Autism Watch: 2007

Posts Tagged ‘filling

I just realized I didn’t share this with you, this gem, this dentastic visit to the dentist for a filling. It’s an epic story, from start to finish.

Start: I pick him up from school, he’s on a tear and starts to cry within seconds because the teacher reprimanded for something that she’d seen while outside of school on a weekend. (I am biting my tongue from sharing my feelings on that, it would take a whole new blog entry.) I promise him we’ll handle it, put on a calm face and secretly think that this may have seriously messed up our dental appointment.

We make the 25-minute drive in pouring rain, with BB talking to Dad on the phone about the injustices of his day. Dad agrees with me that we need to fix it, but top priority was relaxing him to get through the dentist appointment. Ha. I’ll get right on that.

He gets in the chair. Whew, we’re psyched up and ready to go. Oops, 9-year-old girl across the hallway had a meltdown and had to leave — now she’s back and they are going to finish her work. Dentist leaves our room, chair comes back up straight and out comes the DSi XL to keep him busy. Ten minutes later, dentist is back. BB is nervous. I’ll spare the details, but the dentist’s hand got novocained. It was bitten. The mechanical tray over BB’s lap went flying. BB had to be caught before he fell out of the chair onto the floor. Five of us were in the room. Door was shut. Door was opened. Dentist tried three times before he admitted defeat. I was sent on my merry way with a puffy-faced, red-eyed child apologizing profusely for not being able to stay still in the chair due to having a bad day at school. I did the same, while wondering if indeed we could return. Would their patience be any better next time? Did they really want him to return? Would the dentist wear leather gloves??

Finish: It.was.a.disaster. Dad seems to think he can get him to go back to the same dentist and try once again. Hmmph. I’m not going again. I think we need to try a special needs dentist about an hour away. We’re undecided right now, but we will be making a decision by Monday — the filling has to be done soon, but we have a few days to be sure we don’t put him through anything else unnecessarily.

Special needs dentists are a rare breed, and if you are one, kudos. I’ll try to warn you if my son bites, but I imagine it won’t be your first time. Or at least I hope. I’ve had enough of being the unique situation.

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Today little dude had what is hopefully his last ‘work’ appointment…you know, where work outside of the normal cleaning and checkup gets done. I had to do this one on my own, since I “HAD THE DAY OFF.” Notice those words in caps –  apparently they mean that today is just a fun day, you know, where you have fun all day long and nothing makes you tired or keeps you busy. But anyway, dh didn’t have the day off and we figured since this wasn’t a root canal, I was good to go handling it on my own. Sounds good in theory, right?

Happily, this is a situation where the theory was in keeping with the reality. Barnacle Boy laid down, let the nitrous do its thing, and cracked us all up, even throughout the novocaine shots around the two teeth that were being filled. He even told the dental assistant she was sort of pretty, then said “I can’t believe I just said that.” His speech went really quick, he was thinking fast and the filter was entirely 100% off. SO cute.

(If you don’t believe in using nitrous on your autistic child, I respect that decision but understand that we chose to use the nitrous for our own reasons, so please respect your decision as well, without the assumption that we aren’t educated or didn’t research. Thank you. And if you don’t care what I do, kudos, and I apologize for the off-topic interruption!)

Once we got home, BB laid around for all of an hour, devoured a big bowl of vanilla ice cream, then literally ran off to make animated cartoons on his computer. He just finished dinner with us, where he ate an entire turkey bratwurst and a handful of tater tots. Now he’s back upstairs animating. A new hobby!

In a few months, when we move, we’ll have to choose a new dentist. Not necessarily looking forward to it, though our current dentist has offered to refer us to dentists in our new area and fwd on records. We’ve learned that when you choose a dentist, ask a lot of questions. Decide what you’re comfortable with and what you can’t live with. Check out not only if they accept your insurance, but try to gauge how willing they are to work with them on your behalf. Add in autism and you have to find out what accommodations they’ll make, how quiet/loud the office is, how trained the staff is to work with us, and even things like wait time. I’m tired just thinking about it..and I have to do this with a pediatrician, a neurologist, a family practitioner and the dentist.

 

My seven-year-old son is a really bad teeth grinder. He’s always ground his teeth. It’s a noisy sound, a nails-on-the-chalkboard sound that makes me attempt to stick my fingers inside his wired-tight jaws and pop them apart, but it never works and sometimes I get bitten as his teeth snap back together like a gator’s might. Snap. At his dental check-up/cleaning last month, we learned that the dentist was afraid he was wearing down a crown to the point it would require replacement. We hoped it wouldn’t, but learned on Monday that it does.

Next week, he goes in for another root canal, as there’s a definite crack back there and a serious risk of infection. They’ll put a new, non-amalgam-related crown in his mouth. He knows it’s going to happen, and so far, he’s not freaking out about it. But I worry, and not just because of what he might incur during the appointment but because of what happens afterwards: regression.

Almost two years ago, he had three root canals and a couple of fillings. He was a reflux baby, and the enamel was worn off those teeth, so they became problematic early. He also was, as many autistic children are, really averse to brushing his teeth, and it took a lot of effort that wasn’t always successful. The first appointment…well, I will remember it vividly forever. It was the first time one of my children has ever had a tough time in the dentist’s chair, and it was messy. The dentist had to do her work, and help calm him and hold him still, while the assistant also helped hold him still while holding her tools, and I laid in the chair, leaning on him, trying to hold his hands out of the way. We had chosen nitrous, and he hated the hissing sound. By the end of the appointment, he had some rash on his face and neck from all the movement and he was so badly stressed out and frantic, I refused to take him to the next of the three appointments he needed to finish all the work. Dh, out-of-state on a business trip at the time, got a lovely phonecall from me, where I proceeded to tell him that all his traveling for work would have to be on hold long enough for him to do the next appointment. He agreed. Anyway, it took days and days until ds was back to himself, well over a week. He hated the idea of another appointment, and so did I. Yet, dh got him there, and to the next one (rescheduled for first of the day, when the office wasn’t even officially open so no one else would be waiting, listening or needing any help) and the process was completed without the mess of the first one. Was he more used to it? Was dad’s presence better than mine? Who knows, but we won’t push it — dh is doing this appointment next week, too.

We’re lucky — we have a wonderful dentist who has a lot of experience with kids on the spectrum. She has one of her own. When our regular dentist said we needed to find a pediatrics dentist, she was one of the numbers we were given, and I did grill the receptionist heavily, knowing not just any peds. dentist would work. It paid off. Her office is built around children, with flat-panel TVs on the ceiling above the chairs, children get to choose what to watch, and the walls are covered in relaxing but eye-catching murals. After the appointment, they get coins for use in the toy machines, and the goodie bag must cost the dentist office a pretty penny each month with the spinbrushes and other items each includes. So, if your child needs a dentist and you’re iffy about yours, look around. Better ones are out there. Don’t settle for one that makes you uncomfortable or doesn’t listen to your concerns. Ours knows our issue with mercury, and doesn’t hassle us. We’re given a lot of options, and above all, she’s understanding with our son. When he can’t take a routine cleaning because the cleaning gel bugs him, she works with him to find a better solution. (New special gel that’s not gritty and comes in a better flavor.) When a machine is new to him, she lets him play with it so he knows exactly what it is before she puts it in his mouth, and better yet, she does that without us having to suggest it. She knows that approaching him slowly is best, and getting in his face takes advanced warning. When he can’t take the smell, she does what she can to dissipate it. (Last cleaning, a new hygienist was in the room and didn’t seem to be aware of his ‘issues,’ until he bit her and I explained. He was crying, the dentist came in, calmly took over and it was done in minutes. Not many dentists will handle things this way.)

Does that mean I’m okay with just signing him up for more work? No, but I also know that an infection can wreak havoc on his system and make things worse, and an infected tooth will bring a whole lotta pain and still need to be fixed. He won’t wear a mouth-guard, but maybe when he’s older he’ll be more willing. Right now, we’re just thrilled that he’s actually sleeping in his own bed…for almost 14 days now!

Know your dentist. Ask questions. Research and if your current dentist doesn’t like it, find a new one.  Dental work is too important to put off yet you don’t want a child who is so afraid to ever return. (And all this coming from me, a major wimp at the dentist’s office, particularly after a root-canal tool broke IN my mouth and had to be surgically removed. But I’m still up-to-date on my appointments, so if I can do it after what I call The Fiasco, so can you!) 


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