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big steps for baby’s teeth

It was after midnight when they brought Bobby* into Seattle Children’s Hospital’s emergency room. The 4-year-old was wailing, his parents confused as to what was causing their child so much pain. After an exam and some X-rays, doctors hurried Bobby to the pediatric oral-surgery area, where he was given a local anesthetic, and the culprit—an infected baby tooth—was quickly extracted. Hours later, Bobby was sent home with oral antibiotics. But two days later, he was back. This time, the right side of his face was so swollen that his eye was nearly shut. The tooth was gone, but the aggressive infection it spawned had continued to spread and now was threatening to invade Bobby’s brain. The preschooler was immediately rushed into surgery, where a pediatric oral surgeon opened the unconscious child’s mouth and made an incision to allow the infection to drain. Bobby was hospitalized for days, hooked up to IV antibiotics, his parents huddled at his bedside, agonizing over their son’s health and the mounting cost of his care. While this situation is particularly unusual, it’s a parent’s nightmare and an oral health-care provider’s worst-case scenario. And according to Joel Berg, chair of the UW Department of Pediatric Dentistry and director of dentistry at Seattle Children’s Hospital, similar crises occur “pretty much weekly, if not daily.”

by Diane Mapes

* Not his real name

September 20 10

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Columns - September 2010  

New in Columns, the University of Washington Alumni Magazine: Off the gridiron with Jake Locker, one of the country’s highest-rated college...

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