How a Dental Hygienist Helped My Daughter With Down Syndrome Rock an Appointment


KC at the dentist.
KC at the dentist.

The first time I took my daughter KC to the dentist, the dental hygienist warned me that “Downs kids are always more difficult to get in their mouth and brush. It’s a little harder for us and it’ll be harder for you as her parent.” She also told me, “Downs kids are usually missing some teeth, so you shouldn’t be surprised when she’s got some missing.” Was she right? Maybe. I can’t say for sure because we only have one kid with an extra chromosome, but I did request that we not have that hygienist again.

Was I being too sensitive? Another maybe. I try to remember that before having KC, I don’t know how I might have responded to someone with Down syndrome or another disability. I didn’t complain about the hygienist. I just said we’d like to try someone new.

We had a new hygienist at our next visit. She shared several good ways she’s found to get a little one’s mouth clean and even discussed good brushing tips for home. She complimented and encouraged KC the whole time she was cleaning. I asked her about missing teeth. She basically said we can’t change it now, so we’ll cross that bridge if we need to. I can’t say for certain, but I don’t think she ever mentioned KC’s extra chromosome. I am however 100 percent certain she never referred to my daughter by anything other than her given name. I requested the same person for next time.

When we went back to the dentist, that hygienist remembered what position KC was most comfortable in the last time. KC rocked yet another cleaning and X-rays like a champ. By the way, X-rays are something one of KC’s “typical” older siblings hasn’t mastered yet. There were no tears, no whining and no complaining for the entire appointment.

Do I think it’s because KC is awesome? Definitely. But I also think that hygienist gets a lot of the credit. Did she do something magically special to help us survive this appointment? No. She simply treated KC like a capable 3-year-old. Instead of seeing challenges or a diagnosis or a disability, she saw exactly what we wanted her to: an individual, a tiny patient, an unpredictable 3-year-old ready for a cleaning and an X-ray.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s the best thing a medical professional has said to you related to your (or a loved one’s) disability, disease or mental illness?  Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


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