Thursday, September 8, 2022

The Dentist, part two. 23 years in the making.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared on Facebook that Parker had a successful trip to the dentist for x-rays. I plopped it into a blog to make it easier to read if you’d like to go back and read those details.

If you’d rather not but need to catch up, Parker had been complaining that his teeth hurt. We had prepared ourselves mentally that this would take sedation through general anesthesia in the hospital setting as it has in the past. To my surprise, he did – for the first time ever – the bite-wing x-rays and had an awesome visit (with only the tiniest hint of a possible cavity starting that the dentist would just like to watch for now.) We set up cleaning for today – and that’s where this starts.

Some history.

Taking Parker to the dentist has always ended up with someone (or multiple people) getting bit, hit, headbutted, or kicked. He’s been papoose strapped (literally a straight jacket) which traumatized him and me, held down by multiple people, and still – no one could successfully look in his mouth. He has a very sensitive gag reflex. The only way Parker ever had successful dental work was by complete sedation in the hospital. During that time the dentist got a full set of x-rays, filled a cavity or two, and sealed his teeth. Parker was young, this was easily 10 – 13 years ago.

We knew after multiple failed attempts that if anything went wrong with Parker’s teeth it would take sedation in a hospital setting again. While he did awesome with the x-rays a couple of weeks ago, the plan for today was a cleaning.

A cleaning.

Scraping his teeth with those pointy metal things, picking off build-up and tarter, is a completely unpleasant experience for most people – especially someone who hasn’t had their teeth cleaned in over a decade.

Parker was excited and had been showing everyone how big he opened his mouth at the previous visit and Rylee told him that she loves getting her teeth cleaned, which helped, too. He was ready for this appointment and talked about it daily. He clearly had no clue what he was in for.

Amber, our hygienist, had set aside 2 hours for Parker’s cleaning. The plan was she would do what she could, take lots of breaks, and we’d just go with whatever was working for Parker.

Parker happily went into the appointment, jumped into the chair, and was ready to get started. Amber gave him some glasses to put on to protect his eyes from the bright light. Following my advice from the last visit, she put the heavy apron that is used during x-rays onto him for the appointment.

Ready to rock this appointment!

At this point, I was praying for the best and fully anticipating the worst.

Amber started by lightly brushing Parker’s teeth. This is hard for him. It’s a sensory issue but he did awesomely. She talked him through how to use the suction and we were off to a great start. (I was so anxious each time they did the suction I didn't get a picture of that, even though he did awesome as she talked him through it!)

Then came out those metal scraper things. I cringed just seeing them. Amber talked to Parker as she got started. Parker did well but was struggling to keep his mouth open for so long so she showed him a bite guard and he gave it a try. It worked really well and a lot of progress was made. I took some pictures and short videos and was just beaming under my mask, smiling ear to ear so much my mouth was hurting.


No fidgeting. No complaining. No trying to leave. No trying to bite. It was like I was in the wrong room!

Amber would ask him how he was doing and he would flash her a thumbs up or reply “fine” or “good”. I just stared, taking it all in while completely in shock but also so incredibly proud.

At one point, Amber needed to remove the bite guard, when she went to put it back in it wasn’t placed quite right and he threw up. I leaped into action to catch what I could and keep as much as I could on his blue dental bib. I had Amber hand me paper towels as I cleaned him and around him up. I thought for sure that would be the end of our good dental run. However, after he was all cleaned up Parker piped up and said, “I ate too many goldfish!” and was ready to get back to the cleaning.

Over an hour and a half, slowly, while talking to Parker (and me) Amber managed to clean every single tooth. It was amazing. She was amazing. He was amazing. I’m still in shock. 

Thumbs Up!

The dentist popped in a couple of times to see how he was doing and after Amber was all done, he came in to take a better look at all of Parker’s teeth. He told him how very proud he was of what a great job he did.

Amber offered to polish his teeth today but Parker said “no thanks” he was all done. After such an amazing visit, we didn’t push it. We made an appointment for the end of November where we will do the polish and the x-rays of his front teeth.

Amber and I felt that having Parker return every 3 months instead of every 6 months, even if just for a quick check-up, will help keep him going with the flow that this is a good thing and become more comfortable with going. We will eventually back off to every 6 months and then yearly if that seems like the right path.

As I sat there watching my giant man-boy getting his teeth cleaned, I fought back tears. I hoped for this. I prayed for this. I wished for this. It was like he was a regular 23-year-old at the dentist. Nothing gave off the appearance of a 23-year-old with a disability. Nothing gave off a hint of how challenging our lives can be. It was just… a regular 23-year-old getting his teeth cleaned. 

He did not need me at all. This is the type of independence you wish for. I won't always be here, I need to know that we've set him up to be successful in all aspects of life before the day comes when he has to live each day without us. (*I have zero intentions of leaving this life anytime soon but the reality is no one knows when their last breath will be.) 

I NEVER thought I would see this day. Never. And here we were. It was such a surreal experience. A month ago when we made the first appointment, it was with the hope that we could get him into the office, literally just IN the door so we could get the referral we needed for the hospital sedation dentistry. THAT was our goal. πŸ˜”

Man did we sell that kid short.

23 years old. 23. And for the first time, had his teeth completely cleaned without issue. All these hours later, I am still speechless and asking myself if this really happened. It did. It really did and his teeth look spectacular now! *Thank you, Amber!!* He even gave her knucks on the way out. 

I am so incredibly proud. I took him to Wal-Mart for a new inflatable after. I told him all day, right up until I tucked him in at night how incredibly proud I was of him. I am just blown away.

If there is a life lesson in this, it is simply “never stop believing in your children.” I was so sure this would fail, I never even considered making it a goal for him, and yet – look at what he did! Awestruck. I am completely awestruck.

23 years old. No one holding him down. No one getting bit or hurt. Just one, very capable, a young man getting his teeth cleaned by a very patient and dedicated hygienist who believed in him, too. Thank you, Amber, we truly appreciate you.

If only you had witnessed the attempts over the years for this to happen, you'd understand why we were sure he would have to be sedated at the hospital and never made it a goal for him to succeed. Our kids love to surprise us and Parker certainly surprised us and proved to us that he is extremely capable of getting his teeth clean. It was worth the 23-year wait to see him succeed in the way he did.

Oh, and before we left because Parker was disappointed that I didn’t take any pictures of this last time, I took a picture of one of his x-rays 😊 He is fascinated with it.

And now you can enjoy this set of x-rays, too :-)

Do not give up. Never stop trying. Remember, they will surprise us when we least expect it.

Mommy is so incredibly proud of you, Parker! And thanks for being such a stinker that you wouldn't let me take a picture of your teeth after they were cleaned. πŸ˜’They look phenomenal!!

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