Friday, February 26, 2010

A Trip To The Pediatric Dentist with our 2 Boys on the Autism Spectrum

I have a confession to make.  It's been awhile since I've personally been to the dentist.  Admittedly, I've had some apprehension.... well, a lot of apprehension.

Why? A few reasons:

1) The SMELL -- There is something about a dentist's office that just doesn't smell right to me.

2) The LATEX GLOVES -- Hate these... the smell, the texture, the taste (not that I eat them but occasionally I recall a taste of latex glove hitting my tongue)

3) When I was young, I had to have 4 of my teeth pulled out at one time.  The age of my mouth was always behind where it was supposed to be.  My teeth refused to meet their milestones and finally, the dentist ended up having to yank them out.  I don't remember this being a pleasant experience, although in retrospect, the happy gas wasn't all that bad!

4) Braces & Headgear -- The braces weren't so bad but I HATED the headgear!  

5) I don't like someone sticking their hand in my mouth and scraping around.  But then again, who does???

6) I had a moody orthodontist -- Some days he was really nice and other days he seemed really grouchy.  I always remember him having to say "OPEN" multiple times.  Even though I tried to keep my mouth open, it just sort of reflexively shut when something foreign and unappealing went inside.  Admittedly, I tried very hard to obey and follow rules and when I had headphones on and was watching the TV overhead, it made things a lot easier.  I'm not sure why it seems like they always had soap operas rather than cartoons but this gave me a chance to observe adults doing what looked like very silly things so it wasn't really that bad.

I have to say though that despite my apprehensions, I've been blessed with a healthy mouth.  I've never had a cavity and I always remember my orthodontist telling me as a kid that I had "special spit".  That was fine with me because the less time he spent time in my mouth poking and prodding, the quicker I could get my toy from the toy box and get out of there!

As an adult, I have to say, I sometimes miss that toy box!

At any rate, as I was initially saying, it's been awhile since I've been to the dentist.  My husband also has a real apprehension for going.  Dare I say, I think he is a lot worse than me.  He's not sure why.  His Mom worked for a dentist for many years and he thinks that might have something to do with it. 

John hasn't been so lucky with the "special spit".  In the time I've known him, he's had cavities and fillings and caps and other stuff I thankfully have never had to deal with.  I can understand why HE doesn't like to go to the dentist because it's always bad news and it's always an opportunity to open the pocketbook further.

When it comes to our kids though, we have to remember to put our fears aside.  I recently found an excellent well-established and friendly Pediatric Dentist Practice for the boys here in Vancouver, Washington and both Justin and Ryan had their first dental appointments on Wednesday with Dr. Peter Lubisich and his dental assistants.

The place was very kid-friendly from the moment we stepped in.  Justin's last dentist was in California and this was Ryan's very first visit.  This was also their first dental appointment since each had been diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum.

We had called in advance to make sure that the dentists were experienced in working with kids with special needs and it turns out, they've had a great deal of experience.  We were welcomed warmly when we arrived, filled out paperwork for each boy and watched as the boys were led back to a game room area complete with X-BOX video games, cars, trains and other activities to keep them occupied.

I was worried about how Justin (10) would do since he doesn't like a whole lot of stuff in his mouth and has very particular food tastes.  He likes Aquafresh Toothpaste but would he like what the dentist offered?

I actually thought Ryan (3) would be okay with the "mouth" part of the exam because he, unlike his brother, enjoys almost everything going into his mouth.  I wasn't sure how well he'd do on following directions but given that he recently sat in a barber chair by himself for the first time for his first official "big boy" haircut, I thought maybe things would be okay.

It really couldn't have gone much better!  The dental hygienist was amazing with the boys.  She met with us first to hear our concerns and to go over the special needs of each boy.  She asked us for tips and techniques and I shared that if Justin is given a play-by-play of what is going to happen, he will respond much better than to be surprised.  With Ryan, one had to be careful he wouldn't swallow the wrong stuff.

Both boys did a great job sitting for x-rays, cleaning and a full exam.  Justin was not keen on the grape gritty toothpaste (I recall a YUCKY horrible banana toothpaste from my days as a kid in the dentist's chair) but he handled it all like a trooper and John and I were so proud of both Justin and Ryan.

We met with the dentist afterwards while the boys were back to playing with the X-BOX and cars and Dr. Lubisich was kind, professional and I felt that I could trust him right off the bat.  Two of his adult sons work together with him and I think it says a lot about a family that the three of them all enjoy dentistry and working with kids.

As it turns out, Justin is going to need orthodontic treatment at some point in the next couple of years. This really isn't a surprise and I've prepped Justin for this with stories of my own childhood braces for a few years so that it wouldn't come as a big shock when the time is right.   We were given a consult to an orthodontist in the same building and we'll be seeing her in the near future.

Before we went into the appointment I said a lot of prayers because quite frankly, I knew that there was a LOT that could go wrong.  Thankfully, a LOT went right! 

Here they are with their new toothbrushes and new toys from the Toy Box!  (Glad to see that tradition is still around...)

I would highly recommend the Drs Lubisich Pediatric Dentistry practice if you're in the Vancouver, WA area.

John and I even got a new referral for ourselves.  If the kids can do it, then so can we!!! 

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