Navigating Dental Appointments from an Autistic Experience
Part 1: The Experience Itself, and a Growing Awareness!
*Speaking from Only My Experiences- These experiences and views are solely mine, and will vary for others*
While we all can agree that trips to the Dentist are never fun, and are a giant nuisance to attend (no matter how they tempt you or convince you otherwise) it is something we all must do to stay healthy and keep our smiles bright. It is also something for me that at times has brought with it a great anxiety and panic prompting at times a fight, flight or freeze response depending on how I am doing that day and my over-all feelings towards it that follow, with such thoughts as “what if I have cavities?” “I’ve been doing my best to keep up routine”, and most importantly “does the dentist know how hard it is for me?”. The answer to that is probably not, but that’s why I am sharing today what has made it challenging and some of the other factors involved in making it so.
To get an even better idea of how adverse I am to the experience, first see the alligator above (in the feature image), and consider that me leading up to dentist appointments in the past.
History at the Dentist and Other Concerns:
When I was little just getting in the car took a great deal of coaxing, begging and convincing from Mom to get me that far, never mind making my way into the Dentist office and chair. At which point, I would fully go into survival mode, fighting the fearful thoughts in my head about what was to come like “having my teeth scrapped down”, or witnessing the horrible sound the tooth pick makes as it is used to clean one’s teeth. Forever resisting the urge to squirm, not panic while convincing myself to sit still concealing how much I’ve struggled to keep up the routine (one particularly sensitive to me).
Some Other Considerations:
Now, I can also recognize that it hasn’t just been things like enduring the poking, prodding and scrapping typical of a regular normal to all appointments, but my willingness to comply with the dentist appointment can also come from other determining factors or how I’ve been feeling throughout the week. For instance, if there has been a lot going on earlier in the week my ability to cope may already be less, my own frustrations towards teeth cleaning, changes in schedules or plans, and even lack of sleep has played into how I feel about going. have been factors in coping with the hour long dentist appointments and how I feel about going.
Recognizing the Hygiene Struggle:
I’ve also recognized is that the check-ups goes back to the struggle I’ve had keeping up the routine throughout life. As it’s one over time I’ve been working hard to maintain, but much like a child who desperately tries to behave so not to go to the principles office; I often try my best to practice good oral hygiene or do better next time, but somehow despite my best intentions the habit has proven difficult to keep up, so I go into check-ups apprehensive, knowing I should have done better. Yet another uncomfortable feeling for me, and sore spot.
It also is something that has motivated me to try even harder with these habits, along with realizing the feeling of clean teeth is better than those not clean- especially if I’ve slipped up for a few days- recognizing the difference and using it as motivation not to give up is what saves me from greater discomfort and pain in the future. This too, is a slow realization, and that still is sinking in time to time, but it can help as well keep me on track.
Keep putting your pearliest teeth forward, and most importantly Stay You-nique!
P.S. Here’s some more reading on my self-care habit journey: http://www.lifeonthespectrum.ca/2018/01/24/my-struggle-to-establish-good-self-care-routines/