The time has come where we roll the dice and try our luck again at the dentist. That white thing hanging by a string in your mouth is a tooth, and are this doctor’s specialty. A lot of people fear the dentist, yourself included, but you need teeth to eat, and eating is important, so... here we go.
You see baby girl, when we first realized there were some sensory issues going on with brushing your teeth, our parental responsibilities of not wanting to neglect your pearly whites kicked in and we started giving you apples or as we call them, “natures toothbrush.” It’s true! Apples are a mildly acidic fruit, and because of their slightly astringent quality they are ideal for not only cleansing but whitening your teeth!
Each crunchy bit acts like mini toothbrushes in your mouth while you’re chewing away. While apples are certainly better than nothing, we can’t escape the fact that they contain quite a bit of natural sugar. Therefore, it was still important to “try” to get a real toothbrush in there whenever we could. All that said, we did our best with the circumstances life presented to us.
Our next challenge was finding a dentist - and not just any dentist would do!
You have autism or what is often referred to as a spectrum disorder. Meaning not every child with autism (ASD) is the same in their likes, dislikes, sensory challenges, etc. Making just about any and everything a trial and error. From therapy to potty training.
Our hunt for a dentist that could accommodate children such as yourself was daunting, but we were fortunate and found what we thought was a good place close to home.
Now yes, this place was equipped to handle autistic kiddos, but you would prove to be a bit more challenging and our visit was slightly traumatic for all involved. We got what we needed from the visit and accomplished a rough cleaning, checking for wobbly baby teeth and grabbed a quick glance for visible cavities, but not without the help from a whole team of adults – including mommy and daddy physically holding you down, while daddy sang sweetly to you “trying” to keep you calm.
I remember leaving feeling completely spent and thinking - phew we did it! But the reality is we were gonna have to do this again. Ugh.
You see Addie, most often when people visit the dentist, x-rays are taken to check for number of things: cavities, to determine if there’s any gum disease, check for abscesses, monitor wisdom teeth, evaluate any developmental abnormalities or injured teeth – this last one is important because you seem to be a fan of chewing on rocks in conjunction with your PICA deficiency.
X-rays equal being able to stay one step ahead of any potential dental challenges.
Seeing our first visit clearly didn’t result in any x-rays and took some serious man power to succeed, this was going to be a whole new ballgame of sitting still long enough to snap a picture.
This is where are options really begin in the autism dentistry world.
Let the trial and error begin!
6 months flew by and it was time for those x-rays. When we got to the parking, you were already a mess of fear. You’re super smart and knew exactly where we are at. I managed to get you into the office, then a very sweet assistant began bombarding you with questions. I was seriously trying not to look annoyed, but I did stop her part way through to ask if any of her autistic patients actually answer these questions for her? I admit I felt really bad after I asked her, but hey mommies nerves get the best of her sometimes as well…especially when you’re a sobbing mess and looking at me to make it all better. A bunch of unanswered questions from you and four adults giving you a liquid dose of versed, would prove we were about to be given perhaps some “additional” options to obtain these all too important x-rays.
Come to find out, versed just makes you a little like an angry uncompliant drunk (for lack of a better term) than a whoozy child. We would leave this visit with no x-rays, once again another somewhat traumatic experience, a very angry child and a referral to UNC for the special needs pediatric dentistry department to have a shot at completing this task.
For the record, I don’t blame this practice at all, it just didn’t work out for us. Remember it’s a spectrum disorder.
Once again, I found myself sitting in the car questioning your future dental health. Why is all this SO important? Well these days you seem to look less like mom and dad and a little more like a Halloween jack-o-lantern with missing teeth!
It’s true! You are losing teeth right and left…and when I say “losing” that is incredibly accurate. We are on a 50/50 ratio of being able to actually find teeth you’ve lost.
Actually at camp this summer I got a call from your teacher - who was incredibly apologetic and quickly assured me you were fine, but a little girl had accidentally hit you in the face (I think she was spinning close to you…it happens) and smacked it right out of your mouth! But to understand my reaction when they called, you have had your two front teeth just dangling like chicklets on a string forever now! My response was “Just one fell out?”
Sure, enough I picked you up with what now looked like one giant dangling chicklet hanging next to a big open gap.
Literally weeks went by and only just recently was I able to get my fingers on that other tooth and get it out! Success! Perhaps I missed my calling in dentistry Addie?! Nah. I may have had a celebratory glass of wine…maybe…OK I totally did. Insert a new sensory feeling for you of your tongue against a wide open space of gums in your mouth…that for the record you love to look at in the mirror.
So, while this dentist drama will continue on with our referral, when I look at you these days I’m reminded of that Christmas song “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, my two front teeth, my two front teeth…” you might not know it, but its catchy.
Addie, If I’m being honest, All I want for Christmas is this whole process to be a heck of a lot easier for you. My goodness.
Predictably unpredictable in everything we do, that is the name of the game.
Remember in everything we do for you, we do out of love.
I love you and that sweet jack-o-lantern smile.