Boo is extremely orally sensitive. He always has been. Keeping his teeth brushed has always been difficult, and if I am really brutally honest, I haven't always made much of an effort to even try. I know, I know, so don't bother lecturing me. Back when he was almost two I had started the process of finding him a dentist, but before he ever had an appointment I suddenly got laid off from my job and poof, we had no insurance. Fast forward three years and there he is happily jumping away in the bounce house in our back yard at his fifth birthday party. Then suddenly he is wailing and running to me. He had somehow fallen face first into another kid's back and hurt his mouth. He was very upset about it. Later after the excitement was over he again complained about his mouth. When I got a better look, I saw that one of his bottom incisors was missing a big chunk of enamel! Uh oh.
The very next business day I started calling around for referrals. I needed a dentist who "gets it." I wasn't about to just pick someone out of a phone book. I checked out the website of one of the practices that was recommended and fell in love. I called to set an appointment and of course, they had no openings until October. Five months. I took it, and hoped that we wouldn't experience any trouble before then. Monday afternoon I got a phone call. It was the dentist office. They said that they had a cancellation and they would like to offer it to Boo. Great! When? Tomorrow! I had less than 24 hours to prepare my son for his first ever dental visit! But I knew I would be a fool not to take the chance. So Tuesday afternoon Mammo came over and we all got in the car and headed to town, fingers, toes, legs, and eyeballs crossed.
I had showed Boo the website. Showed him the pictures of the reception desk, waiting area, and treatment areas. The home page had a monkey hanging from a tree and brushing its teeth, which Boo found hilarious. I also showed him pictures of the doctor he would be seeing. I told him that if he let the doctor count his teeth, he could choose any reward he wanted. I prepared myself to shell out twenty buck I could ill-afford for the much coveted wall tracks expansion, but Boo announced that for his reward he would like to have reece's pieces. He was thrilled to play in the waiting room, but as soon as his name was called, he morphed into Clingy McScreamerson. I carried him down the hallway to the exam room. Instead of dental chairs, they simply have small beds that lay flat. He refused to even consider sitting on it. He was trying to climb inside my skin. But then he noticed something on the ceiling. A TV was mounted above the exam area, pointing straight down, and on it was playing Despicable Me! How cool is that? He asked about it and the girl showed him a set of wireless earphones. Of course, he refused to even consider wearing them, but I feigned excitement and put them on myself. Hey! I can hear the movie! He still didn't want to wear them so I set them down and pretended to ignore him while I answered questions and discussed his history and my concerns with the assistant. Before I knew it....
He had the headphones on. This, they boy who has literally refused any attempts to put anything on his head (except his hoodies) since birth, was wearing headphones. I pretended that I didn't even notice, and continued talking with the assistant. Next thing you know...
He never really got all the way up on the exam bed, but he was close. He did sit on it at one point. I simply never made a big deal out of it. He then started messing with the buttons on the headphones and soon they weren't working right. I put them on and I was hearing a different movie. I told the girl that they were playing Cars. Boo got excited and asked if he could see Cars instead and she changed the movie to Cars. They chatted a bit about his love of Lightning McQueen, and next thing I knew, she grabbed her tiny microphone hanging from her tiny earpiece (think Hollywood Secret Service), pushed a button, and said "can you get us a bag with a Lightning McQueen toothbrush please." And POOF, another lady appeared in the door and handed over a small bag containing said toothbrush, some toothpaste and some floss. Boo was totally excited by the toothbrush. Then the girl started talking to Boo about all the special tools they use and asked if he wanted to check them out. She presented him with a small dental mirror.
He took it from her, checked it out, and told her "this reflects whatever is in front of it," and then used it to watch Cars on the ceiling. I was equal parts amused and amazed by their exchange. Soon after that the doctor came in. They chatted easily. After she and the assistant conversed briefly, she showed Boo her special glasses with magnifying glasses in them. He was enthralled. She asked if he wanted to try them, and I almost feel out of my chair when he said yes.
He didn't wear it long. As she and I talked at length, Boo noticed the dental light that was hanging down from the ceiling. This what where they REALLY impressed me. They let him play with it to his heart's content, switching it on and off, moving it all around, barely even reacting when he kept shining it directly in the doctor's eyes by accident. This kept him distracted while she discussed his diet and oral hygiene habits with me, recommending some products that could help protect against cavities, and giving me absolutely no pressure about the nature of his eating habits and the rarity of his brushing.
After that, she showed him her blue gloves and let him watch her put them on, and feel the texture of them. Then she showed him her mask, holding it in front of her, then explaining to him as she hooked it over her ears, then pulled it up to cover her mouth and nose. She then put on her glasses again and let him get comfortable with the way she looked.
He never did allow her to touch him, and she never pushed the issue. She gave him a hand-held mirror and asked him to look at his own teeth, and she got as good a look as she could while he did so. I then reminded him of the promised reward, and the dentist mentioned that she had an airplane she could give him when he was done. He zeroed in on that airplane idea. I told him if he wanted to earn his reward he had to let the doctor look at just one of his teeth. He was sitting in my lap facing me, and I turned my back to the doctor so she could see him. I asked him which tooth the doctor could look at. He opened his mouth wide and pointed to one way in the back, which gave her another peek inside the mouth. He then clamped shut and totally shut down, trying to climb inside my skin once again. It was apparent to me that he was done. That was all the cooperation we were going to get out of him that day. To my amazement, it seemed apparent to the doctor as well.
She then told me that she was totally happy to stop at that point and call it a successful appointment, and try to get a little further next time. She said that she had gotten a pretty good look at the chipped tooth and was not concerned about it. She also got a look at some of the molars and said she was happy with them, and didn't see much plaque or anything that concerned her, which astounded me. She also blew me away when she mentioned that they are working on creating a social story for their practice, including pictures of all the areas and pictures of both the doctors in the practice wearing their "gear." We discussed our plan for going forward and decided to try again in three months and see how we do. She also said that they have a lot of parents of "spectrum kids" who simply stop by when they are in the area sometimes, just to have another pressure-free, stress-free point of contact with the kids to build positive experiences and memories. The entire time we were there I felt as though they had all the time in the world for us, and more compassion and understanding than I had ever dreamed.
Boo indeed received his promised toy plane, and though he left the office in tears (because we didn't have time to play in the waiting room some more) once we were on the road and I asked him what he thought of the dentist, he cheerfully announced that it was great! He was looking at the package the plane came in, and it showed six different models. He said he wanted to get a different one next time, and he wanted to get one every time till he has them all. Sounds like a plan to me, little man! I couldn't be prouder!