I have been to the dentist around 5 times since I sent them my disclosure letter because my teeth were in very bad shape. An excellent autistic-written dentist post I came across earlier today reminded me that it’s probably time for a follow-up to write about what’s happened since I sent that letter.
The people at the dentist’s office haven’t said anything directly to me about being autistic. I haven’t brought it up and neither have they. But that’s fine with me. There’s a reason I communicated that fact and my needs to them in writing and I’m fine with never communicating in spoken words about it with them. In fact, I hope that never becomes necessary.
Despite their silence, I have had the same (wonderful) hygienist/assistant every single time, and they’ve put me in the same “room” every time too. They ask often if I’m okay with what’s happening – yes and no questions are good – and they move my seat to the upright position when I’m not being worked on so that I can play all the sudoku I need to on my phone without my head feeling weird from the reclining position.
The other dentist post I read just now reminded me of something else too. I thought about it after my last appointment when the lady in the “room” next to me was worried because she hadn’t remembered to take her pain medication ahead of time.
It occurred to me then that just living in the world and dealing with sensory overload nearly constantly has meant, for me, that things like dental work aren’t that much worse in comparison.
At some point, it’s just all sensory overload to me. When air conditioning is painful and ubiquitous – thus impossible to avoid – getting a root canal (with proper local numbing) *doesn’t actually feel that much worse.
I can use many of the same techniques that I’ve developed over the years for dealing with painful sensations of all types while getting dental work done and I’ve had a ton of practice doing so. More practice than the typical allistic person, certainly.
But that’s at the actual dentist’s office.
Once home, I usually find myself exhausted for at least the first couple days following dental work or even a cleaning. Exhaustion is the price of utilizing those techniques and not showing how difficult it really is in the moment.
Afterwards, I go home and curl up on my library couch with my stuffed dog and rest as much as possible. The children often spend those days playing mainly outside and watching movies.
We just have a chill couple of days so that I can recover. It’s getting easier to do that as the children get older and can help out more.
And I’m so glad that I let the dentist’s office know that I’m autistic! Those little things they’ve done so far – keeping the place and person the same, making sure I’m comfortable between work, etc – add up and make a huge difference.
But hopefully I will be able to take better care of my teeth and see the dentist more regularly for cleanings so that I won’t need to have this much work done all in a row ever again. That would be the best!
*I’m definitely not suggesting it will be this way for everyone, just that this has been my experience.