If you don’t have disability in your family, you may have never thought of the potential challenge for both the disabled and those serving them for a routine check-up. Hopefully this post will give some insight and help others along the way.
Jacob has been to the same dentist office since he was 3 years old. It feels odd to walk into a Pediatric Dental Clinic with your grown son. However, it’s what we’ve done because they’ve lovingly met our needs all these years. Truly a tremendous blessing to have dentists, hygienists, assistants, and office staff who are trained in serving those with special needs. If you know someone who fits this job description, tell them THANK YOU!
I wish I could say Jacob has grown accustomed to the routine and it isn’t a problem. That would be false. He hates it. I suppose no one loves having their teeth cleaned but most can appreciate the benefits and wonderful feeling when it’s done. It is a real aversion for him. I start dreading these appointments a couple of days before. *He doesn’t know until an hour or so before getting in the car. Why the dread? I’m glad you asked!
- UUIt is hard on Jacob. He tosses and jerks as much as he can. It’s a natural reaction to not wanting to be there and have someone’s hands in his mouth. He’s bound to be tired and sore from the self-imposed workout!
- It is physically hard on us. Sometimes we work up a sweat just getting him out of the car upon arrival. Once inside, it is not like we are in the waiting room and Jacob goes back. We have always gone back with him for check-ups and any dental work. In the early years, his dentist would joke that I could probably give injections as I had watched so many.
- Once Jacob was taller and stronger, we agreed for him to be wrapped in a papoose. It immobilizes him so he calms down. I sincerely wish it wasn’t necessary but I don’t believe we could accomplish anything without it. Leaving his arms free is dangerous for him, for us, the hygienist, and the dentist as sharp instruments are involved! At his most recent appointment he sat on the floor when we got into the room. Mike and I lifted him up and he grabbed a bench almost turning it over. It literally took five adults to get him to lie on his back in order to be wrapped. Within seconds of securing the wrap, he was able to relax. Some. Not to say that he was happy, it just made for easier cleaning even though he might still jerk his head and clamp his mouth shut. As mentioned before, we are there with him the whole time helping to keep him still and often singing to distract him.
- When Jacob is doing everything he can to keep from cooperating, I am concerned his behavior may scare other patients there. I don’t want their check-up to be traumatized by him fussing and flailing around the room.
- It is emotionally hard on me. I’m quite certain this is strictly a mom thing but I always leave his appointments physically spent and emotionally drained. Even if it is a ‘no cavities’ visit. Because Jacob cannot brush his teeth, all of his life one or both of us have taken care of his dental hygiene. And he basically resist us, making it his mission to be difficult 90% of the time. Even if I think I’ve done as good as I possibly can brushing his teeth, I always feel it isn’t good enough. If his gums bleed, if he has a cavity, or if I see plaque, then it is my fault. I don’t dwell on this thinking but it is very real every six months, no matter.
- Because his communication skills aren’t good, I must pay close attention to dental health. If he has a toothache, it may be really hard to figure out. I may think he has a sore throat and instead it could be a toothache or vice versa. It’s important to watch for signs that his mouth is bothering him. And since he doesn’t willingly just let you take a look, it is tricky to find answers.
- We have to use medicine prior to an appointment to help with his gag reflex and hopefully help him chill a little. It’s a balance finding the right dose so he can relax but not so much that he is dizzy afterwards.
*Back to Jacob doesn’t know where he is going until about an hour before. On the afternoon of his last visit, within a few minutes of knowing he was going to dentist, I caught him hiding my car keys. I quickly retrieved them and returned them to my purse and zipped it closed as he typically has trouble with zippers. I did a few other things to get ready to go including getting him in the van. Went back inside to grab my purse and it wasn’t on the bar where I left it. Did a quick search but knew exactly what had happened. Jacob ‘hid’ my purse trying to stall our departure. Much to his dismay, it did not work! I didn’t need my purse since Mike was driving. When we got home, my purse was on the sofa in the den and easy to spot, I just hadn’t taken time to look there before leaving.
After the visit, all was forgotten as Jacob was treated to his favorite burgers to enjoy once we got home. He had chocolate milk and Disney Hakuna Matata close by. Plus a note from his Granny. His teeth were clean and we were happy it would be six months before a repeat.
Dental visits are something I wish we could put off. But, that isn’t an option. We truly adore our dentist. Her dad was Jacob’s first dentist and while Jacob has never loved going, he has always known he was loved while he was there. When she took over the practice, it was a smooth transition with the same atmosphere we’ve appreciated all these years. It’s not the dentist, it’s the sentence of having to go at all!