The Denver Autism Wheel

Ian’s Excellent Dental Adventure

Posted on: January 9, 2011

Ian had a god-awful experience with my long-term (25++ years) dentist and his hygenist when he was about 4.5 years old.  It was prior to his diagnosis of high functioning autism…but still it was a bad experience for any kid.  I won’t go into a lot of detail but let’s just say we didn’t even begin to talk about going back to dentist until he was 7.

So we first started reading the dentist stories – what they do and tools they use.  Just to refamiliarize him with the process.  But in my heart, I knew we had to find someone new.  So I called around to a couple of pediatric dentist offices.  Told them our situation and a couple of the front office people said the right things, but when I asked about being back in the treatment room with him, they hesitated. 

Not Dr. Erin Carpenter’s office.  Her front office staff said “of course!  Would he be better off with an end of day or beginning of day appt?  We’ll keep it to just him so he doesn’t feel overwhelmed that hour.”  Wow. 

We went in for a meet and greet and if he wanted, a cleaning.  They let him touch everything.  Use mirrors to see what was going on.  Explained in however much detail he wanted on what they do and their tools.   They did x-rays…he was so excited about the pictures that after several tries (and much patience on their part) when he saw his first x-ray, he was able to stand absolutely still to get the whole head x-ray.  (“Wow Mom!  I look like an alien!!!”)

Fast forward 6 months, we go in for a cleaning and he’s got two cavities – one that hadn’t shown a clue six months ago and has become huge and a very tiny starter cavity.  Dr. Carpenter was mystified on how fast the big one had grown. 

Come back a few days later so we can get them filled.  Ian decides he wants to try the nitrous (part of his awful experience last time).  So they explain in detail how it might make him feel – he decides to go ahead. 

An hour and a half later we have one crown (yikes!) and one cavity filled…and a boy who thinks having a metal tooth (in the back) is cool! 

I cannot begin to say enough good things about this practice!  They get it.  They understand that every kids needs to be approached differently and some kids need more than others. 

Most importantly, I am so proud of Ian, because he overcame something he was deathly afraid of and is now extremely proud of himself. 

I am too.

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