“Go see new dentist,” Emma said, when I told her she had an appointment.
I am always unsure what Emma intends when she makes statements like this. Does this mean she doesn’t like her dentist? She wants to go to a different dentist? For some reason she is associating him as the “new dentist” even though she’s been seeing him for the past four years? Or is she saying this for some other reason I have yet to figure out?
“You have an appointment with Dr. L.” I waited to see if she would respond. ”Do you like Dr. L.?” As I asked her this I thought about the question. This is the guy who put a mask over her face and asked her to breathe in fumes until she was unconscious in the hospital to fill two cavities a few years ago. His was the face she saw when she came to with a sore throat from having a tube put down it. This was the man who was responsible for the two metal caps on her teeth, the metal caps that, upon waking, she tried to physically pry off with her fingernails. Was that really a fair question? Why would she like her dentist? I’m not even sure I like him. Okay, so that’s unfair. I am grateful to him. He’s a good dentist, he is kind and respectful of her. He tells her what he’s going to do before he does it, even though he has a habit of asking her if she’s okay when he’s got both hands in her mouth and she clearly cannot speak in any recognizable way. Or if she tries to nod her head yes, he then tells her to hold still. I think they must teach this at dentistry school as a way of keeping the patients mind off of what’s actually happening. I’ve never met a dentist who didn’t try to carry on a conversation while you sit there with a bunch of tools and hands in your mouth. Doesn’t anyone ever tell them? We cannot answer you. Can’t you see our mouths are open and we are unable to speak?
But let’s get back to the appointment – Emma ran into the office, saw a stuffed beast of some unidentifiable species with a full set of teeth and plopped herself down in the chair while cradling the stuffed thing in her arms.
“What is that?” I asked, trying to figure out if it was a horse, a giraffe or something else. Frankly it was creepy whatever it was. The full set of teeth looked frighteningly real, as though they’d been plucked from some poor unsuspecting person’s jaws.
“I don’t know,” the dental hygenist answered.
“Monkey,” Emma stated matter-of-factly.
This from a child who does not typically show even a passing interest in toys of any kind, including all manner of stuffed animals. But for whatever reason, this thing had captured her fancy. Emma sat still holding the toothy “monkey” while the dentist explained how her teeth are particularly porous and so food tends to adhere to her teeth, meaning it is essential she floss better than she already does. In other words we need to help her more than we are. She tolerated having her teeth scraped, her gums poked at and then her teeth cleaned with a bubblegum flavored toothpaste. She let the dentist spray her mouth with water and allowed them to use the little hose that sucks all that water out again from her mouth. For the first time the technicians were even able to take x-rays that resembled teeth and not a blurred image one might see in a Chelsea art gallery. Emma brought the “monkey” in with her for the x-rays.
I was told some teeth (including that shark tooth) would have to be pulled, but we need to make an appointment with the orthodontist when we return from Colorado in January. We will have to revisit the whole braces idea at that time too. And throughout this whole process I kept thinking about how our insurance won’t cover any of this. The good news is – she didn’t have a single cavity.
At the end of the appointment Emma put the monkey back on the shelf and said, “Bye, bye monkey. It’s time to go home now.” Then she skipped out, waving to everyone as she went.
For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to: Emma’s Hope Book