Earlier this month, I took Tyler to the dentist. Tyler does not do well with doctors or dentists, or even haircuts for that matter. He does worse that your average child because of his Tourette’s Syndrome, OCD, and Anxiety. Whenever Tyler goes to the doctor or is sick he gets a “Well” Prize. This time I had a big Lego set for him, his very first one, I’m talking big boy Legos, not Duplo! I know that it may seem like an excessive “prize” but I recently learned that Tyler cannot tell the value of anything. He likes a little knickknack from a party goodie bag as much as he likes a Lego set. He cannot tell the difference. I am also starting to suspect that Tyler has Sensory Processing Disorder. Any one of these disabilities can make a visit to the dentist ten times worse than the average child’s visit. If you have a special needs child, you are sympathetically nodding, if not, just trust me.
Tyler was okay when we were in the waiting room but as soon we got into the dentist office, he started to scream in horror. Literally. I told the dental hygienist his diagnoses. He saw the light that the hygienist and dentist use that make you want to wear sunglasses or close your eyes and he started screaming, “No light, not the light!” I was unsure if he was super-sensitive to the light or if it reminded him of the X-rays he had during his nightmare visit to the hospital last month.
The hygienist and another assistant who had to be called were very nice. Tyler was shaking, just like he had at the hospital and kept saying, “I-I c-c-cant stop crying!” Suddenly I went into child psychiatrist/therapist mode. It was like it wasn‘t my own child in terror and something in me made me very calm, I felt detached. I needed to be, I needed to file “Mommy” somewhere else. The hygienist said Tyler could take his exam with me holding him in the dental chair, as if I was his chair. I kept rubbing his back and telling him if was going to be okay. He covered up his mouth, there was no way to let anyone near him, much less examIne him. Tyler kept saying, “I cant do this, I cant do this!” but the hygienist said, “I know you think you can‘t, Tyler, but I KNOW you can do this!” The hygienist told Tyler that she was going to give Mommy a check-up and that he would see how easy it was and how it doesn‘t hurt.
I wish I went to a children‘s dentist because it was the easiest exam I ever had! I told him how it didn‘t hurt and he knows that Mommy never lies to him. He finally allowed the hygienist to work on him, an exam and a cleaning! Then he asked in a trembling voice “Is it over?“ “ No”, I said, “The dentist has to look at your teeth and then we can go.“
I dont know why, especially under Tyler‘s circumstances, but they had to move us to another office! Tyler started to freak out all over again! The dentist was nice but he said, “Are you the little boy that I have heard screaming throughout the office? “ Okay, I changed my mind about him being nice. This was so bad, how was my child going to have a dental exam? I looked at the doctor and asked, “Do you do…?” “Sedation? Yes, but something like that would have to be rescheduled. He would have to wear a mask and that might be even more frightening to him. Try to calm him down, I’ll be back.” Once again I rocked him and rubbed his back, telling him everything was going to be okay and to try to think of the Legos waiting for him. ”Eyes on the prize“, yes, I actually said that to him.
Tyler finally calmed down. The dentist was annoyed when I said he could not have the big light on…I told him he would have to do his best with the abundant florescent lighting. Finally it was over and I promptly gave him the Legos. Tyler couldn‘t wait to beat it out of there and he immediately improved.
Tyler will be five for his next dental appointment. I wonder how he will be, better?, worse? Is this something he will outgrow or is it just the beginning of Tyler‘s occasional times of torture?
*If you havent seen Marathon Man with Dustin Hoffman, well, you just need to. Unless you have an intense fear of the dentist, then you may want to skip it.
Image courtesy of Alt Film Guide.