Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Like Pulling Teeth

Kiddo just had a dentist’s appointment to get his teeth cleaned. We’re still recovering. 

Few things are commonplace when a child with autism is in play. Until recently, haircuts were a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. Kiddo hated getting his hair cut. He fought us all tooth and nail over it. Barbers were covered in nicks and blood from their own scissors when it was over. And do you know how hard it is to trim a straight line when most of the hair is covered by the headlock Mommy has to put on him?
All right, young man, Mommy wants a nice, clean haircut.

I think the issue stemmed from his first few haircuts, which were inflicted on him with humming electric clippers. Being sensitive to certain sounds and sensations, Kiddo simply cannot cope with clippers. Only scissors are allowed around his hair. 

Unfortunately, there is no out when it comes to getting his teeth cleaned. He must endure the mechanical hum of the tool in his mouth, which only makes it louder. He hates it with passion. He fights it like the heavyweight champion of the world. And he lets the whole world know just how miserable he is. 

We can’t even get him to sit in the chair willingly. All hands are on deck when the time comes for torture. You wouldn’t think a skinny 8-year-old could put up much of a fight. And yet it takes at least three full-grown adults to pick up this struggling, shrieking bit of mayhem and pin him into the chair.


An artist’s rendering of the child we’re trying to contain.

I can’t even imagine how the other kids feel watching the drama unfold. This is a pediatric dentist’s office. In the spirit of keeping things warm and playful, the hygienists’ stations are in a big, open area with brightly painted murals. The kids can see each other getting their teeth cleaned and take encouragement from everyone around them. 

Then there is my poor son, lost in his sensory hell as his world becomes a chaotic maelstrom of buzzing, vibrating insanity in his mouth. His screams pierce every eardrum as he is held down against his will by vainly cooing grownups. There is terror on all the other children’s faces as they no doubt wonder if this is their eventual fate. I bet they all end up with OCD, endlessly brushing and flossing their teeth in order to avoid whatever horrendous procedure my son was apparently undergoing.


“Die tartar, die!!!”

The only fortunate thing about the cleaning of Kiddo’s teeth is that it’s over so quickly. The hygienist goes in grimly, polishing at light speed to get this over with. She is aided by the fact that you can’t scream without your mouth wide open, so she gets an all-access pass to those teeth. In less than five minutes, it’s over.  

My son accepts his free toy and toothbrush from the hygienist, hiccupping the last of his sobs and ready to be grouchy about everything to do with the rest of the day. Even when his appointments are first thing in the morning, we do not send him to school afterward. There is too much trauma to overcome, too much doting by a guilt-ridden Mommy to be done.

Then we get the news: a cavity to be filled. Oh heaven help us.

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