Autism, the dentist, and money

My autistic daughter went to the dentist yesterday.  Unlike many autistic people she is actually good about brushing her teeth – she even flosses!  But apparently she hasn’t been agile enough to get in the crevices of those pesky back molars, because she has a cavity in all FOUR.  Four cavities.  That means four fillings.  And that means three things for me:

1)  Listening to my husband complain about how I let the kids eat too much junk.  Ok, he’s probably right there, but honestly her diet has been BETTER lately.  She eats those little baby oranges with her school lunch now, and corn puff thingies (like popcorn) for snack instead of cookies – and ALWAYS drinks water, never juice.

2)  Thinking about how we’re going to get this done.  With autism, nothing is simple.  It’s been a while since she’s had a cavity or had to have a tooth pulled (her baby teeth often would NOT come out on their own).  In the past we have ALWAYS given her gas to calm her because she is very orally sensitive, and when she’s nervous or scared it’s hard to reason with her and keep her still (ex. she will kick and flail her arms or try to grab the dentist’s tools).  We go to a dentist who has had extra training in working with special needs children and she is FABULOUS, but even the best can’t stop all  nervousness and fear.  My daughter has come very close to biting the dentist, not out of malice but because her instinct to protect her mouth is greater than her intellect telling her it’ll be ok.  Since it’s been a few years and she’s come so far, after consulting with the dentist about the severity of the cavities (not so bad) and the time it would take, we decided to try to go without the gas and split the work into two separate appointments.  I’ll also make sure her tummy is empty before the appointments just in case we have to go for  the gas.  I even asked for HER input about what she would want, and since she hates to have that “thing” over her nose, she went for the “split it into two appointments” option also.  So we have a plan.  But there was also another reason I wanted her to try it without the gas…

3)  Money, money, money.  I hate money, especially the lack of it.  Now, some people might have the impression that pastors drive fancy cars and live in big houses and steal peoples’ money.  That’s just what you see on tv.  My husband works as a full-time pastor for a large denomination in a smaller church and I work about 1/4 time in a tiny church.  We are just scraping by.  I drive an eight year old basic minivan and my husband’s got a newer car that we could only afford because it came out of his mother’s estate when she DIED.  We live simply.  The biggest portion of expenses each month is FOOD – not gym memberships or going out to eat, or clothes – GROCERIES.  That and medical expenses.  I’m in therapy, my oldest child is in therapy, and unfortunately her therapist is now out-of-network, so that’s double the cost of a session for her (we thought about it, but it was so hard to get her to talk to ANYONE, we didn’t want to pull her away from a therapist with whom she has been doing well) .  We have insurance, but we also have a very high deductible.  We also have dental insurance – that will pay almost all for a cleaning, but only half for work that has to be done.  Our estimated portion for these cavities is around $250, unless she needs the gas, then it’ll be about $100 more.  That’s huge for us.  Huge.

It’ll be no joy on my part or hers for me to be showing her how to brush around those back molars.  She’s getting very willful and headstrong, and like many with autism, has HER way of doing things that’s hard to change.  But cavities are things that are NOT in our budget…

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