autism and the dentist

The Dentist Visit

The Dentist Visit

The dentist has been something of an anomaly for J.

During his primary school years, he regularly saw a dentist who specialised in treating patients who had learning difficulties, autism, ADD etcetera.
Appointments were a stressful time for J, but she persevered, and was happy to attempt to look at his teeth whilst he stood up. She had some very clever tricks to persuade J to open his mouth, and with split second timing, she was able to view into his mouth every few seconds, and check his teeth.
J has been very lucky with the strength and health of his teeth, despite the struggle to get him to brush them, or have them brushed by myself.
He doesn’t drink juice or cordials, sugary fizzy drinks, or milk. He doesn’t eat any kind of sugary sweets, or even fruit (which can have a high natural sugar content) but he happily consumes pints of water a day, and eats a lot of vegetables, so this must have a positive effect on his oral health.
When J began secondary school, the dentist appointments began to tail off, and were sporadic. There was never a real reason given as to why, but the likelihood was financial – the constant cuts to services for the special needs sector, for both children and adults, has been detrimental to so many.
There was a gap of around 18 months with J not seeing a dentist (bad I know), but I then decided to take matters into my own hands and that he would be seen by my own dentist. This also meant that if J ever needed to have treatment, my dentist would be in the position to refer J to a specialist who would use a sedating gas to perform any procedures, and it would mean J would be still and calm, and the specialist dentist team would be able to get on and complete the necessary treatment with ease.
I briefed my dentist about J ; warning him and the dental nurse that J is very tall (his height can intimidate some people, and coupled with his nonverbal babbling, can be a shock for them), and would be scared, possibly noisy, and at worst, refuse to even open his mouth.
J was seen straight away, with no waiting around (as I use a private dentist and not an NHS one – due to having no available NHS ones in my area -waiting times are not as long I have found), and he willingly sat back in the dentist’s chair.
He jolted a little as the chair lowered backward, but still remained seated.
The dentist showed him the little mirror tool and allowed J to hold it and look at his face close up.
J followed his request to open his mouth, and even though he did close it and re-open a few times, he kept it open for a good amount of the time, and even allowed the dentist to use the dental explorer (otherwise known as a sickle probe), and feel over his teeth.
I was amazed at how well J coped with the new environment, new faces, a potentially stressful situation (not many people enjoy a visit to the dentist), and having to do something he doesn’t like ( laying back and not being in control, having people touch him on his face, and the frightening feeling of not understanding what may happen).
The relief of not having him freak out, and have to deal with the fallout, and the feeling of achieving another goal with relative ease, is quite an accomplishment for me too.
As this went so well, it bodes well for further dental checkups, that J will be compliant with having his teeth checked over, and he’ll build up trust. I’m further relieved about the agreement that he will be referred for any treatment, no matter how minor, and that he’ll be sedated, meaning there will be no stress for him or me.

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