The Special Needs Dentist

Ethan’s teeth are a major worry for me. After finally letting us put a toothbrush up to his mouth with some toothpaste on it last April this is where our progress has halted. His sensory issues with his mouth isn’t letting us clean his teeth correctly and my biggest fear is that we are going to have a child that needs to be sedated and have teeth removed because of this. 

With this in mind we have been having family appointments at our dentist in the hope that Ethan will get used to the situation. His fear of everything medical and not letting anyone near his mouth means that these appointments haven’t been very successful. When asking our dentist how we can overcome Ethan’s fears he just said ‘It will have to be done’. In other words we will have to force the issue which would then override all of the hard work we have done just getting Ethan used to a toothbrush. 

I had heard that some areas have specialist autism dentists, so I had been asking the receptionist’s if they knew of any in our area but they never really had any answers or advice. After chatting with our family support key worker I discovered that our dentist could refer Ethan to the special needs dentist where Ethan was diagnosed. Armed with this new information I approached the receptionist’s and surprise, surprise, they knew what I was talking about! 

A referral was made and last week we had our very first appointment with the special needs dentist. 

Knowing Ethan’s fears I wasn’t expecting much of this appointment but I was glad that we were finally seeing the right people. 

How Did The Appointment Go? 

Walking into the dentist’s surgery I was pleased to see that the dentist chair wasn’t surrounded by the usual equipment, the room was very clear. Such a positive for anyone easily overloaded or fearful of the dentist situation. 

Ethan happily walked into the room, a very positive start, and proceeded to look in the cupboards whilst I discussed with the dentist all of Ethan’s fears. Ethan even climbed on and off of the dentist chair whilst we talked.

It was then time to try to look in Ethan’s mouth. The dentist put on her medical gloves and Ethan froze, he then started to say bye, a clear indication that he wanted out of there as quick as possible. So through this appointment we had already worked out that Ethan doesn’t like the medical gloves. He must link these to doctors and his time in A&E, so the dentist quickly removed them. Ethan was happier.

We didn’t try to make him sit on the chair but my mum held him whilst the dentist tried to look in his mouth. Darren has been using the word ‘open’ when Ethan has been refusing his food and sometimes he responds to this request so the dentist tried it. It didn’t work, so we decided to try singing!

Everyday really is a different adventure, who would imagine there would be four adults in the dentist’s surgery singing ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’ in the hope that we would be able to see into someones mouth! 

This didn’t work but during this process Ethan thought the dentist wanted to hold him and kiss him. Ethan kept lowering his head at her and at one point even made the ‘muah’ sound that he has picked up from Upsey Daisy. He even ended up in the dentists arms a couple of times. 

The dentist thought that the appointment went very well, she was pleased with how much Ethan had engaged with them. She also mentioned that he is very bright, which is always nice to hear from someone who works in Special Needs.

Moving forward we have been booked in for five consecutive appointments with the therapist to work on Ethan’s fears and hopefully his sensory issue with his mouth. They will then evaluate how Ethan has got on and if he is ready to see the dentist again. They have warned me it can be a slow process but we are used to taking small steps towards our goals.

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