My son Diego, who’s 26 and has autism, got braces on February 2, 2019. They came off on January 16, 2020. For 350 days straight, at least once or twice a day, I was meticulous with his oral hygiene. I thoroughly brushed his teeth; I flossed and picked food particles from between his teeth and the spaces between the wires and teeth.
Also, for the last two months of treatment, twice daily I changed the elastics that went from his upper lateral incisors to the lower third molars. I can almost do it with my eyes closed now.
Diego’s teeth looked OK before orthodontics. After much effort, time and money, they now look amazing. The undertaking was a success. For a moment, I thought of putting the following on my resume:
Advanced Orthodontic Hygienist. Expert at ensuring successful orthodontic treatment for individuals with special needs of all ages. Perfect record at preventing cavities throughout treatment. Exceptional know-how of dental cleaning techniques and tools.
I’d be dressing it up a little bit, but don’t we all do that on our resumes?
Diego’s sensory system is peculiar. Although he has outgrown this reaction, he used to gag whenever a doctor or dentist tried to get into his mouth. (How he overcame his oral sensitivity is material for a whole other post!)
At the same time, he actually has diminished sensitivity on his lips and around the lip area. He seems, for instance, not to feel ice cream dripping down to his chin. I’ll tell him and he rubs the napkin on the wrong part of his face. He’s had to learn to always wipe around his entire mouth.
Chapstick he applies all around, not on, his lips. Were the chapstick tinted, he’d look like a clown. It’s as if he didn’t know where exactly his lips were or how to instantly touch them, much like when you try to touch the tip of your nose with your finger -with your eyes closed and without thinking about it- and end up touching the side of your nose.
Diego’s fine motor and motor planning skills are disordered too. He can hardly form a small group of somewhat legible letters (D-i-e-g-o) to sign his name. It took him forever to learn to zip, button and tie.
Needless to say, Diego’s a lousy tooth brusher. Even without braces, I usually made sure to help him brush at least three times per week. With braces, it was a whole new ball game. A third of his food intake, or so it seemed, got stuck between his teeth, in the spaces between the wires and his teeth, and between his lips and gums. Rice, which Diego eats at least every other day, was the worst.
Today, when I behold Diego’s new teeth I feel accomplished and proud of myself. I felt like giving up but did not. I was consistent, showing up, so to say, every day. I experimented with various techniques and tools. I persevered!
Come to think of it, the above could just as easily apply to training for and finishing a marathon, couldn’t it? And yet, I can’t brag about keeping my adult son’s teeth clean in the same way I can brag about the marathon. If you run a marathon -just one!- you can call yourself a “marathoner” and add that to your resume.
Guess what, though? I don’t want a medal or a special shirt like people get when they run a marathon. I don’t really need to add anything to my resume. (Not looking for a new job.) I’m just so glad that I can back to three-times-per-week tooth brushing routine and that Diego’s pleased with his new teeth.