When Sebastian was eight years old, I took him for a routine dental visit. By that age he was brushing his teeth by himself, which I considered a major accomplishment. Like many parents, I struggled to teach Sebastian good oral care. At some point, he didn’t want me to do the brushing but on his own he would spend 30 seconds cleaning his teeth. No doubt, there were sensory issues including a very specific preference for toothpaste. Oh the stress of running out of toothpaste and not being able to find it in any store within a five mile radius…
As Sebastian sat in the dentist chair that day, I tried to keep him calm with superficial conversation and general reassurances. He was fidgeting. I placed my hands on his because the dentist asked him more than once to keep them down. His tone was a little too stern for my liking. Sebastian was obviously anxious, which made me anxious. Sure in a perfect world I would have asked the doctor to take a break, show Sebastian the dental instruments, talk to him about what he was doing and what to expect.
The world isn’t perfect and neither am I. I took a few deep breaths and tried to reassure Sebastian that the cleaning would soon be over. When the dentist finished, he looked at me and said, “You could be doing a better job cleaning his teeth.”
I’ve talked about the doctor/patient/parent relationship before and Benjamin has given me plenty of experience with different types of doctors. Living with a child who was given a 50% chance to celebrate his 10th birthday gives me a certain no nonsense attitude. We don’t have time to waste with doctors who don’t get our needs, and who don’t support our whole family.
That was the last time either of my children saw that particular dentist. Since then they’ve seen Dr. Christina Carter. I knew we were fortunate to have found her. She has an unlimited amount of patience, explains everything to the boys, tells me what I’m doing right, demonstrates better cleaning strategies when needed, provides squeeze toys to keep anxious hands busy, and has a certified therapy dog.
I didn’t know how fortunate we were. The current issue of People & Families Magazine looks into the importance of dental care for people with disabilities and the obstacles they face trying to obtain it. Check out the article on page 38. There’s a couple of faces you’ll recognize.
Here’s a sneak peek.
Special thanks to Brenda Considine for including us in this article.
Photo credit: Rebecca Shavulsky