to "give it a go" with Zander but he would still not sit through the X-rays so was again referred to the hospital.

After Fairfax Media contacted Campbell, Halswell Dental Centre agreed to try to treat Zander one more time. It was discovered he had an abscess also.

Loper said Zander struggled to drink the sedative but eventually was calm enough for the dentist to proceed.

The Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) could not say how many children were on the waiting list but said paediatric referrals for hospital dental treatment under general anaesthetic had increased recently.

CDHB clinical director hospital dental services Dr Lester Settle said community dental centres could normally do fillings but referrals to hospital had recently increased.

"This could be because we are seeing more severe decay requiring more extensive work, which some young children find hard to tolerate without sedation," he said.

Usual waiting times depended on the urgency of the case, Settle said. 

The Press