Well, I AM for one. You’re reading the writings of someone who has had 3 root canals in a single tooth this summer, preparing for more work to be done on that tooth very shortly and needs a crown put on once everything is fully resolved. I HATE going to the dentist. So, I don’t expect my children to like it either.
That is especially true for my 4 year old with ASD. He doesn’t like ANYthing new. Yeah, people tell me that most kids don’t like anything new, but this extends to every little thing. He won’t even try candy if it’s not gummy bears or M&Ms. His fight or flight response is strong and so is he. He doesn’t like people to come near him with any tools, including a toothbrush. But he has started losing his baby teeth. We need to have his remaining 19 teeth checked. And we need to get him used to it, even if it takes a while.
One of my fears are being realized — I have to take my son to the dentist…..and soon!!!!!!
So, last week, Big Brother had his scheduled follow-up with a local pediatric dentist, “Dr. Bob”. Big Brother is a typical 6.5 year old boy who enjoys going to the dentist. He knows he takes care of his teeth and he likes all the “cool” stuff that are there to look at. And this guy has a great reputation among many local families for all children, including children with special needs. When we were in the office for Big Brother’s appointment, I spent almost the whole time taking pictures to make a social story for Baby Brother and Baby Sister. I also spoke with “Dr. Bob” extensively explaining Baby Brother’s issues and my concerns. And “Dr. Bob” assured me that we would take it slow. We’d start with the most important things (having him look and check Baby Brother’s teeth) and then see what we can do from there, with cleaning being the last thing. It sounded like a good plan. But at least I made sure the “Dr. Bob” was prepared, even if I knew I couldn’t successfully prepare my son.
But prepare him I tried. I created a social story on my phone. And BECAUSE it was on my phone, Baby Brother wanted to play with it over and over again. When it was time for the appointment and I arrived at school to bring him to the dentist for that first time, we went into the school library and read it again. He thinks it’s a great story. And it seemed to work. From the moment we pulled into the parking lot, he knew we were there to see “Dr. Bob”. Then we got out of the car. That’s when reality set in.
Even though we have never had him evaluated for anxiety disorder, we know he worries about things and has quite a few phobias. He seemed to instinctively know that we were going to have to go to the second floor, a fact that was omitted from the story, perhaps in error. He kept screaming “No elevator!!!!”, with his hand covering his ears. I kept reassuring him that we didn’t have to take the elevator if he didn’t want to — we could walk up the stairs. Unfortunately, the stairs are right near the elevator, so he was forced to see the elevator. But there were no body drops — just loud insistence that we not get on the elevator. So we walked up the flight of stairs, me holding him by the elbow as his hands were covering his ears, and walked around to the dentist’s office. It was still closed for lunch (we were the first appointment of the afternoon).
We took advantage of the extra time and walked around. We looked down at an exercise room and saw the people on the treadmills, exercise bikes, stair machines, and all sorts of exercise equipment (the building houses a large health club with a few doctor’s offices upstairs). Then when the office opened, we went into the waiting room and he was face-to-face with the pictures he saw in the book. He saw the books. He saw the fish. He saw Mr. Potato Head. And he got to meet “Dr. Bob”. Things are going well! Or am I being lulled into a false sense of security?
After spending about 10 minutes in the waiting room, we are invited to walk down the hall so “Dr. Bob” can look at his teeth. This is what I’m afraid of. This is where Baby Brother typically falls apart when we visit the pediatrician. But he seems to be doing well. Until we get to the end of the hall. He drops to the floor and starts to cry (note, I say cry, not scream). He has no intention of getting into the examination chair or letting “Dr. Bob” come near him with those dental tools that are hidden on that silver table. But we keep a calm voice. We keep talking. I put Baby Brother back onto his feet and he seems willing to support himself. <breathe Mommy> As we are talking, I walk over to a regular chair and place him on my lap, facing me. And we start to rock. I rock him further and further back. Baby Brother LOVES this game and always has. And after a while, I allow him to push his head back all the way. “Dr. Bob” is sitting right there…..waiting and ready. Baby Brother’s head is now in “Dr. Bob’s” lap. Baby Brother is NOT happy. He squirms. He cries (but still hasn’t reached the point of screaming). “Dr. Bob” counts those 19 remaining teeth, check the general condition, and confirms that he does have a few more teeth that are starting to get loose. He confirms that that first tooth did come out cleanly and is healing well. And he confirmed that there are no cavities. In fact, he even tried to take the pick and scrape a small amount of the tarter off of Baby Brother’s teeth (that’s when the SCREAM came out).
So, No x-rays. No cleaning. But we got the exam in.
This was most definitely a first visit. We are going back in a couple of months and will probably continue to do so for a while so that Baby Brother can become more comfortable with the idea. And hopefully, each time, he will allow “Dr. Bob” to do a little bit more. But given the nightmare I was expecting, this was simply an unpleasant experience. I’d almost call it a “Success”.