The day of surgery had arrived and things were definitely on the upswing.  I was able to reflect back on the struggles we had had thus far followed by the good things that followed.  We had gone through months of unexplained stimming (self-stimulatory behavior) with hand to face, and it seems his stimming was likely his way of saying he was hurting.  Slowly, the stim was fading away.



Although I wouldn’t have wished for the itchy rash from east hades, within days of starting the antibiotics, my son’s appetite had sky rocketed.  He was now up about two pounds.  Slowly, the tooth seemed to be less swollen, and less painful, so the laughter and singing and smiles had returned.  And tooth pain, or no tooth pain, he will now say “cheese” and “smi-le” fairly readily to a camera when asked.

We had made a plan for the day for both children.  Since we had to be at the hospital so early, my daughter was catching the bus at a neighbor’s house so her routine wasn’t thrown off too much and so she could get the attention she needed since so much was being lavished on my son.  Speaking of my son, we had been reading books on visits to the dentist and being in the hospital as well as practicing brushing and opening his mouth wide.

In addition to the written instruction given to us, a member of the surgical team met us in Admissions and walked us to the pre-op area.  Wrapped in a blanket identifying his favorite radio station, WGTS 91.9, my son snuggled up to me while the nurse gave his arm a squeeze with the blood pressure cuff and swiped his forehead with a thermometer.  She told us what to expect and it was repeated by a surgical tech that brought a brightly covered wagon lined with hospital bedding.



We took our little guy for a ride through the pre-op area then got to speak to the dentist.  He again explained what would happen during and after the procedure, including pain medicines that would be given.  This was my biggest concern – pain control.  As my son was very limited verbally, I had a difficult time telling when he was in pain.

This experience taught me two lessons.  While in the ER previously, one doctor shared that kids in pain would not allow you to move or sometimes even get near the object of pain (i.e. a hurt ankle or arm), whether they were verbal or not.  Makes sense.  The other lesson I learned came from our dentist.  He told me that after the surgery my son would cry as all of the children were disoriented from the anesthesia.  So, if he was crying how would I know if he was in pain?!?




His reply was elegantly simple.  If he was eating, he wasn’t hurting.   Empowered with this new knowledge, I was able to relax a bit more.  Well as much as you can when your baby boy is about to go into surgery.  I used a technique an anesthesiologist from Johns Hopkins taught me to say good-bye.  I hugged my son and then gave him to the surgical tech, then took him back and hugged him again before finally placing him in the care of the technologist.  This way, my son could make the connection that the technologist was safe and that he would be coming back to me, just like in that little back and forth demonstration.



The surgery ran smoothly, and afterwards, although there were tears, they soon subsided once my son was held and snuggled for a few minutes.  Within several hours, he was drinking and eating again – a great sign that he was not in pain.  And I got lots of extra cuddle time as he recuperated over the weekend.  Cuddles from my sometimes standoffish little guy?  That’s another silver lining to the story.

Special Needs Dental

Next Steps:


  •  Had it been difficult for you to determine when your child is in discomfort or pain? How does the advice of these good doctor potentially help you?
  • Is your child a cuddler or are they sensitive to touch?  How do you respect their comfort zone but still help them acclimate to the world around them?


Want to Learn More?

This portion of the Dental Chronicles is coming to an end, but as it happens the big bean also needed oral surgery for braces so the saga continues.  Join Dr. Bergina for that part of the journey as well.

To consider additional questions to ask your surgeon or anesthesiologist prior to a procedure, consider some of the information presented in this article on anesthesiology and the child with diagnosis of Autism at https://www.autism.com/pro_anesthesia.   The information may or may not pertain to your child, but questions raised may be helpful in your journey.

To learn more about Dr. Bergina and the Autism Alignment Movement, visit www.TheAutismStrategist.com.




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