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Dental adventures

My kids are so stinkin' lucky. Their dentist office is SO much cooler than the one I went to when I was a kid. There are video games and a little movie room in the waiting room, tvs and more video games in the room where they get their teeth cleaned, and they get tokens to put in prize machines when they're done. It doesn't have that dentist office smell either. Lucky dogs. :)

Today was Raya's first OFFICIAL teeth cleaning. She had a quick impromptu dental exam when the big kids got their teeth cleaned 6 months ago but today she was actually on the schedule. They took the older 2 kids back first, then Kaida, and then finally it was Raya's turn. She bounced down the hallway and waited while the dental assistant got things ready. Given Raya's history, I wasn't sure what to expect because in situations like this, we NEVER know what to expect. Sometimes she does great and sometimes she doesn't, even if it's a place that she's used to being. While we waited for the hygienist, she laid on the table and explored the room with her pretty blue eyes. She was fascinated by the number of televisions in the room. :)
When the hygienist came, she asked me if there were any concerns before she got started. (And let me preface this by saying that the hygienist, who we have never met before today, was a very nice person and was very sweet and nice to the kids. I wasn't offended by her and have nothing against her personally, this was just a frustrating experience for me.) I told her the main concerns were just the fact that Raya holds food behind her front teeth that and due to her history of oral aversion, sensory issues, and the trust/fear issues she has because of having an NG tube and everything, she is very resistant to having anyone brush her teeth so we don't do it very much. (there goes that honesty/full disclosure thing again. lying would be so much easier sometimes.)

The next 5-10 minutes were an exercise in restraint for me. I'm not sure how much, if any experience the hygienist has with a child with oral aversions, but this was where it got very frustrating for me. It's hard for people to wrap their minds around the idea that for some children, having someone put something in their mouth can be traumatic and terrifying, even if it's something helpful like a toothbrush or food. I was trying to explain that after 18 months of chronic vomiting with no solid explanation, Raya is finally at the point where she's willing to accept food into her mouth and that I can't jeopardize that by forcing the toothbrush into her mouth. As I was talking, I could see in her face that she was just hearing excuses.

She told me that it's pretty normal at this age for children to be resistant to having their teeth brushed, which I'm fully aware of thanks to my 3 previous children who still don't like brushing their teeth. I told her that with Raya, we just can't push the limits because she does have a lot of sensory issues and we're trying to keep any experiences she has with her mouth positive. She asked me if we were seeing any specialists or therapists to address that. {*deep breath*} Yes, actually, she has occupational therapy twice a week and feeding therapy once a week to address her sensory issues. At least 4 specialists are working with us on it. So yes, we're working on it. I think at that point she started to give me some "helpful" suggestions but I was busy trying to find my happy place so that I could keep being polite.

The conversation returned to Raya's toothbrushing habits. I told her again that right now, we just don't force it with her but that she likes to chew on her toothbrush now and she also likes to chew on a wet washcloth and that we show her what to do with the toothbrush and she mimics us and that's the best we can do right now. Heck, I was just trying to be honest! She said again that it's normal at that age to have some resistance to having teeth brushed and that they do recommend brushing the child's teeth anyway and that it's okay if we only use a teeny bit of toothpaste and we don't even have to use toothpaste every time and asked me if I was sure that Raya's resistance wasn't just typical 2 year old behavior that we just needed to push through.

{*VERY deep breath*}
What I FELT like saying was something to the effect of: Dear hygienist, I don't expect you to be able to understand the possible ramifications of me forcing a toothbrush twice a day into my orally aversive child's mouth based on my brief and rushed attempt to explain why she is the way she is, but PLEASE don't try to tell me what I should be doing differently. I didn't come here for advice, I came here to get her teeth cleaned. So let's. Thank you.

What I said was more like, "No, this is not typical 2 year old resistance, this is a child who has been traumatized by having me pin her down to reinsert her NG tube for 6 months and from vomiting several times a day for 18 months and is finally getting over her fear of food. Right now our focus is on Raya learning to eat and I can't be forcing a toothbrush into her mouth or else that's not going to happen, so we're doing the best we can with what SHE's comfortable with and that's all we can do right now." And I said it very calmly and nicely because I get that this person doesn't understand what we're dealing with, and that's okay. At that point, I decided to stop talking and just smile and nod instead. I took another deep breath and crossed my fingers that Raya would behave. Of course by this time, she was standing up on the little table and climbing up on me because she was out of patience already. Finally we were done talking and I laid her back down and told her it was time to "fween" her teeth. :)
She put a TINY little amount of the toothpaste stuff on a regular toothbrush and brushed Raya's teeth. Raya held pretty still, which I would imagine probably confirmed her earlier suspicions that I was making excuses for not brushing Raya's teeth more regularly. (yes, I worry about what other people think of me.) Honestly I was surprised by how well Raya did but at the same time, it was something new for her and she likes toothbrushes now. The lady was nice and not trying to poke her with anything. :)

After her teeth had been brushed, we waited for the dentist to come in and check everybody's teeth. Our perfect no-cavity streak has ended but it was one of the older kids & it was just a little tiny one. When it was Raya's turn, I put her back on the table and the dentist asked me the same questions that the hygienist had asked about what my concerns were with Raya's teeth. I told him about her pocketing food, her previous history of chronic vomiting, and that she is very resistant to having anyone else brush her teeth. We had a much shorter conversation about the lack of formal toothbrushing and I told him that we have to pick our battles and right now, brushing her teeth thoroughly twice a day is taking a back seat to learning to like food. Other than that, no concerns, ha ha. :) She was a little more on edge with him than she had been with the hygienist but she still did pretty well.

He looked at her teeth and said they all look good so far. He put fluoride on them to help strengthen them and I think if he had kept his fingers in her mouth for half a second longer, she would have freaked out. By the time he finished, she was pushing his hands away and she was more than ready to get down. :)

I wasn't anticipating this dentist appointment being that big of a deal but it's kind of draining to have to bite my tongue and be polite when someone is trying to tell me what I should be doing differently with Raya when they don't fully understand why we're doing things the way we are. Exhausting, really. I think I handled it pretty well though. And like I said, she was polite about it all and I didn't take anything personally because there was no harm intended by her. I know she was just doing her job and I probably came off as being a little defensive but the last couple weeks have been kind of rough on my self-esteem where Raya is concerned and having someone tell me how to do MY job was the last thing I needed today. Especially when I know that we're doing things exactly how Raya needs them to be done right now. So there. :)

On a lighter note, Raya now has a 2 year supply of toothbrushes and 2 different flavors of toothpaste thanks to the hygienist, who wanted her to be able to try different kinds and see what she likes best. :)

The big kids were jealous of Raya's toothbrush collection. All in all, I would consider it a successful dentist appoinment. Raya did great and didn't cry, vomit, throw a fit, or panic during the whole appointment so that alone made it worth it. And her teeth have at least been brushed once today. :)

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