As a young child my son had sensory problems that made brushing his front teeth intolerable. The dentist (who used laughing gas) chastised me for not forcing the issue. I stopped going to that dentist, stopped subjecting my under-the-influence son to the sight of his mother being lectured. We stayed away from the negative energy. And patiently, I waited.
Over the years we tried a few dentists. Many of them made me cry. Back then the handling of a patient was rough, needles hurt, and attitudes were superior. I kept my son away, trusting that the gaps between his teeth would help prevent cavities. I cleaned his front teeth with a toothpaste covered cloth and, patiently, I waited.
His front teeth began to stain with plaque and calcium deposits. I copied what I had seen the hygienist do and started picking the plaque from his teeth. (My son trusts me. So though when others try to work in his mouth he flinches and pulls away, when I do it he is very cooperative.) I took him to a dentist specializing in challenged children. He tried a commanding style rather than gas to gain my son’s cooperation. My son bolted from his chair and we left. Patiently, I waited.
When my multi-challenged child reached the age of 20 all his opportunities shifted. He was bigger, scarier, sweatier and no one felt comfortable in his mouth. I told them to let me help but instead they tried biting blocks. He bit. Of course. Because the dentists and hygienists were not willing to see me as his expert. By now he could run a cloth over his own front teeth. I continued to pick the plaque and patiently, I waited.
I read about neurofeedback and decided to try it with him. He was still scary, still dependent on me, but the practitioner was patient and loving and we made it through the session despite the EEG wires pasted to his head. He seemed calmer afterward so we did more. I decided to become a practitioner and make it always available to my son. Patiently, I waited.
After a year his minimally verbal mouth seemed helped. He began to brush those very stained front teeth. I ceased to pick and tried to encourage self care. He improved a little more. After a while I decided to try another dentist. They again refused to let me help. They insisted on x-rays before cleanings. I insisted that this would be a set up to fail. But my son was different now and when they wouldn’t listen to me I listened to his new behavior. I didn’t believe it would work but I also didn’t want to limit him. I consented and they took him to the x-ray room. He was in his thirties and used to people helping him so he went willingly. Patiently, I waited.
The technician, covered in panic and sweat, ran into the room where I was waiting. Come help, she begged. I followed her to my son who was sitting smiling and trying to cooperate.What was her problem? They stuck the x-ray film in between his teeth inside the left cheek. He shook his head and spit it out. The lady turned to me and said, “See!” I said, “Well, that hurts. I can barely do it.” I talked them into letting me hold his head while they x-rayed. He still couldn’t do it and they were still annoyed. I needed someone who would drop their own rules and adjust for our needs. We left and patiently, I waited.
I found a dentist I liked and brought my son for all my appointments. He sat on the floor in the corner and watched. I got a couple of crowns, a root canal, two deep cleanings and one regular cleaning, all while he watched and they got used to his agreeableness. Patiently, I waited.
Technology had improved and cleanings no longer hurt. The vibrating water jet wand was a masterful tool for plaque. The hygienist is sweet, the office calm. My son’s breath had begun to give off an odor, something it had never done before. I decided to try again. I talked her into an appointment. I insisted that I had no expectation for success, just a desire to try. A wish for a positive experience, a willingness to be her assistant. She agreed but rescheduled him three times. She was nervous, the pandemic a handy excuse. He turned forty and still we waited, patiently.
Today he had a cleaning. He waited patiently while I went first with his grand niece sitting on my lap. (He likes to impress her so she was an unexpected yet handy addition to the experience). She waited patiently, he waited patiently, I waited patiently till my teeth shone like diamonds. It was his turn. The hygienist babbled nervously, I donned gloves, she donned gloves, he opened his mouth. I stayed back. She went to put the vacuum in his cheek and he closed his teeth. I moved forward and put my fingers between his teeth confident that he would never bite me.
Patiently and thoroughly we worked together. I pulled his lips and she vibrated the wand. He smiled calmly with his eyes while we complimented with genuine amazement. My four year old great-granddaughter (his grand niece) – dressed purposely in a backwards t-shirt so people could watch Elsa and Anna walk away – moved closer to peek at the operation and we all commented on how shiny his teeth were getting. It was remarkable, the plaque and stain fell onto his tongue and was vacuumed away piece by piece by piece. The gaps had kept food from sticking between his teeth and protected them enough to allow for this eventuality. He has a brand new, stain free smile. He is proud, his breath clean and his gums healing.
Patience pays off.
Lesson to take with you: Even if it didn’t work before it might work now. (And with a little technological help it might work even better.)