A visit to the dentist… a reflection on the last 17 years

Yesterday was an afternoon of going to the dentist with my son. He was due for his regular cleaning. My daughter came along for the ride, and I was telling her how much her brother had evolved since the first time we took him to a dentist when he was about 5 years old.

photo credit: ChristopherSchmitt.com via photo pin cc

I remember the first years at the dentist quite vividly… my husband in the dentist chair holding our son because there was no way he was going to sit in the dentist chair and have someone look in his mouth. We didn’t have a way to explain to him so he could understand. He had no language and had developmental delays. It was painful to see him crying and screaming, and not able to understand what they were doing to him. People who have autism often have a lot of sensitivities, and touch being one of them certainly made this a painful experience for him. It took several years and a lot of tender loving care and patience but he eventually got there with the help of the most amazing, gentle and kind dentist I’ve ever known. He made all the difference in the world for all of us with his gentle and understanding approach.

As our son got a little older maybe 7 years old or so, his understanding was getting better and we had several story books about going to the dentist that we read with him often. We could not leave home and go to the dentist without the books in tow. He would look at them all the way into town which was almost an hour away. For years he also had an awful lot of anxiety about the experience at the dentist, we used homeopathic remedies to help him cope better. He eventually started looking forward to the surprise box and he liked picking the colour of his new toothbrush. It was bittersweet ending when we left that children’s dental clinic when he turned 18… but we were so grateful to have had incredible dental staff work with him all those years.

Almost a year ago he had his wisdom teeth removed in the adult clinic for people with special needs. He received general anesthesia for the procedure. I was more than a little anxious about the whole ordeal, not knowing how he would be for the surgery at the hospital and also for his recuperation at home after. I had prepared a social story for him. Social stories work for him in situations when I need him to understand something and I’m not sure I can explain in words that he’ll get. I use drawings or images along with simple words that show step-by-step what he was going to be going through. People who have autism are often helped a lot when visuals are used. He was totally fine going in that day for his surgery and did amazing, never really complaining.

The next morning he wanted to eat, he knew that he couldn’t eat his regular bacon breakfast… but he was insisting to eat his fried egg. Some routines are hard to change. I let him make his egg like he usually does. I left the room for a few minutes to go and put a load of laundry in, and when I came back in he handed me a surgical suture and pointed to his mouth. I silently panicked wondering what had he done… we made a trip back to the hospital to be sure that all was fine and it was.

When I look back at the past 17 years of going to the dentist with our son, he’s come such a long way. Today he was sitting in the waiting room looking at a newspaper like any typical adult would and then in the dentist chair laughing and having fun and being in a silly mood as he got his teeth cleaned. I can’t even have that much fun at the dentist when I go.

I am now ready to explore the next logical step with him which will probably be going to a dental hygienist that owns a clinic in our own town… about a 3 minute drive from our home or a nice walk. I know that he will be just fine going there.

I never could not have predicted how much he would have evolved over the course of all these years and the coping skills he would develop with regards to going to see the dentist. I am a firm believer in never giving up… and to keep persevering no matter how difficult things are sometimes in life. Because there is always hope!

I’m so proud of him! xo

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Comments

  1. This is so inspirational. I can relate to a lot of the feelings you felt in the early days.

    • Thank you Gabriella. It takes time doesn’t it to get to a better place where things become easier. All the best to you.

      • so nice… so proud of all of you and I like your words about perseverance. I am sure that your words could encourage many who are just beginning a similar journey. I can relate too with the boys… Ben… for years would cry and scream when we would bring him to the barbers. Eventually (after a few years), he would sit alone on the booster seat and not cry and let Barber Nick from Manotick cut his hair 🙂 There IS always HOPE no matter what the situation. Thanks for the reminder.

        • Thanks Denise. Yes the hairdresser was another place that was stressful, lots of crying there too until he was about 5 then it got to be so much easier. Nice to have you here. 🙂

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