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Autistic Girlfriend Terrified of the Dentist

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ghostboy6

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Hello. I (25 F) had been struggling to get my autistic girlfriend (26 F) to see the dentist about a toothache occurring in the back of her mouth. Being autistic and having dental phobia opens up entirely new doors of fear for her; sensory issues, fear of going non-verbal during treatment and not being able to alert anyone that something hurts, and bright lights and high pitched noises that could send her into a meltdown. She’s been to the dentist before, having had many, many awful experiences in her childhood. She stopped going in adulthood and I haven’t been able to convince her to even think about setting foot in an office in the four years we’ve been together, until now. Her toothache is bad enough to the point where she allowed me to book her an appointment. It’s a week and a half away, and I desperately need tips on how to keep her calm and comfortable. The dentist I’ve booked her with is supposedly good for people with dental anxiety, so I hope they have experience with autistic people as well. With COVID 19 happening, my girlfriend is worried she may not be able to have her comfort object (her blanket) during the procedure. She’s genuinely scared out of her mind and I’m at a heartbroken loss. She’s been crying herself to sleep over it since I booked the appointment. She, by no means, has bad hygiene. She’d tedious about her brushing, flossing, and mouthwash schedule, and rarely eats sweets. If you have any tips or advice on how to ease her anxiety both before and during the appointment, please send them my way. XO.
 
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_IHateTeeth_

_IHateTeeth_

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Has she ever been sedated for dental treatment? I'd recommend it 100%.
 
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Theblurredface

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I'm sorry I can't offer much help, I know it's not what you're looking for, I just want to say it sounds like you're being a wonderfully supportive partner by seeking out this info for her and everything you're doing at her side right now, that in itself will make a massive difference.
I would also suggest she asks the dentist about sedation options or you ask on her behalf if she isn't verbal, you could talk about it with her beforehand in a calm setting. Even a simple tranquilliser pill given by the dentist can make a massive difference for some people and if not there are much more heavy duty options available.
 
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ghostboy6

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Has she ever been sedated for dental treatment? I'd recommend it 100%.
She seems open to conscious sedation! Have you had experience with that type of sedative? Is it truly like being asleep or were you aware of what was happening?
 
letsconnect

letsconnect

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Hi ghostboy6 :welcome:

Just some random thoughts:

Being autistic and having dental phobia opens up entirely new doors of fear for her; sensory issues, fear of going non-verbal during treatment and not being able to alert anyone that something hurts, and bright lights and high pitched noises that could send her into a meltdown.
Personally I like to use dark sunglasses rather than the ones that are provided (which may or may not be good at blocking out light - it's always a gamble!).

Is listening to earphones an option? Personally I prefer music in the background, but a lot of people on here do like listening to their headphones. They don't really blend out all the noise though.

Regarding not being able to alert anyone that something hurts - we have some tips on this page for anyone who feels unable to speak up or give a stop signal, in the "stop signals" section:



The dentist I’ve booked her with is supposedly good for people with dental anxiety, so I hope they have experience with autistic people as well.
Could your girlfriend or you email them in advance and explain about her autism, and see what they can do to make things as easy as possible for her?

With COVID 19 happening, my girlfriend is worried she may not be able to have her comfort object (her blanket) during the procedure. She’s genuinely scared out of her mind and I’m at a heartbroken loss.
I don't really see how a blanket would be any different from street clothes in terms of hygiene... but again, you could ask this question when emailing them :)
 
_IHateTeeth_

_IHateTeeth_

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She seems open to conscious sedation! Have you had experience with that type of sedative? Is it truly like being asleep or were you aware of what was happening?
I was under twilight sedation for my wisdom teeth extraction and on my end I felt like I had fallen asleep but on their end I was conscious. I "woke up" not remembering any part of the operation. It was amazing. I wish I could do all dental work like that but it would be pricy lol
 
BoxerMom

BoxerMom

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She seems open to conscious sedation! Have you had experience with that type of sedative? Is it truly like being asleep or were you aware of what was happening?
Conscious sedation is called that because you are awake enough to respond to commands and breath on your own, but your memories are suppressed. If anything, the only memories of it will be dream-like and fuzzy. It is not like general anesthesia because there is no breathing tube inserted. Keep in mind, it is not a solution to the phobia but it will make it possible to get work done.
 
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ghostboy6

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Hi ghostboy6 :welcome:

Just some random thoughts:



Personally I like to use dark sunglasses rather than the ones that are provided (which may or may not be good at blocking out light - it's always a gamble!).

Is listening to earphones an option? Personally I prefer music in the background, but a lot of people on here do like listening to their headphones. They don't really blend out all the noise though.

Regarding not being able to alert anyone that something hurts - we have some tips on this page for anyone who feels unable to speak up or give a stop signal, in the "stop signals" section:





Could your girlfriend or you email them in advance and explain about her autism, and see what they can do to make things as easy as possible for her?



I don't really see how a blanket would be any different from street clothes in terms of hygiene... but again, you could ask this question when emailing them :)
Thank you! She’ll definitely have to try dark sunglasses and soundproof headphones. She’s emailed the office and they’ve agreed to make things significantly easier on her (ie. not leaning her back too far, allowing for frequent breaks, and giving me permission to be close by) so she’s feeling better about a few things. The dentist said she can have her blanket as well. Thank you for the helpful advice. XOXO.
 
letsconnect

letsconnect

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Great to hear that she managed to get in touch with them, that all sounds promising! Best of luck with it, I hope it goes really well 😊
 
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ghostboy6

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edit, night before appointment:
The appointment is tomorrow morning and tonight has been awful! She cried herself to sleep and cried the entire day. She didn’t even feel well enough to watch her favorite show and normally she’d never miss it for the world. I could really use some support myself right now. My heart is broken knowing an appointment I made for her is causing her this much distress.
 
letsconnect

letsconnect

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You've been wonderfully supportive throughout this, and you're doing your very best to help and get her out of pain :grouphug: . Her distress is NOT caused by anything you have done. The anticipation tends to be a thousand times worse than the actual event!

I'm not sure what time it is where you are, but hoping you're managing/managed to get some well-deserved sleep. Wishing you and your girlfriend all the best for today 🍀🍀🍀
 
Enarete

Enarete

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Hi there,

I second @letsconnect. Everyone who is afraid of the dentist get an intense anxiety in the last day or last few hours before and appointment and it's sometimes a real rollercoaster. Evenings and mornings are generally a bit more difficult for any anxious feelings. It's a process and needs to have it's space too. You are such an amazing support for her and I am sure just you being there is giving her so much security and relief. Please just hang in there - I know this is heart breaking to see her like that, but you are helping her through a difficult time now.

One thing that haven't got mentioned - not sure you will be with her in the treatment room, but if so, you could act as her advocate and make sure to take care of whatever is important to he. You could also arrange a sign that only the two of you know and she could use it in case she feels unable to speak up so that you can take over and request a break. This is just an idea I wanted to mention - again, not sure if this is applicable to your situation.

All the best wishes, may all go well and let us know how it went!
 
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ghostboy6

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Edit, after the appointment!
She did SO well and I couldn’t be more proud of her. The ride to the office was rough, with crying and pleading to go back home, but she calmed herself down when she was actually in the chair. She chose conscious sedation for herself, and it was wonderful. She drifted in and out the whole time the dentist cleaned her teeth and assessed her tooth. She had a pretty deep cavity, but they were able to fill it while she was sedated. The staff were wonderful with her. They allowed me to be as close as she wanted me, no matter how close that may be (I was practically in the chair at one point) and they taught her signals for if she were to go non-verbal. They allowed her to have her blanket, sunglasses, and headphones. They definitely went above and beyond for her. I could not be happier. Right now she’s still very out of it, but she’s not in any pain. Thank you so much for the support!
 
Enarete

Enarete

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That's beautiful, so glad it went all well. Great job the both of you! :love: Sounds like you have found a great dentist too
 
letsconnect

letsconnect

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That's fantastic news, great to hear it went so well!! The dental team sounds wonderful, too :cloud9: . Well done - congratulations 🍾🥳 and many thanks for the update
 
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