The Dental Arts.
Probes, sticks and spit.
Drills, drains, and migraines.
I know they get a bad rap all the time, every time, but, in Wylie’s case, the poor kid never had a chance for a good relationship with a dentist. It’s like a scene from a Tim Burton film...
ACT I: (The door opens slowly with a creak and before the first step is taken into the waiting area the whirring of the mechanical drill is heard in the background. Women with eyeballs only (masks cover up their noses and mouths) immediately come out dressed in crazy clothes and rubber shoes. The smell begins to tickle your nostrils…is it soap? Flouride? Cheap cologne? Why are there so many old children’s books on the table? Perhaps the children who owned those books never returned once they went down the hall into the chair of doom. What good could possibly come from the dreaded dentist’s chamber…)
Assistant: Wylie? Come on back! Sit here in this chair and let me put a bib on you.
Wylie: What’s that smell? (over the louder drill sound)
Dentist: What smell?
Wylie: That smell I’m smelling!
Dentist: Just relax, open wide and say—
Wylie: AGGGHHH! What’s that stick? No, I don’t want to,
–(screen fades to black as the whirring noise of the drill gets louder and louder and the gagging and spitting, screams and protestations of the children rise in one terrifying chorus!)
Well, dramatic effects aside, a dental visit pretty much pegs the panic-meter for a child with Sensory Integration Dysfunction and Asperger. It’s right up there with haircuts by dads and grandpas! Anticipating this might be the case, I chose a pediatric dental practice on purpose. I prayed they would have a solution for Wylie’s dental health. Dr. Wyatt, a very patient and caring doctor, did everything she could to examine Wylie. He did everything he could to resist. (Wylie has the gag reflex of a super model after a weekend binge). Even though Dr. Wyatt could not give him a full exam, she was able to see one of Wylie’s teeth had no enamel and would need a crown to protect it. With his hyper-sensitivity, she explained they would have to anesthetize him to proceed.
Ok, I can allow my son’s teeth to literally rot in his head or I can pay $1700 for the privilege of having him completely put under to perform routine dental work on him. As a parent, what are you going to do? (Oh, and let me explain that at the time our dental insurance was severely lacking, so we were paying 100% out-of-pocket for this process—lucky us!) Well, we made the appointment to have Wylie “put under”—complete with the signed release stating we understood Wylie could die and it’s not their fault! To this day, the TWO times we had to have this done were the hardest things medically I’ve endured with any of the children. Watching them put the needle in his shoulder and then seeing his eyelids roll back and his body go limp was horrible. I cried! Seeing him in the chair reclined with the tube taped on his mouth was so frightening. You can imagine when we had to do this the second time how much more resistant Wylie was: he knew what was coming, knew the doctor was going to come out with a shot, knew he was going to be sick afterwards. It wrenched my heart to literally see the terror in his eyes before he blacked out.
Even with all the drama, there were lighter moments in the ordeal. Dr. Wacker performed the procedures on Wylie while he was sedated. He was aware of Wylie’s issues including his aversion to haircuts; he let me know ahead of time I could bring my scissors in and give Wylie a trim while he was under! (for $1700 I could have flown Bill Clinton’s stylist in, but he was booked!) He also saw that Wylie’s front teeth were loose and anticipated he might really dislike the whole process of losing the teeth naturally, so we agreed to have them pulled during the visit.
Once Wylie woke up and we got him in the car, he was horribly groggy. He could barely hold his head up and it bobbed up and down. Despite his lack of muscle control, he could sense his front two teeth were gone. He demanded to see a mirror. I pulled the compact out of my purse and let him see himself. He immediately exclaimed,
“What happened to my teeth!!?”
Quickly I said “The tooth fairy took them!”
Without any hesitation he said--with Jack Nicholson intensity—
“Tell the tooth fairy I want them back!”
And, this he demanded over and over again all the way home and the rest of the day. He never forgave the tooth fairy for taking his teeth without his permission. And, he never wanted to return to the dentist again. Of course, this is an ongoing challenge with Wylie, but it has produced the best oral hygiene habits in our home. Wylie is a diligent brusher; he believes brushing will keep him from starring in the next Burton sequel: “The Nightmare Before Abscess”…