Well, our semi-annual trip to the dentist (aka D-Day) went pretty well. And by ‘pretty well’, I mean we achieved the following goals:
- His teeth got cleaned.
- He doesn’t require any additional dental work.
- The dentist, hygienist, and staff were nice to us and respectful of the J-Man’s needs.
- We didn’t freak out too many other children in the office. (Yay for the separate room!)
- He still agreed to live in our house after it was over.
- No one sustained any major injuries.
I tell people, to an outside observer the whole thing looks awful and probably something akin to torture. To us, everyone got through it, we made some progress, and at least it was better than last time.
We liked our new dentist, too, which was an unknown to us beforehand even though they came recommended to us. The office was smaller, so there weren’t dozens of people and lots of noise and overstimulating crap in the waiting area. It was all fairly chilled out really. I particularly like it when the dentist and hygienists are calm and of even temperament no matter what happens during the cleaning and exam. I think the J-Man could have sprouted flaming arms and horns out of his head and it wouldn’t have affected them any.
We, of course, had to hold him down for everything. I had his torso and legs and occasionally a shoulder. Mary had arms. The hygienist had his head between her forearms and braced against her body while she worked. The fact that she got that spinning cleaner/polisher thing in his mouth and cleaned all of his teeth was pretty amazing, though I know he was in terror pretty much the whole time. [Insert parental guilt here.]
We got through it in 10 minutes or so. When it was done, he calmed down almost immediately in my arms. His ability to decompress after something that stressful is quite a testimony to his growth and general bravery. I can’t imagine much that would be harder on a child with serious oral sensitivity than to go to a dentist. It breaks our hearts to have to do this twice a year. Our hope is that eventually he’ll get more or more tolerant of it if we can set good dental habits and lay the groundwork now.
All that holding him down is not only emotionally painful, it’s also physically rough. Last appointment six months ago, I pulled something in my back and partially sprained my wrist from holding him. Last night, my Achilles tendon hurt (from bracing my feet on the floor) and now my low back feels like I did some sort of marathon weightlifting in the gym or something. Well, Ibuprofen and an ice pack should have it back toward normal in a day or so.
Good news is that his teeth are excellent! I know a lot of parents of autistic children struggle with their dental care. It took us forever to get teeth brushing incorporated into our routine. If we could go to the dentist everyday (perish the thought), he’d eventually get to a point where he’d be much more tolerant of it, but obviously there’s no way in this world that would happen anywhere other than our nightmares. But we can do things that will hopefully reduce his oral sensitivities – something we’ve been working on for over three years now.
We appreciated the calm and positive attitude they had and the respect and sensitivity they showed to the J-Man. So we’re pleased we made the change in dentists and will go back in six months to do this all over again. Each time it seems to get a bit better, so here’s hoping.