Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Samantha and the Dentist

There are adjectives too numerous to list to describe this experience.  I'll give you just a few:

*Frustrating*

*Heartbreaking*

*Sad*

*Torturous*

*Infuriating*

*Counterproductive*

*Useless*

Samantha has been going to the dentist since she was a year old.  The appointments for the first few years went well, with the baby being as cooperative as a baby can be.  Then things changed.  No bad experience to trigger it, just a maturing brain trying to make sense of it all, finding pure anxiety and fear in the invasive nature of the situation. 

This is a kid that fears boo boos and what's underneath a bandaid (I ask for no bandaids whenever possible - it's just not worth the fight to get it off), who used to cry when the car was up on a lift getting fixed, a room that was newly-painted, a fake tattoo, face-painting, or a new front door.  In other words, change to her comfort zones.  And I am pretty darn sure that her body is a BIG part of her comfort zone.  And having the hands of some stranger in her mouth doing whatever it is they're doing is a big No No in her book.

We went to the dentist yesterday.  This time I took her for the first time, instead of Daddy, since he had to be at work early and, let's face it, how awful must it be for him to always be the bad guy taking her to those appointments?  I got a good, grim look at the reality of just how bad it could be.  Trying to make it a positive experience all around just wasn't going to fly, but I did my best. 

To start with, after having to wrestle her out of a corner of the waiting area and into the exam room, I did have to pin her hands as she lay on top of me in the chair, Cinderella on the DVD player about as soothing as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre would have been.  I pinned her hands just until she could figure out that the doctor was only going to put his hands in her mouth to count her teeth, gently, but not before she'd gotten a good swipe at him, claws extended, drawing blood through his gloves.  Eventually, she calmed a bit, although she was still crying.  I released my grip, and he counted each tooth.  Then came time for the hygienist to work her magic.  Or not. 

Right.  Not.

But we did get a little bit further than in past visits, Samantha allowing me to gently floss some of her teeth (wouldn't let the hygienist anywhere near her mouth), allowing me to try the electric tooth brush thingy out on her hand so she could see how it tickles, then eventually (an hour had passed by this time), with the aid of her pink Peltor headphones, allowing the hygienist to put it in her mouth.

Just for a moment.

But long enough for her to clean 4 (!!) teeth.  Hey, it's a start!

So my question is this:  How can I get past this anxiety and resistance (the dentist doesn't sedate for cleanings) when my insurance only covers 2 cleanings per year (even though no real cleaning actually occured)?  So much time elapsing between events just creates more anxiety.  I do wonder if Medicaid would pick up an interim cleaning, although I am doubtful.  Maybe I can get Samantha to come to one of my cleanings somehow, except mine is tomorrow during my lunch break from work, which would be impossible for her. 

It's really a no-win situation.  I hate to see her like this.  I hate not knowing if she has cavities or other issues we need to address immediately.  I hate that she's got to go through a similar experience in just two weeks when she has an appointment with an orthodontist to discuss her underbite issues, although we will really stress to her that there will be nothing invasive, just a look at her mouth.  And trust me, those appointments are going to involve a whole lot of sedation when we proceed with treatment.

Anyway, just a quick vent for today.  I'm suitably jealous of all of you whose children face the dentist with grace, calm and sheathed claws.  I know there are no real tricks, because I tried them.  It's just something innate in our kids - some can, and some can't. 

Mine can't.

18 comments:

Rachel Douglas said...

My only suggestion is to get your hands and chew tubes and massagers and floss in her mouth as much as possible. And to drink. We follow the Beckman Oral Motor Protocal and I can not say enough how grateful I am we did this when he was a baby. Oh and drink.

Rochelle said...

Bless your heart and Sammi's the dentist is such a hard one for so many people.

Here is what helped our girls. I made a social story book "going to the dentist" for them with real pics I took at our dentist's office of everything like the waiting room and how we sit quietly and read in the waiting room to the blue chair, bib, instruments, toy chest everything. Pics with Aidan and our dentist smiling helped. Our dentist was more than happy for me to come by and stage pics for this book. We then read it a million times and talked about it before going.
Alayna does really well at the dentist but Dariya always freaked out but, after the book she was way better and let them at least look in her mouth and look around a bit.
Our dentist is the slow and steady kinda guy, he never wants it to be a bad experience so even if he just looks with no fingers in the mouth if the girls are happy it is a successful visit.
Maybe you guys could do field trips there and watch someone else get their teeth cleaned?
I know that anxiety all too well and pray that all our girls never have real dental issues or we they will probably have to give us the gas!

Lisa Morguess said...

Rebecca, I wish I had some words of encouragement to offer you, but the truth is, we're dealing with this same thing with Finn. I had to take him to the pediatric opthalmologist a couple months ago - he's been there before and has done fine - and the scene was almost unbelievable. He was absolutely hysterical. It's disheartening to say the least. He just had his first dentist appointment a couple weeks ago, and I requested sedation because I knew it would be a nightmare and completely unproductive otherwise. For the record, we don't have dental insurance, which is good and bad in that we have to pay out of pocket, but we also get to choose any dentist we want to go to, so thankfully we found a good pediatric dentist who will sedate for cleanings if necessary.

Cathleen said...

Has Sammi ever seen anyone else get their teeth cleaned? I would be more than happy to have her join us on Lilly's next trip to the dentist (although we're a little far away for a weekday!). Lilly actually loves it, and we have a great dentist here. Also some dentists work specifically with kids with special needs - my cousin's daughter doesn't have special needs but has anxiety so she goes on a "special needs" day where they block out extra time and have extra awareness - it costs extra (out of pocket) but really the goal is to get her out of thinking it's totally scary, and then she can get back on a normal routine. Disclaimer: While Lilly does fine at the dentist, I am a total wreck for my own dental appointments, and I usually pick dentists who are like 90 years old so that they won't be able to really see if I have cavities. :)

Margaret Bender said...

Hi, poor Sammi - I know just how she feels!! Does she have a friend of someone near her age that she could go to the dentist with - so she knows her peers do it? Alex was actually excited to get braces because her sister had them!

Jenny said...

Ug. I hate the dentist, my least favorite place to go, so I feel Sammmi's pain!! lol

Maybe your dentist already does this, not sure...But does he allow her to look at and touch the equipment before he starts using it on her? That might help...Other than that, not sure what advice to give.

Jen Currier said...

First of all, I love the changes you've made to the blog- Beautiful! Second of all, I'm sorry that this has been the case. You know you are doing everything you can- this is just one of those things. It might be traumatic, but 4 teeth got cleaned and maybe next time it will be 6. It's even possible that over time she will get more comfortable with it, like has happened with many other things... oxox

Anna said...

Can you believe Grace did incredible at each visit, until the seizures started. It's like someone flipped a switch. No way Hosea is she going to tolerate it. Frustrating to say the least! I am wondering if you could check with a junior college or somewhere that does cleanings to get them done more frequently? I know we even have programs through the health department. Just a few thoughts.

The Sumulong 3 said...

I too wish I had words of wisdom, but I don't. I deal with the same exact thing with Owen (3) and I've tried everything--letting him do a field trip, touching the instruments, holding them in his mouth himself, using chewy tubes/flossing/etc. at home everyday, making a social story book with pics and none of it has worked. Next time we go (April), the hygenist is thinking we'll try the papoose board to keep him in place because he's too strong now for me to hold him. I wish it wasn't like this either.

Kelli said...

I have only had negative embarrassing situations at the dentist as well with Colin. I love Rochelle's idea though!!

Laura said...

My dd was very nervous of doctors, dentists, etc. we were switching to a new dentist & hadn't been in about 1.5 years.

We did a social story like Rochelle. Actually 2 of them. The first was generic from pictures on the Internet & the 2nd was when she came with me to get my teeth cleaned. The 2nd book was very specific with my daughter, myself, the dentist & our friend who came along for the ride. We also took pics of the equipment, exam room, waiting room, play area, etc.

Next she went with my husband for his cleaning. Of course we all played up how wonderful our teeth felt after:)

We also played dentist/doctor & talked her sisters into joining into her imaginative game.

My daughters first exam with the new dentist was very brief but she behaved well.

Last time she went, about 3 months later, she had a full exam, cleaning etc & did great. She is doing well at the doctors too after the same preparations.

Good luck:)

Laura
downsyndromeupupupandaway.blogspot.com

Lisa said...

If she is anything like Cate and we know she is the seemingly rational fixes - books, obersvation visits and preparation talks won't work. Cate was always fine with the idea when I tried all those things right up until someone put their hands in her mouth. The only one who can change Sammi's mind is her. I personally think you have two options and the first one is the best one - Find a dentist who will sedate for a cleaning. Call you dental assocation and ask for someone specializing in special needs. Cate was sedated for 2 years then we tried the second option and it actually worked. The other possiblity is the way we changed Cate's mind but its not great fun. We did a couple 6 months visits where we broke the appointments up into pieces - one day we did the exam, one day we did the brushing, one day we did the flossing - always the first appointment of the morning so there was no waiting or delay. Get in - get one thing done - get out. That worked some for Cate because she didn't have time to get into a real state like crying so hard she had blood in her tears (yes that happened twice before). Then as we had a couple lower stress visits the fear got a little less and things got better. Problem with that strategy is extra visits which could be just as horrible and time because I know you don't have anymore time than we do. Good luck! Our dentist likes to stress me out as well - we finally got the cleanings down and now he wants an orthodontic consult after our next set of xrays!

Patti said...

I'm dreading this. dreading. Lily cannot stand for ME to even brush her teeth at home. Ugh.

Alicia Llanas said...

ugh. Elias has really bad teeths, while i was pregnant i didnt knew i was pregnant i took medication of a month or so. when i found out i was pregnant the concern about the medication was that he could be deaf or bad teeth, thank God it was only bad teeth.

really we have brushed his teeth every day, every moment, but still they are weak, they broke very easy

but once a dentist saw him, and he said we should just let the baby teeth to fall.. we were good and happy until few months ago one molar was really bad, and Elias was miserable, he loves doctors so he was begging for one

so we went to the dentist office, he was ok, he sat on the chair, he was ok, then they took x-rays, he was ok, we agreed that they would put him some local anesthesia, extract the molar and start a treatment for other molar since he already had the anesthesia.

so he was ok, he didnt said anything when the dentist put the anesthesia, but when the dentist proceed to pull off the molar, oh no he was crying, kicking and was a mess, i had to do something that it broke my heart to peaces, literally i almost cried there too, i sat him on my laps, hold his head, with him kicking and crying like if someone was torturing him, so the dentist could take off the molar. it was painful, and horrible but the molar needed to be out. sigh

now he hates dentists, he needs LOTS of work, since yes some teeth can fall in this year, but other could take years and could give him so much pain, so i guess there is not other than sedating him

thank God here dentist is not expensive as there (US) so the total work on 9 teeth will be around 870 dls


Anonymous said...

Our dentist for who treats a lot of kids with various diagnosis and our family dentist - a very old school fellow has suggested that for our 12 month old son that we play dentist every night while brushing his teeth. We have a little dental set from Toys R Us that has the finger brush, a toothbrush,a mirror and a NUK type brush. Each night we are to brush his whole two teeth, but put the finger brush in and massage his gums, and put the mirror in his mouth. The idea is that he will be used to having hands and instruments in his mouth. I'm also trying it for my four year old typical daughter who finds the dentist frightening as well.

Perhaps Samantha would find it not so scary if she could use a little mirror to look at her own teeth, your teeth, and then have you look at her teeth and just get used to hands in the mouth.

K.Anderson

Becca said...

Excellent, excellent comments and advice from all of you!!! Thank you all so much! My mother has already purchased a book about going to the dentist, I have downloaded and printed a little social story that's used for children with autism, and I've scheduled my next cleaning, in June, to be at a time when she can come and watch. Next steps are to find a friend she can accompany so she can watch, and I love K. Anderson's advice to get a little dental mirror so she can look at her teeth in the mirror. We have a toy one, but it's got that shiny paper as a mirror, so you really can't see much, and you can't wash it without risking the paper peeling off.

Anonymous said...

Maybe there is sensory issues involed? I hate going to the dentist even though my dentist knows how to treat kids w/ sensory issues(I have SPD)because his son has autism but still HATE IT and HATE the ortho(i have braces)

Kristi said...

Hi,
Our one and only experience with the dentist ended in disaster. And the poor guy never even got my son to open up his mouth. He screamed, he kicked, he cried, he fought, fought, fought. I'm due to try again as it's been six months now and I'm just dreading it.
Even to brush his teeth at home, it's a 2-person job with one of us holding his hands and the other leaning against his knees and holding his head. It sucks. (my son is on the autism spectrum and the teeth thing is just too much for him).
I hope your little one can overcome her fears! She's adorable.

Found you from Love that Max's link up and am so glad I did!