We started taking Oliver to the dentist every three months at around age 2.5 for "happy visits" so that he could get used to the experience. I also bought a set of dental instruments at a local pharmacy so that he would get used to the tap tap tap of metal against his teeth. Those things, plus maturity, seemed to have helped.
Teeth brushing has gotten easier but a combination of sensory defensiveness and genetics led to Oliver's first cavity, which I noticed a few months ago as a small dark spot on his last right molar. When I brought it to the attention of the dentist he told me that even though he loved having our boy as a patient, there was someone in town that was better suited to work with Oliver. Based on his sensory issues, he told me, a cavity probably meant that the work would have to be done under anesthesia at the local hospital.
As much as I love our really great dentist, I have to say that this new, pediatric dentist who specializes in special needs kids, was totally, incredible. His staff, his office and his entire demeanor set Oliver and I at ease when we met for the initial consult. The one time when Oliver started to get agitated I offered a suggestion and the dentist, only allowing the teeniest bit of annoyance to show on his face, changed his approach. When my suggestion worked he was quick to earnestly thank me for my help in making it a successful interaction. I knew right then that he would do a great job with Oliver.
Today Oliver did fantastic. He wasn't allowed to eat before the procedure and even though I had explained that to him the night before, I was surprised when my ever-hungry boy didn't ask for breakfast this morning. Everything went without a hitch except that he vomited the sedative all over me after I forced him to drink it despite his adamant refusals. Every time I do that I regret it. (Note to self: don't do that!!)
I also asked three staff members to get me one of the face masks that he would have to breathe through after they took him to the operating room and all of them acted like it was too difficult. Finally, I asked the dentist himself and he replied: "Great idea! Let me go fetch that for you!" A few minutes later he returned with one and I was relieved to see that Oliver thought breathing into it was very amusing. Later the dentist congratulated me for thinking of it and said he would offer the same to other parents in the future.
When they finally wheeled Oliver away from me through the operating room doors I let myself realize just how emotional the whole experience was. The nurse standing next to me said: "There's just no two ways about it -- being a mom is hard." And he was right. It is hard sometimes. I went to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee and a yogurt and felt so weepy that I had to keep reminding myself: it's just a cavity!! In the grand scheme of all the reasons why someone might wheel my child away toward the operating room it was a very small thing.
Still, after the quarter incident early this year, I earnestly hope we don't see the inside of a hospital again any time soon!!