I don't know about you, but I am absolutely petrified of the dentists! I'm from a generation that was frog marched to see the school dentist at the local clinic, thrust into a cold dental chair, filings and extractions without numbing, and the unnecessary view of hairy nostrils! So I promised myself I would not put my children through that ordeal.
From our 'Bob' being little I used to take him with me to my dental appointments, I wanted to acclimatize him to the experience not scare the ebby jebbies out of him, so took the softly softly approach and braved it out myself. It had worked with his sister so in my naivety thought it 'worked for one it will work for the other one'. How far from the truth could it have got. Unaware at this stage about autism and ADHD, just thought he was being a 'little monkey' when he refused to open his mouth for the dentist or the time when he bite his finger. Well, I must say he's a dentist and should have known better than flaunt a digit near a four year old child's mouth! We just about managed to get him there once a year, and that was agonizing; The screams, the blatant refusal, the chasing round the surgery and trying to coax him out from under the dentist's desk! It got to a point when he used to check his teeth whilst he was upside down on my lap on a swivel chair! And when the old dentist decided to retire, OMG!
There were moments in time that the least of my worries was a trip to the dentist and I will hold my hands up we didn't necessarily meet our checkup dates! After our 'Bob's diagnosis, our lives levelled out and an acceptance that it was never going to be quite how you had dreamed of and you would just have to get on with it. The 'normality' of life had to find its place in the new version of ours, so visits to the dentist had to be dealt with head on along with everything else.
Dreading having THAT conversation where you actually have to say out loud, "He has high functioning autism.." and wait for the "Oh right.." followed by an awkward silence. Assuming you were going to have to take the lead on this and partake with all that autistic information you had soaked up like a sponge; Sharing suggested strategies, website addresses and offering leaflets that you had to do so many other times before with professionals was at the forefront of your mind!
How refreshing to hear " OK, how can we make 'Bob's visits easier?" "Tell me about his sensory issues?" "I'll talk to 'Bob' about everything we will be doing and show him the equipment and we take it all at his pace!" Had I found an angel? Was this a fluke? Am I hearing right?
True to his word our dentist took time out to get to know our 'Bob', built up trust and went at his pace. There were the odd times when we had some glitches but the difference was we were working together. Our 'Bob's dentist shows him on his high tech screen his x-rayed teeth, explains the dark patches and the light patches, why he has to have the treatment and if he didn't what the outcome would be. When he struggled with his first extraction and the huge needle used for numbing, the fact it took two appointments to actually complete the procedure did not faze the dentist at all.
After many years struggling to understand why my children had teeth difficulties, our new dentist was the one who identified that 'Bob' and his sister had a genetic abnormality of the tooth enamel, and it had nothing to do with their dental care. Slight relief after 'Bob' spent years chewing his toothbrush and eating toothpaste, that his brushing skills weren't too bad! And it's amazing how effective a free mini toothpaste tube can be on our morning teeth cleaning routine. Though I sometimes wonder if it's the buzz he gets as he whips it from the box on the window sill as we make our hasty exit from the surgery!
Our recent extraction last Friday was another successful trip. Our 'Bob' talks the hind legs off a donkey, but the dentist seems to have the patience of a saint; he's also quite firm with 'Bob' too, and you have to be sometimes or 'Bob' will just go off on a tangent and completely railroad you. It's remarkable how 'Bob' can change the subject back to the flight path of the new Dreamliner, and how on earth you can make the comparison between it's wind speed and how quickly you can remove a tooth beggars belief!
You can so understand how parents on finding remarkable professionals just want to spirit them away, and don't want them to move on. Investments have been made in those relationships, and it makes a huge difference in the daily battles; one less can lighten the load so much for families. Our dentist might not be everyone's cup of tea, and there is nothing 'magical' about his manner, but if you could bottle his attitude and approach carry it around with you, sprinkle the fairy dust on all the professionals you meet, what a slightly less stressful life we would all lead!