Remember that book I picked up when I was 12 weeks pregnant with Hope and our Panorama screening came back positive for Down syndrome? The book offered an early introduction to a whole host of medical concerns that would be likely for us throughout Hope’s childhood, and among them were dental issues.
I’ve never felt like anyone else we know when it comes to Hope’s teeth. Hope was a year old when her first tooth broke through, and it took over 2 months to come all the way out; the pediatrician said to expect 2 to 4 weeks.
Her second tooth, a molar, would have gone completely unnoticed had I not tried scraping off a hard piece of food from her back gums only to discover it was a full grown tooth. (Hope’s tongue used to hog the spotlight, making it tough to see inside without fighting our way in.)
Then there’s her current bottom row, which looks like a lineup of canines, sharp and pointy. And for two years her two top teeth were an island of their own, until this past summer when her lateral incisors popped out.
Every night after Hope’s evening bottle of milk we ask Amazon Alexa to play “Brush Your Teeth” by Raffi, and without fail, Hope gets into position and opens her sweet little mouth to have her teeth brushed. Most nights she would allow us to brush her top teeth but used her tongue to force us out when we’d try to brush the bottoms. Then along came the life-changing Brilliant toothbrush by Baby Buddy, which has 360-degree bristles all the way around, so as long as the brush is in her mouth, some sort of contact is being made with her teeth or tongue. Any tension or resistance that may have existed during evening brushing has been almost completely eliminated.
Now there are some places we go where having Down syndrome doesn’t matter, like church or the grocery store, but medical offices matter a lot, and the dentist is no exception. I’d heard all about this amazing local dentist who treats both typically developing and special needs children, and everybody had only positive things to say. So at the end of August, we gave it a shot.
The office really was amazing. The waiting area was small and cozy, with warm wood blanketing the floors and furnishings, dimmed lights, and soothing music that made the room feel more like a spa than a dentist’s office. Hope doesn’t watch TV, but we were given a choice of shows to put on the screen above the exam chair, opting for Sesame Street to compliment the toothbrush popup book she loves so much and brought with her that day. I even chose chocolate toothpaste for her, something more adult dentists should offer!
The exam began with desensitizing. The dentist, who is also a certified behaviorist, used special techniques of touching and peek-a-boo with her facemask to eventually get Hope up onto my lap in the exam chair without force. She counted Hope’s teeth, noting not only that Hope was probably missing her canines but that this was not necessarily indicative of what we would see when her permanent teeth replace her baby teeth.
So okay, we have uphill dental battles to face, including hygiene and orthodontics, but Hope was so proud of herself when she flipped through her popup book after the appointment, clearly making the connection between what she’d just done and the illustrations in the book. Her face lit up and she looked to me for affirmation, and I was able to give it to her.