While having a small child who is limited verbally presents a challenge for dental and medical procedures, it’s often easy to forget that older and higher functioning child may need just as much if not more preparation.  While my son’s infected tooth sent us into a bevy of activity that resulted in surgery in a matter of weeks, my daughter oral surgery journey was years in the making.

We knew my daughter would probably need braces so we started planting the seeds to acclimate her to the idea around middle school.  Being an avid reader, she picked out a book to on her own to start preparing herself.  She found Smile at the school’s book fair and loved the cartoon style re-telling of a little girl’s journey with braces and headgear after she had  accidently knocked out her two front teeth.



Reading the book helped her develop a different mindset about braces because it gave a candid view of what a young lady was going through in a humorous way.   It previewed the expected and completely unexpected about braces, oral surgery, and school issues with the painful adjustments and complications that can come along the way.  When we found out she would need eight teeth out, including all four cuspids and several wisdom teeth, she was able to take it in stride having read about and looked at visuals of some of the process.



It also made the consent process easier for the surgery as she was able to engage in the discussion with us as her parents and her surgeon.  Now, from reading Ms. Telgemeier’s unfortunate experience from Smile after conscious sedation, my daughter had already made up her mind that she wanted no part of that.  She was mentally preparing for oral surgery long before her dentist recommended the wisdom teeth come out along with the cuspids.



So, not only did she survive the typical angst that teenagers have about braces, but she was also able to get through the oral surgery like a champ – so that she could get even tighter braces.  J  My daughter’s process was a non-emergent, lengthy experience which gave her time to process any anxiety associated with the procedure of braces and oral surgery.  Giving her information about the process and allowing her to go at her own pace made a huge difference in the success of the surgery.




Next Steps:


Here are some questions for you to consider:

  • How does your child learn best? Visual schedules or reading materials? Auditory processing?
  • Is your older or higher-functioning child experiencing a challenge that you can help them prepare for in advance? Using the way they learn best, how can you help them prepare?


 Want to Learn More?

Bergina Isbell, MD is a Mayo Clinic trained and Board Certified Psychiatrist specializing in the clinical treatment of patients with history of Special Needs and Trauma.  She is the mother of two children with special needs, including a son with a diagnosis of Autism.  She serves as a consultant and Autism coach for those who want to transform their lives by developing a growth-promoting mindset.

To learn more about the Smile book, head to https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/books/smile-by-raina-telgemeier/.

To join the Autism Alignment Movement and get access to free live interviews, click here https://bit.ly/autismstrategist.


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