Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Note to Dentists about Your Asperger's Patients

Asperger's, autism, dentist, parenting, sensory issues, noise sensitivity, anxiety, dental hygiene
I was hesitant to post today because few things put me in a worse mood than the dentist. I was hopeful about taking Gus to see this new dentist because she'd seen MM recently and all went well. Unfortunately, I think I need to head back to square one again. It wasn't an earth-shatteringly bad visit, I was just not feeling the warm fuzzies when Gus got out of the chair. Here's why:

Dear New Dentist:

First, just because you have had one or two patients on the autism spectrum, that does not make you an expert on autism. Every kid is different. My son does not need to be restrained because he is anxious - that will just make him fight you. Second, when a child is freaking out about a sharp, pointy object near his mouth, shouting at him isn't helpful. Perhaps putting down said sharp, pointy object would be a good idea, especially if you are just counting his teeth. How would you feel if I started absentmindedly jabbing a foreign pointy object near your face? Also, are you aware that the electric toothbrush can send a very irritating tickle straight through a person's skull, especially when that person has hypersensitivity in their mouth? Ease up and let the kid scratch his nose - what's the big deal? If you didn't insist on holding onto your security-sharp-pointy-object, maybe it wouldn't have been such a danger?

Nitrous gas is not the answer to every kid's anxiety. Some kids are made more uneasy by the sensation of losing control. You'd get a lot further with my son if you would just listen to what I'm telling you works; after all, I live with him and get in there to brush his teeth every day. He doesn't like it, but he tolerates it. Is it possible I know something you don't, even if I don't have the framed degree on the wall?

Another thing: I'm trying to teach my son basic dental hygiene - straight teeth are really not a concern at the moment! I am well aware that he has shark teeth. I'm not interested in discussing his need for braces. I heard you the first time you said it - no need to repeat yourself. Crooked teeth are not the end of the world. We've got more pressing issues - like finding a dentist who doesn't make me want to rip their teeth out.

Clearly, you are not really interested in working with my child the way he needs, so maybe just say so and don't waste my time? Is it so difficult to put on a DVD of something soothing instead of Disney channel? I'll even bring the DVD! My child responds to a slow, patient approach with minimal sensory stimulation. If that other mom is okay with you restraining her child or being 'stern' with him, that's her business. That doesn't fly with my guy.

Maybe I was spoiled by our last dentist who, by the way, managed to extract two of Gus's teeth without the slightest agitation and without using gas. He was awesome, although he's on my black list too for just walking out of the practice and abandoning his little patients. But he kept the lights in the room low, had very little noise (no raucous kid shows) and showed an underwater aquarium. He spoke softly and moved slowly, letting Gus know each step of the way what was coming. Nothing state-of-the-art or revolutionary. Imagine that. As a matter of fact, I have half a mind to track that guy down even if we do have to travel two hours to see him. I see disaster ahead if I let you take care of my son's cavity.

Not really trusting you with my son,

Do you have a dentist who can treat your autistic child without a lot of grief? What do they do that you appreciate? What do you wish they'd do differently?


  1. Wonderfully written Andrea. You make your points with a true mother's concern and it makes me appreciate you even more than I already do. I want to ask yet more questions and sort of play devils advocate here for a second. Did the dentist know about Gus beforehand? I'm sure the answer is yes. But my question is did you go over all this prior to bringing in Gus to this new dentist? Did you let her know your concerns? Maybe next time you should take this post with you and let the dentist read it. They of course don't know how to handle your son as well as you do but after some time they might get there. Hell I wouldn't know what to do with Gus right now, but I'm learning and it's from you explaining and taking the time to do that. If I were a dentist or doctor and had a patient like Gus, and this is just from meeting you on this blog, I would most certainly talk to you as the parent first and foremost and find out the do's and dont's. I think your concerns would be more at ease if you let the doctor/dentist no up front about all of this. And again, maybe you did and she just went off the wrong that case...the two hours to find the old dentist would be worth it. But I would make sure your dentist knew all this that you wrote. Aloha my friend :)

  2. I have an award for you over at

  3. We found an angel of a dentist here in mt kisco. . . dr. anna we call her. Definitely travel the 2 hours. . . we do it for a haircut.

  4. I just brought my son to the dentist, and the dentist and hygenist let him hang out in the room without me (although I could peek in through the window)for almost an hour playing with the dental instruments...even the air/water sprayer...he got to spray it out the window. Then they had him play with the dental instrumentw on me (they were nice enough to take away the hook). I still did need to hold him to get the exam and cleaning done, but he didn't struggle too much. They want me to bring him back every month at $85 a pop, but that's a little's sort of like private therapy, I know, but it's still expensive. Anyway, I liked the dentist. He's a pediatric dentist in Westchester, NY ( I called ahead and asked if they had experience working with children with special needs, especially those with severe oral defensiveness...
    Mt. Kisco is closer to me...I'll have to look to see who that is. :)

  5. Thom: I had spoken to the dentist long before I even made the appointment for him. I would have been more forgiving, when I tried to tell her some of these things afterwards, if she had been a lot less dismissive. I generally give people a lot of leeway and try to educate, but it really irks me when anyone working with him blows me off.

    John: thanks and thanks!!

    Koe and Kristine: Thanks for the info & I will look into Westchester dentists. Thanks also for stopping by!

  6. Maybe the dentist has Aspergers and doesn't know it!

  7. Your post was great! I have family members that have autism. I understand. My family members are very anxious at the dentist and the doctor's offices. One is better, and the other is still the same. I am thankful with much effort and patience that the one that is better, she had nurses training. This helped her, although she is still anxious, as she has every right to be with such uncaring people in this world that you come in to contact with.

  8. Encino dentists are great dentists who know this about Encino and why they chose to practice there. Most dentists want the family clientele so they go out of their way to make coming to their offices easy and fun.

  9. Hi
    Your blog is very nice. I have really learnt a lot from this blog thanks


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