Autism and the Toothache

In the last week of term before the Easter holidays one of my biggest fears came true!

As we brushed Ethan’s teeth he screamed out in pain and after lots of tears we worked out that Ethan could possibly have a toothache. We debated if perhaps we hurt his gum so decided to see what his reaction was like the following morning. As feared he wouldn’t let me near him with his toothbrush. All our years of hard work to just get a toothbrush anywhere near his mouth was lost in a few seconds.

The best thing I could do was send Ethan to school with some pain relief and warn his teacher that he might not be himself. Knowing that a dentist has only been able to look in his mouth once and has never been near him with any tools I really didn’t know how we would tackle this problem. I had visions that we were facing a rotten tooth and an operation for it to be removed. Thankfully I was able to make Ethan an appointment at the Special Needs Dentist for the next day.

Ethan’s teacher was amazing, she made Ethan a social story telling him what was going to happen at his appointment the next day. They also arranged for one of Ethan’s teaching assistants to attend the appointment with us.

I was very nervous about the whole process, not only did we have to face Ethan’s sensory issues of teeth we also had to break his daily routine. Just the fact that I would be appearing at school and removing him from his class could result in a huge meltdown. Two potential meltdowns in one day was not a prospect I was looking forward too. The social story that Ethan’s teacher created detailed everything that was going to happen, including the time I would be picking him up and the time he would return to school. We made sure we read it to him before he went to bed and again in the morning. I kept every crossed that all would go to plan and on time.

I collected Ethan and his TA during the morning break and we made our way to the appointment. Ethan had his social story in hand and was reading it and looking at the pictures on the way. I discussed tactics with the TA and I told her she was more than welcome to hold Ethan if needed during the appointment. Sometimes being mum just doesn’t help in situations like this.

The appointment went better than I was ever expecting. Ethan willingly sat on the dentist chair for a few minutes before he started to dance around the room. It did take four adults which included Ethan being held on the TA’s lap at an angle for the dentist to see all of Ethan’s teeth. It was by no means an easy task but we got the result we needed without causing Ethan any distress.

I’m pleased to report that even though we don’t have the best dental history with Ethan there was no rotting tooth to be found. We believe that we could have caught Ethan’s front wobbly tooth and that might have caused him a bit of pain. We have also had some positive steps forward in Ethan’s teeth brushing journey from this experience. We have had to say goodbye to his electric toothbrush but he is now letting us clean his teeth a little bit better with a normal toothbrush. We still have a long journey to be up to normal teeth brushing standards but we have made a small step forward.

2 thoughts on “Autism and the Toothache”

  1. Well done Ethan! So many challenges for him to face (and for you to prepare him for), it could have been a lot worse – in both the outcome and how Ethan reacted during the appointment – so well done. Hopefully he’ll remember this appointment’s success for future ones.

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