Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Dental Damn

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Dental Damn

Erik and I went to Dr. Mike, the children's dentist, yesterday. When I previously scheduled the appointment, the receptionist asked if Erik needed a routine cleaning. I hesitated and answered yes. We never had a real cleaning before. Just an exam. Is anything really routine in a medical office with Erik? I knew that they would review the chart before they saw us. Right?

When we arrived, Erik and I were instructed to sit in a large waiting room flanked by doors leading to our dental office and to another pediatric clinic. I stared at the door in front of me. It had a translucent panel of glass in it, making me think of old black and white movies for some reason. I suppose it seemed to me like every good detective or private eye had a door like that with their name stenciled on it. This door, however, had a cheerful-looking giraffe painted on it. The advertisements for the office repeated the phrase, "Kids...that's all we do." I hate that. It sounds...well, like something one shouldn't announce. I bounced my knee up and down as Erik crawled under my chair to get to the wheel on a piece of play equipment that was pressed up against the furniture as the other children played with it very appropriately, pushing little wooden cars around a series of tracks cut into a brightly-painted board. I heard the wooden circle beneath me begin to spin, and Erik's stiff, long legs stuck out from beneath my chair as other patients and their parents walked by to get to the pediatric clinic. The glass door opened a few times and revealed children holding yellow balloons printed with the name of the place on them tied to little plastic bags containing cheap toys and toothbrushes. When the little girl who played next to me left to find her mother, I noticed all of the wooden vehicles she touched were left neatly in tiny parking spaces lined with white paint.

After the hygienist came to get us, we followed her back through a cramped maze of hallways and exam rooms to an open area with bright blue dentist chairs in it. Stuffed animals stared at us with unblinking eyes from the corners of the room, and Erik asked for the one that resembled Cookie Monster. We waited for the hygienist to arrange her tools on a tray, and I winced when Erik pressed Cookie Monster's stomach and the toy began to laugh, shake, and talk. Erik jumped but laughed in response. I noted that the voice wasn't right at all. He sounded more like Krusty the Clown than a proper muppet. As Erik ran his fingers over his belly, the blue creature chuckled through a voice that sounded wounded by a three pack a day habit. I shuddered. Boy, this place really tended to give me a case of the freakies.

The hygienist, a very attractive, young woman began to talk to Erik. His anxiety visibly ramped up, and he asked to go play. She yarded a length of hose towards her, and at the end of it was a rotary cleaning tool. I felt my own anxiety level spike. I felt like blurting out that we had never used these tools before, but I refrained. There's a first time for everything. Instead, I asked her if it was loud. She said it was not, like all well-meaning people do before firing up power tools and other construction equipment in small rooms with us. She used my hand to show Erik it was harmless, pressing it into my index finger (Note to self: Get manicure before seeing Dr. Mike and his staff). Although Erik did remarkably well, I began to suspect she had not seen the notes in the chart and was unaware of Erik's noise sensitivity or his syndrome. I'm not sure if it was Erik or my reaction that caused her to put the cleaning tool away, but she soon tucked it back into its holder and moved on. She let Erik drink from the little tool that dispensed water and showed him the vacuum I call "Mr. Thirsty." He was mildly amused but still squirmed in his seat, asking for wheels to spin. She held up about 14 colorful toothbrushes and asked him to pick one. He simply sat in his chair and stared at her. She said something about Spongebob, and he repeated what she said, not seeming to know what else to do. She selected two with Spongebob on the handles, and I asked Erik to point to the one he wanted. Again, he sat there quietly without moving, and I silently cursed this whole ridiculous process. My patience was waning. I wanted to scream, "Just give him the f*cking toothbrush, lady. Erik doesn't even know who Spongebob is!" But, as I am generally very polite, I did not. I smiled and quickly selected one myself. She then asked Erik if he took vitamins, and I calmly explained that I was not to give him vitamins because of the syndrome he has. I did tell her he took fluoride. She then "cleaned" his teeth with his new toothbrush and regular children's toothpaste, which Erik has also never had before. I could read his mind as he smacked his lips and tried to politely hide his disgust. As he looked up at me, I could see his thoughts very clearly (Spicy!). The hygienist finished up, examined Erik's chart, and passed Dr. Mike, who was emerging from an exam room containing a boy lying flat with a nozzle dispensing gas affixed to his nose, making him look like a suckling pig atop a dinner table. The people around the boy cheered him on enthusiastically, as if he was playing a contact sport.

The hygienist let out a whisper-hiss to Dr. Mike as she went by.


Dr. Mike approached us next. My enthusiasm for his technique has dwindled a bit. He tends to be quite rough, although he is efficient, and uses the word "pretty" to describe everything: My hand. Erik's head. Erik's teeth. His hygienist. Hella creepy. However, he seems to know his stuff, even related to Williams. He talked through his giant, gleaming grill of white choppers, as usual, and examined my "pretty" hand for Erik with his tiny mirror on a stick. I again kicked myself for not at least trimming my chipped nails. Erik was not impressed with this dog and pony show but for the first time opened his mouth as instructed and let Dr. Mike count his teeth and examine the enamel. He said, "Wow. Good job, mom and dad." When it was finished, I couldn't have asked for a better outcome.

The dental hygienist asked if it would be okay if Erik got a balloon, and I said yes. She gave him a rubber duckie, too, and he said, "Put it away, Mama?" This amused me greatly, and I tucked it in his little plastic bag she handed me. After scheduling another Dr. Mike experience in six more months, we emerged back out into the waiting room, and I shuddered, feeling slightly physically violated for some odd reason. I said, "Erik, let's get the heck outta this place."

Erik looked toward the front door and smiled, cheerfully greeting Dr. Mike's next victims as they made their way in from the parking lot.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gua said....
Not knowing the outcome of this experience, I realized I held my breath through the whole post! Good work, not only for his great teeth, but helping him come so far since the last visit to Dr. Mike. You're great!

Love, Mom

4:35 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

You were so very patient with the hygienist. I know they try. After Michaela's first Dental visit (she was Erik's age) I had to say, very bluntly, "Please stop with the little detailed explanations....tell her 'this is the cleaner'...then just do it, no more negotiating and explaining." The more they tried to explain, the more anxious she got.
For the first couple of visits, the whole experience was WAY to much for her to then have to make toothpaste flavor and tooth brush color choices.....
It can only get easier, right?

3:25 AM  
Blogger jbgrinch said...

eric did better then my daughter hope who bit the dentist when he put his finger in her mouth. Im glad it all worked out well in the end. maybe next time eric will get a "real" cleaning. Give him a high five for me.

5:21 AM  
Blogger jbgrinch said...

eric did better then my daughter hope who bit the dentist when he put his finger in her mouth. Im glad it all worked out well in the end. maybe next time eric will get a "real" cleaning. Give him a high five for me.

5:21 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Sounds like it all went really well....consider yourself blessed! Ari has been to the dentist 3X and it has never been a "pretty" scene.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Every minute counts.... said...

I think Erik did a wonderful job of coping with the dentist. Abi won't even let the dentist look inside of her mouth. He has to stand several feet away and look while she is screaming with her mouth wide open, until she turns red faced and the dentist starts to panic a little and then lets us go.
Hope he always does this well or better.( I personally have always hated dentists)


7:01 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

Oh the dentist. Yeah Noah is not a fan. Unfortunately due to the enamel issues brought on by the lovely WS and reflux he has already had one filling and we are keeping an eye on 2 more. It really doesn't help that he has extremely deep molars and due to sensory issues loses his f**king mind every night. Sorry to babble but I so get it. Luckily it is only every 6 months, huh? Glad you got stinky washed.

7:55 PM  
Blogger kathi said...

What a relief, huh? He is amazing (he gets it from somewhere, you know...*pat on the back*) Dentist, in their own right, are a tad odd, no offence to any dentist, I'm just sayin'. But to call everything I'd start finishing his sentences for him, saying pretty. Or every time he says pretty, coo "ooohhhh", maybe he just doesn't realize.

All in all a good experience. As always, such an enjoyable read!!

5:47 AM  

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