“There definitely needs to be more awareness of the importance of dental care, even prior to school age, so parents get the full picture of health.”
Mother to Christopher, a Graduate of Henry Viscardi School at The Viscardi Center
After Christopher was born, there was one thing after another. He had to stay in the hospital a few days after birth and once we brought him home, we had to start with orthopedics because he had clubbed feet. He is a diabetic, so there is a whole blood sugar issue to deal with. There were many surgeries, and medical issues with his trachea, so his dental care really never came in at the top of the list.
However, as he got older, and his teeth started to come in, we saw the ones in the front grow more and more crooked. I knew we had to do something. I’m a nurse and sometimes I see disabled children with their teeth all ground down to the nubs, or they have hyper-extended palates. I didn’t want that for Christopher, so I insisted we get on the dental bandwagon.
Unfortunately, our first dental experiences were not good ones. We saw dentists based on recommendations like “they’re wonderful”, or “they’re great with kids.” Well, poor Christopher. The screaming, the hollering, the not sitting still, the “I’m afraid!”, “I don’t want to go back!” and that type of thing. I would then leave that dentist and go to the next one. And the same thing would start. It’s also so expensive. Even though I have dental insurance, it’s wasn’t covering it all.
Thank goodness we found Stony Brook for dental care and other services. Christopher’s dentist is wonderful. She tells him exactly how it is, and brings the subject to his level. She’s very friendly and shows him all the pictures of what we’re going to do. It made it so much easier for him and me to understand. They’re so patient with him and take their time. For example, in order to proceed with the braces, he needed to have eight teeth pulled. So to find an oral surgeon that would pull eight teeth at once, under general anesthesia was an issue. Today, between my dental insurance, his Medicaid, and Stony Brook we now have fabulous regular oral care for Christopher.
There definitely needs to be more awareness of the importance of dental care, even prior to school age, so parents get the full picture of health. Throughout my tenure as a nurse, I’ve seen kids who stay on bottles much longer with milk that lies in their mouth that isn’t properly cleaned out. People can be unaware of cavities until something bad happens. Or, with very young children, parents don’t realize that they can simply use a little washcloth to go in and rinse out their gums.
Just like all kids, we encourage Christopher to brush his teeth, but with his disability, it is hard as he only has the use of one hand. So, to hold a tooth brush, put tooth paste on, get it in his mouth, do all the nooks and crannies, floss or WaterPik, and then spit, is difficult. I know sometimes it gets frustrating for me to know it’s not getting to where it should be, and I’m sure it’s frustrating for him. But we try and he’s gotten better at it over the years.
Christopher is a unique child and we are very proud of him. At times I cannot believe he’s all grown up, because when I look at him, I still see my little boy. He has become a creative, open minded young man who is not shy about asking for help, especially when advocating for himself. And he does it all with a big, healthy smile.