I love going to the dentist.
I love getting my teeth cleaned. The dental hygienist is always good, and my teeth feel so “slickery” afterwards. A lovely fresh feeling of cinnamon… Of course, I’m ignoring the cracked tooth that I have and the need for a crown- but I’m putting that off as long as possible. Serious dental work and I don’t get along… But regular checkups? Always nice.
My children- well, that’s a whole ‘nother story.
Elizabeth loves things in her mouth- she is very oral, and so toothbrushing has been a source of delight for her since she was a baby. The problem with her is getting her to stop! She is VERY diligent about toothbrushing- to the point that we go through a tooth brush every month. I worry about her brushing her gums off.
Needless to say, Elizabeth LOVES the dentist; someone whose job it is to mess with her mouth. She’s the perfect patient. She, of course, had a perfect checkup.
Ray? Ray hates ANYTHING in his mouth- food, water, gum, and certainly toothbrushes. I have to wrestle him to get him to brush and on days when I’m distracted (more often than I would like to admit), he happily goes without. He hates everything about it, the brush, the toothpaste, the rinsing.
Needless to say, Ray HATES the dentist. And since he now has four “real” teeth, the stakes of oral health have been raised. Add to that he has the Hughes/Lynch mouth with more teeth than jaw, and he’s in for braces- someday. Someday far, far away from today. He, of course, did not have a perfect check up and it involved lots of scraping, lots of frowning from the hygienist and lots of spitting of blood. No cavities, thank goodness, and no screaming… but lots of moving his head around, lots of clinging and lots of “Open your mouth… no more”.
I threatened future cavities. Ray shrugged. I threatened more pain. Ray shrugged. The dental hygienist, who understands typical kids, talked about brushing the “cavity bugs” away, a concept that to my literal-minded children means that their mouths are full of bugs. Ray’s face almost turned purple with fear. I tried giving her the high sign that this was not a good thing for my kiddos, but she remained chirpy. I have to say that there were things that he did not do- he did not scream, he did not fight her and he did not (as he did once when he was three) bite her.
I’m never quite clear on when I need to tell others about my children’s issues. Elizabeth- clearly I don’t need to share. The dentist thinks that she’s a perfect patient? Fine with me- This is one of those “autism working for us” moments. But Ray…? I don’t know whether to share his autism/anxiety. I know that I should pay more attention to his teeth. I know that I should. But somehow in the tangle of travel/test anxiety/friendships/eating issues/sleeping issues/medication that is Ray, toothbrushing falls down the list. Do I tell the dentist of Ray’s issues and get “the” look- the one full of pity and sympathy and a slight, ever so slight withdrawal, where voices change- become louder and words become smaller? Or do I say nothing and simply absorb the “bad mommy” judgment? And really, is Ray’s anxiety a reason for bad checkups, or an excuse for me to use as I flagellate myself with “bad mommy” self-judgment? Autism/anxiety makes some things in our life harder, but it doesn’t truly make them impossible.
At the end of the appointment, the dentist gave them Listerine’s Agent Blue to help them know where to brush. Elizabeth squealed, “Oh good!” and I could see her delight in something else to put in her mouth. Ray gave me “the look” and I knew that he would not be putting that in his mouth- ever. I resolved, once again, to put “teach/monitor Ray’s toothbrushing” higher on the list.
I hate going to the dentist.