The Adventures Of Fatherhood – December 16, 2022

Dentist appointments with Carson are always interesting.

As far as Monday went, there was some good news and bad news for Carson.

The good news was he had a half day of school. The bad news was it was due to a teeth cleaning. His facial expression when he learned about his Monday told the story. He had mixed emotions. A smile came when he was told he would be picked up early. The grin went away, and his head went down when he learned why.

As timing would have it, his appointment was right at lunch. He was not flexible on one point – he was going to eat some of his lunch on the way to the dentist. I find it safe to assume the poor hygienist would prefer this not be the case. We compromised on half of his lunch because he would have been irritable otherwise.

On the way to the Seaside Smiles office, I reminded Carson every dentist appointment he has ever had to date involved him literally laying on my lap in the chair. Considering he’s about 130 pounds and well over five feet tall now, I thought it was a good idea he be in the chair by himself with me nearby. He seemed agreeable until we walked into the dentist’s office. He froze when his name was called, pointing to me. I knew what was on his mind, replying, “okay yes I will get in with you.” I’m not sure he would have moved from the waiting room otherwise.

Brushing aside my serious concerns over the chair’s weight limit, my 13-year-old hopped on my lap and the appointment began. I can only imagine how absurd this had to look. There was my middle schooler laying atop me in the dental chair getting his teeth cleaned and examined. I wish I had gotten a photo in hindsight.

No question, Carson did need me. He held my hand the whole time and was comforted by repeated encouragement from me and especially the kind and patient hygienist named Jeanna.

As I have lived through this journey of raising a special needs child, I have come to appreciate and value the kind souls we have met along the way. Pam and I remember every single teacher, educational assistant, principal and therapist Carson has ever had. We remember them for their support of us and Carson as well as their positive attitudes throughout the ups and downs of this life. We do not take kindness and patience for granted because not everyone has the empathy and understanding to grasp disabilities and unique challenges posed. For the most part, Carson has been blessed with caring and understanding educators and therapists along the way. We feel fortunate to live in this empathetic community.

I put the kind Jeanna in this category. She has worked with Carson in the past, and I have no doubt her patient, caring ways made the appointment the best possible experience it could be for him this week. Some dental appointments in the past have lasted just a few minutes. Anxiety won and it wasn’t safe for anyone to be in Carson’s mouth. As he’s gotten older and more familiar with the sounds and equipment, it has gotten better. No doubt there are still challenges and there’s not much about it he likes. The difference is he tolerates it now, even if it involves me as a support cushion.

It’s interesting to see what challenges Carson. He still has no concept of spitting out the water sprayed into his mouth during a cleaning. In fact, on this particular visit, he refused to let Jeanna put the sprayer (for lack of a better term) into his mouth, insisting he drink out of cup. He would then swallow the dirty water with tooth paste and all. Of course, most of us allow the hygienist to use the little sucker (again lack of the appropriate term) to remove the rinse liquid.

Jeanna tried repeatedly to use the sucker even modeling on his skin how low pressure it was. It might have been the sound, but more likely just the unfamiliarity. I tried to tell him it will be a lot better than swallowing the nasty toothpaste. He would have none of it. He did eventually move away from having to use the cup and allowed her to spray into his mouth. That’s a win. It’s progress.

When it comes to the actual cleaning, Carson doesn’t like the sound of the toothbrush. It’s uncomfortable for him. Jeanna did a masterful job saying we will clean in five-second increments, which were more like 12-15 seconds really. She did a really good job counting slow and maximizing her time. I liked that approach because Pam and I use similar creativity daily with Carson.

During this visit, after his comfort level grew, Carson even let Jeanna truly clean between his teeth with her scalers. This took several minutes, and I was incredibly impressed with him. It surely was helped by her idea of putting on his favorite current show, Dr. Pol, on the television overhead.

This is a considerable win in Carson’s world. It was essentially his first full cleaning appointment. I was incredibly proud of him but equally impressed by Jeanna’s compassion and understanding with him. She did a great job with him, and we are so grateful for her patience, creativity and kindness. She made an unpleasant experience for him tolerable.

The only negative takeaway for me was a sore neck all week from contorting myself in the chair. Whatever it takes will always be the rule.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.