This has been a crazy week. Monday brought my unbelievable Matchbox Twenty experience (to read about that, click --> here <--), Tuesday ushered in the arrival of my grandparents, and the weekend will bring a family wedding.
Wednesday brought that 6-month sensory fiasco known as a dental cleaning.
The experience was - luckily - short and sweet. We go to an amazing pediatric dentist who is very accommodating of special needs kids. When we go, we are the only patients in the office. They make the experience very brief and don't try to push Jack too far over the edge. They also seem to understand Jack's sensory issues and autism. It's been a good situation so far.
This visit, I was a bit apprehensive. Jack's been pocketing his food pretty badly over the past couple of months, so I was concerned about the possibility of cavities. We do our best - our absolute best - to try to keep Jack's teeth clean. Sometimes he tolerates tooth brushing. Sometimes, not so much. To me, dental hygiene has always been non-negotiable, so we tend to just hold Jack down during the not-so-great times. We're going to get those teeth brushed even if we take a few roundhouse kicks to the face.
In fact, last time the hygienist did take a roundhouse kick to the face. The dentist also got bitten (to read all about our first dental visit, click --> here <--). It was fun.
Pulling up into the parking lot, I felt a brief glimmer of hope. Jack didn't seem to remember where we were, which is remarkable because he never forgets. He's like an elephant. We drive past the children's barber and he starts saying "all done haircut". Each night, he says "all done medicine" (the last time we gave him medicine before bed was over 6 months ago) and "all done cut nails" (which we do more regularly and he hates with a passion). With each, he's parroting what we say to reassure him. He wants us to confirm - "all done medicine; all done cut nails" - so that he can rest easy.
Now, he doesn't know the word "dentist", but I was expecting him to break out in the "all done"s. They didn't come. Brilliant!
Of course, I spoke too soon. We went in and saw another little boy from our therapy clinic who was there with his ABA therapist. We exchanged prompted greetings and still so far so good. I was very optimistic.
"Jack?" the hygienist called from the door. The second that registered, Jack dropped to the ground screaming. Damn. I tried to haul him to his feet, but he's getting so big that if he doesn't want to walk, there's not much I can do to force him. We were on a schedule, so I wrestled him up off the ground and carried him back. His anxiety was much higher this time; he had remembered after all. The decision was made to move him into an exam room rather than the hygienist bays, which I thought was smart. In addition, they called in reinforcements - 2 assistants plus the hygienist - all to handle cleaning my boy's teeth. In an act of mercy, they told me to just stand back - that they didn't want me to be the bad guy for holding him down. I appreciated that gesture, but I got the feeling that Jack wouldn't really be mad at me specifically either way; however, it was good for my breaking heart to stand back from it all.
I reminded the team of one important fact - Jack is a biter. Anything and anyone who ventures into his mouth is liable to get bitten. Jack's speech therapists are always very careful when they do oral-motor work, either placing oral-motor tools in his mouth or giving him ample notice and reminders to be gentle when they place a finger in his mouth.
It wasn't more than a minute or two later when I heard a yelp through my boy's continued screams. Jack had indeed gotten a piece of the hygienist. I hope she's up-to-date on her tetanus shots, because I'm sure that my kid isn't the only biter. But still...no one wants their kid to be the biter. I think the worst part was when he bit down on her metal scraper, which shoved it into his gum. I'm not sure he was aware of the pain (his screaming sounded pretty much the same), but his gums were bleeding.
The reinforcements we called in did help. No one got kicked, but my boy screamed and struggled. In a way, the screaming made it easier to do their job, as his mouth was wide open from the wailing. They tried to soothe him, but no dice. They even tried to claim that the fluoride treatment tasted like cupcakes, but I assured him that cupcakes were not Jack's friend and that he could care less what it tasted like. It was being held down and having hands all over his face and mouth that was offensive.
They wanted to take x-rays, but Jack was so upset that everyone agreed that it would be best to skip them at this visit. It left me wondering, How the hell will they get x-rays on him? I can't see him putting the x-ray film in his mouth voluntarily, and even if he does, I can see it gagging him.
Dr. Dentist finally came in and took a look in my boy's mouth. I anxiously awaited the verdict. Cavities? No cavities? Oh God, what will we do with cavities?
Luckily, Jack's mouth was cavity-free. He doesn't eat very much sugar, so I'm sure that helps. We did discuss the possible need for some kind of additional fluoride supplement in the future to help further shield Jack's teeth from the pocketing. Dr. Dentist also said that Jack's teeth looked good with regards to wear on one side versus the other, since he almost exclusively chews with the left side of his mouth versus the right.
With that, we were done. Jack still was heaving and sobbing as I picked him up. We walked over to a prize machine and I put a token in for Jack to get a bouncy ball. I handed him the rubbery green-marbled ball and he just held it tightly in his hand. He wasn't going to look up. I could tell that the anxiety would only subside once we were safely on our way.
So, I'm calling it a semi-win. He had no cavities, which is the ultimate win; however, he did bite someone and we didn't get the x-rays. I'm hoping that as he ages, as his comprehension of language improves, and as we gain more sensory and transitioning strategies, we will see dentist visits, haircuts, and nail trims all get easier.
If not, we'll just keep on keeping on. That's what we have to do.