Going to the Dentist

February 12, 2015

Robert went to the dentist this morning. The visit was long overdue as the last one happened more than 3 years ago. As he turned 19, he seemed to outgrew pediatric dentistry practice.  Except that I wasn’t ready for the move.  I was afraid that the adult doctor might not have much experience with special needs population.  After all, so many of my friends’ children kept having all dental services under full anesthesia. I though that Robert’s dentists and we, the parents, worked very hard to make sure Robert tolerates all dental procedures including extraction (of baby teeth) and fillings.

The first visits went with just little bumps.  Robert tolerated cleaning rather well.  But then came extractions. Since there was an infection around the tooth (based on a bump on the gum), the shot with anesthetic didn’t do its job. Robert had to be in a lot of pain.  So, when the need for another extraction came about, Robert protested vehemently and was very successful in hiding under his dad’s jacket and/or wiggling out of anybody’s hold. That was when the dentist suggested full anesthesia.  I thought, we should try again.  We found another dentist, almost 30 miles farther away but with a lot of experience with special needs population. He noticed the bump and proscribed antibiotic before scheduling extraction. My husband and I came with Robert.  Robert was anxious and tried to wiggle out of the dental chair. When, however, the shot came he kept still, instinctively knowing not to make anything worse. The extraction wasn’t short, as the tooth squeezed between two growing new ones broke. So it took a little longer for the dentist to get everything out. Not much longer, but still more than just pulling the tooth out. Robert was patient.  Sometimes, he raised his head more to check what was going on then to escape. But then Jan and I were on both sides of Robert holding his arms so there was no point of attempting to wiggle out of the situation. After that visit, others went much easier. The matter of fact, each visit was easier. I could go to the dentist without Jan.  I held Robert’s hands more for emotional support than as a way of restraining him.

Maybe it helped that with the dentist’s approval we could take pictures of the tools and the whole procedures.  The pictures, when I look at them now, seem rather gross, but they provided a lot of needed information for Robert.

We liked this dentist a lot.  Still, when I noticed that Robert tolerates all the procedures pretty well, I decided to return to the old practice.  It was not just because of the distance, I wanted Robert to get used to different dentists and different dentists get used to Robert.

When Robert was 13 years old, the X-ray showed that one of the tooth is growing sideways, pushing on the root of another tooth. There were two options – to take out the tooth or to put braces on the upper teeth.  We chose braces.  Surprisingly, Robert tolerated the terrible molding substance in his mouth beautifully.  That shouldn’t be a surprise. The years of pica, putting inedible objects in his mouth, brought unexpected benefits. Robert didn’t mind this molding substance in his mouth.  After all, it felt like silly putty or play dough – two things his mouth was well acquainted with. it took many visits, but the tooth came out as straight as it should.

As the time pass, the dental hygienists became more and more used to Robert.  As they did with typical children, they called Robert and asked me to stay in the waiting room.  I was called only later to talk to the dentist following the exam.

Yes, today, I stayed with Robert while he had his teeth cleaned and X-rays taken. But it was a completely new place with a new hygienist and a new dentist.  My presence was as much for their benefit as for Robert’s.

Before the appointment, I stated that Robert tends to close all opened drawers and cabinets even if that means getting out of the dental chair in the middle of any procedure. well, he didn’t get out of the chair, but pointed to the not completely  (quarter of inch was left of perfect alignment) closed drawer and kept repeating, “Close, close.”  When I closed the drawer, satisfied Robert put his head on a chair and let the hygienist finish her work.

By the way, no need for any tooth repairs. Next visit in six month.

I do think that the need for a lot of dental work to be done when Robert was younger might be a result of using too much sweets as reinforcers during ABA therapy. Later chips were introduced, but that led to stomach problems.


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1 Comment

  1. Jean

     /  February 13, 2015

    Good results from your years of coaching, and support. Glad it went well.


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