As you may recall from our first Dental Drama post, in March 2012 Nate’s sensory capacity to manage tooth brushing waned. He went from being a model tooth brusher to freaking out at the sight of a dixie cup. Coupled with gummy vitamins (which I have learned are evil tooth decayers), Nate had developed four cavities, including one that required a crown (A crown!!!), and he needed to go under general anesthesia to get his dental work done. With the help of a tooth brushing program developed by Nate’s in-school OT, Ms. Jen, and carried over daily in Ms. Susie’s classroom and at home over the past six months, we’ve finally got Nate back to the point where he will brush his teeth. It’s a quick cleaning but it is better than nothing and we’re seeing improvement in his tolerance week after week.
Where we have not seen improvement is during the visits to the dentist’s office. Nate had his six-month check up a few weeks ago, his first since his operation, and it did not go well. With the dentist, we had decided ahead of time that the goal was to get Nate in the chair; if we could accomplish that, our mission was complete. But someone didn’t relay this to the dental assistant, who unwrapped the sterilized equipment while cheerily asking me what flavor of toothpaste Nate wanted. I explained that we wouldn’t be getting that far.
After a long talk, we got Nate to sit in the chair…in backwards W-sit. (Mama don’t care. You’re in the chair.) And I thought, “Woot woot! We did it!” So we decided to push it a little further.
The assistant put on her mask and played peek-a-boo with Nate for a bit. Then she put on her spit-shield glasses and gave Nate a pair of shades to wear, too. (Nate said no thank you.) Then she put on her gloves. Purple gloves. Nate likes purple gloves. So she gave Nate a pair to put on himself, too. After this sweet moment, all hell broke loose.
Yup. Nate realized where we were, what we were doing, and he wanted to be done. The kicking and the screaming started. Purple gloves were no longer awesome and I wanted to get the assistant, who was nine months pregnant, out of kicking range. So Dr. D was paged and quickly came over. He got the padded board and did an upside-down, restrained examination of Nate’s mouth that lasted about twenty seconds. In that short period of time, Dr. D saw no cavities and a relieved mama (who likes to avoid operating rooms at all costs) and an exhausted tearful boy were ready to head home.
As Nate received his dental goodie bag, Dr. D mentioned that his practice, which specializes in working with kids on the autism spectrum, has seen great success desensitizing kids to the dental experience through weekly visits. Nothing happens during the visits except for a rehearsal; we drive to the office, check in, wait in the waiting room, and are led to a chair. As the weeks go on, the assistant will try to do one-step instructions (open your mouth etc.) and the goal is to have Nate be willing to do a normal exam (seated in a chair instead of flailing upside down on a foam mat) by the next visit. After that, we could aim for a cleaning (gasp!) or something of the like.
As Dr. D and the assistant are yammering on about how the most prohibitive thing about their proposal is a parent’s time, I’m racking up dollars in my head. 52 visits a year? Our dental plan only covers 33% of a crown for me! What is this going to cost? Turns out, his office does this service for free. Yup. FREE–all in the name of having a healthy experience at the dentist’s office. And parental time isn’t an issue for us as I’m with Nate during his non-school hours. So we set up a date!
This past Monday at 3:20 was our first appointment. Which I forgot. I realized I forgot it late yesterday, on Tuesday, and my heart sank. The appointment was not part of our routine and I needed to run an errand to Target and it totally slipped my mind. I felt horrible. So I called today and apologized profusely and we scored a new appointment, a day of the week and time that we hope will be ours for the year. I’m writing the engagement on a post-it note and taping it to the steering wheel of my car.
I’ll let you know how it goes…if I don’t forget to take Nate again….