Post Dentist: A nothing special kind of day

Charlie gets ready for a late afternoon bike ride  Wednesday was a nothing special kind of day: School; after-school Mom pick-up with the ride home made longer due to a roadwork detour; long walk under a hot (but not super hot) sun (during which I had contact lens distress thanks to a strong breeze and a lot of pollen and dust—when you walk with Charlie, you learn to keep walking on); request for kiddie videos that seemed to bring out the edge in Charlie; bike ride at a much slower pace than usual, especially at the start—Charlie kept getting on and off his bike and tapping his helmet with his palms; some computer time after dinner, with Charlie really wanting those kiddie videos and me pulling out a book with said kiddie video characters from the shelf beside the couch and reading it to him while slowly pointing to the words, and Charlie looking at those words and repeating them after me, with a smile.

Okay, that was something special: I can't remember when I last got Charlie to look at a book, much less (seem to be actually) look(ing) at the words on the pages.

Also: While he and Jim were out bike-riding, I went to a certain Tex-Mex fast food chain in a neighboring town and got Charlie a burrito. I hadn't been in this particular restaurant since early March (March 7, to be exact), as Charlie got super upset en route. He can certainly manage without getting a burrito from there. I happened to be driving by and something in me said, you can go back in there, and so I did.

I had to stand aside so that a couple of players from the high school baseball team could emerge. It's not a big space and there must have been 15 people in line, including more members of the baseball team and various fans, friends, and hangers-on. It was hot and stuffy with muzak playing and all I could think was, what were we thinking to bring Charlie into this bastion of sensory-overloadness? He had been able to manage being in the restaurant and even sitting down and eating but his last experience there had ended in a really difficult way, as if Charlie had been bottling up how he felt and trying to endure it the first several times, and then he just couldn't anymore. Charlie aims so much to please; perhaps he'd felt he had to try to meet our requests that he go to the restaurant and endure it, but then he just couldn't take it anymore. 

Also, this restaurant seems to have become something of a teenagers' hangout (as it must have been last night for the victorious baseball team). While it had first seemed good for Charlie to be among kids his age, the atmosphere generated by said teenagers seems to be quite the opposite. From watching Charlie's expression, Jim and I have been thinking that he's aware that he's different from other kids and it must be at least confusing to see them and be among them (especially in an unsupervised-by-parents state). Certainly, after the long wait, I was glad to be out in the fresh air walking back to the car.

And, at home, Charlie was certainly glad to have that burrito and some extra guacamole on the side.

On Tuesday, after his dentist visit, he'd gotten suddenly upset in the school cafeteria and sent things flying. Jim and I've hypothesized that Charlie's mouth was still feeling sensitive after his dentist visit.

So yes, we were feeling some trepidation about the visit, as this was a rescheduled appointment. Charlie had been due for a 6-month check-up in early March but hadn't been able to make it through that exam. (Yours truly also mistakenly thought the appointment was a half-hour earlier than it was; waiting an extra half-hour plus in the waiting room did not help.) Tuesday we got to the dentist's office just in time for Charlie to be directed into an exam room. His teachers have written a dentist social story and been reading it to him and, a couple of days in advance, we had started talking about going to the dentist. Monday night I wrote up a little schedule about the visit, noting that there'd be 'counting teeth,' 'scraping teeth,' 'scraping' (listed twice as that part seems to last forever), 'brushing teeth,' 'flossing,' 'fluoride,' 'white car,' 'school.'

Once in the chair, Charlie opened his mouth for short intervals, but enough so the dentist could check. One hygienist made lots of notes and another stood by. The dentist did everything quickly and efficiently, brushing Charlie's teeth with the toothbrush and toothpaste I had brought; noting that Charlie didn't like it when the dentist stood behind him and examined his teeth; flossing Charlie's top and bottom teeth with Charlie keeping his mouth open the whole time. 

Charlie started saying "all done" at this point and shot us a fixed look that reinforced his words. I pulled out the iPod touch and, while the dentist got ready to apply fluoride, I set the timer for one minute. Leave on an upbeat note, I said to myself. The minute was up when only about two-thirds of the fluoride had been applied and we all agreed, good enough. Charlie got out of the chair and was off to the car with Jim.

In talking to the dentist afterwards, we learned that Charlie is going to ha
ve to have some dental work done under sedation in the operating room of a local hospital. Our dentist will do it (indeed, he is operating on two children today). He'll be able to (finally) take x-rays of Charlie's teeth, examine some new teeth that are coming in in the back, and apply a protective sealant. Jim and I emphasized that prevention is the thing. If Charlie ever had something like an abscessed tooth, I have a feeling that he would 'tell' us this through some very difficult behavior moments. Hopefully the surgery can be done in the next month or two.

All this made Tuesday a quite special day, with Charlie probably needing to process the dentist visit and so not being at his peaceful-easiest in the cafeteria.  Wednesday, he was much more easeful (if tired) at school and at home, and went to be earlier. My suspicion is that it takes him more than one day to work through something  like a dentist appointment. Meaning that, this operating room business will be interesting. 

Frankly, I'm just relieved there is a way to address Charlie's dental needs, and that our dentist is able to do it, and that we can be, we hope, pro-active and help to alleviate some potential future pain for Charlie—and have more 'nothing too much special days.'

7 Responses to “Post Dentist: A nothing special kind of day”
  1. Jennifer says:

    I am *not* fond of dentists at all, and as I was reading this, it occurred to me that a dentist’s office must be very uncomfortable for someone who has many sensory sensitivities, as it seems Charlie does: from the sounds (drills, etc.) to that strange…well…dentist smell.
    Glad Charlie was able to end on a positive note. 🙂

  2. sarah says:

    my son is going to be having dental work done under sedation as well.
    has charlie had dental work done before? i was wondering how he did with the procedure and recovering after it was done.

  3. emma says:

    A great dental visit! Prevention is very important and something so frequently missed for children and adults with developmental disabilities – good on you for being pro-active (not so good myself, got to do something about that).
    I think it great that 1. Charlie said all done to indicate he had enough,2. use of timer, and not forgetting the all important 3. leaving on a good note!!
    Leaving places on a positive note has been very important for us too.

  4. Regina says:

    That sounds much more successful than the last time – for all of you.
    What Emma said – not only prevention, but dental care, per se, is important and sometimes given second-class status – which has never made sense to me, although I notice that some professionals are skittish about special needs patients if they don’t have a lot of experience.
    We feel very blessed. It’s been a long process that started small, but our girl not only is cooperative, but actually looks forward to the dentist(s). I thank my lucky stars because she currently has some complicated on-going dental work that would be much more complicated (and unpleasant for her) if she was not already meeting everyone more than half way and used to it. I lay a lot of it to our pediatric dentist, who is a peach, has a pretty kid-friendly office, and is unfrazzled by much of anything. (Although a social story was also helpful, as was some skill practice at home, and finishing off each visit with a trip to a favorite bakery as payoff for a good checkup). I would not have imagined it possible 3 years ago, but I’ll take it.
    Is Charlie going to have to do “full” sedation? I think the hospital is good esp. for the first time, but have you had a chance to talk to the dentist about the recovery period? That’s where we had the only real issues, since our daughter was disoriented, slightly nauseated, disinhibited and very unhappy for the first couple of hours. After that she was okay, if logy, but I wish someone had given us some heads up, since forewarned is forearmed. YMMV.
    Even without the full sit-down experience, you guys were back in the restaurant – super.
    Take care.

  5. Jen says:

    One of my daughters has had dental work done under sedation in the hospital a few times, and the only problems that we’ve ever had is that when she wakes up afterwards, she wants to leave immediately (she doesn’t have any grogginess at all when she wakes). She’s not fond of the waiting for the juice and cookies and making sure that everything is okay in the recovery room part of the procedure. I think that it would have helped us a lot the first time to be a bit more specific that after she wakes up, she will still need to stay in bed for a short period of time (usually about half an hour for her).
    We’ve always had great dentists/nurses at the hospital though, who let us be with her until the last possible minute. A lot of hospitals actually have booklets already made up to explain the operating room to young children (with lots of pictures), so it might be worth asking if your hospital does.

  6. Jill says:

    I always wondered how kids with autism view typical kids their own age. My former students seemed to pretty much ignore the kids themselves but they’d sometimes comment on the things they had with them: a basketball, a radio or whatever.
    I noticed that a few times the higher functioning boys (my students were all boys) would study some particularly rowdy horseplay out of the corners of their eyes.
    How do you think Charlie feels about typical boys his age? Do their interactions with each other seem like a blur of motion and garbled words to him or does he seem wistful, as if he’d like to join them but her doesn’t know how?

  7. Louise says:

    One of our favorite videos is “David After Dentist”.

    Charlie will be feeling a lot of the same set of post-visit sensations, I bet! What sort of techniques would you have for getting him to keep his hands out of his mouth?
    P.S. The video stand alone, of course, on its own. Now, whenever things gets weird, Jack asks “Is this real life?” in a David-after-dentist tone.

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