Trying to Explain Autistic Adults at the Dentist – We Blend In Better Than Autistic Children

I had a dental appointment this morning, a semiannual cleaning that takes a lot out of me due to my sensory sensitivities.

Up until this point I’d never fully disclosed my Autism to my dentist or the hygienist who cleans my mouth. In the past I’ve mentioned light sensitivities, high pain tolerances, and poor body temperature regulation (partial disclosure) but never used the word Autism.

Today, because part of my new years mission is to spread more Autism awareness, I told my secret.

I should be used to the responses people give my by now, but for some reason they always catch me off guard – “I never would have guessed. We have Autism in our family – nephews (young people). You hide it well.”

Even more I hated myself for my response to the comment. All I could think to say as I stood dumbfounded was “thank you” and I hated myself for even speaking those words.

My Autism is not something that I want to hide. I am not ashamed of being Autistic because I know that Autism makes me who I am.

I continued to share that “as I’ve grown up there are tricks that I’ve picked up along the way, allowing me to blend in and more easily manage in society. I have worked very hard to get to where I am now.”

In my mind we shared some understanding in that moment. I like to think that I was not dismissed as misdiagnosed or lying because often people don’t believe me when I tell them I’m Autistic.

There was so much more that I wanted to tell – how I meditate constantly and practice mindfulness to keep my anxiety under control. I wanted to share that me passing is a lot of work.

So much to say when you have metal tools in your mouth. There was no good time for further elaboration but I hoped for understanding of how hard it was for me to sit still while they probed around in my mouth.

Finally, as an adult, I am able to force myself (with great mental effort) to sit still through the entire dental cleaning.

At first glance it may appear as if I am calm and still but the reality is something far different.

My heart is racing and my hearing is fuzzy. As I lay flat on the dental chair my body is tense and I am pressing myself down with every muscle in my body, attempting to melt into the chair so I do not run away.

I wear sunglasses to block out the light and ear plugs to dampen the drills but still the excessive unpleasant physical contact is an assault to my senses.

Somehow I always manage to push through these draining experiences.

By the time I get home my head is pounding and my mind is fuzzy.

It is still very difficult but now as an Autistic adult I am finally able to get through an ordeal that was nearly intolerable as an Autistic child.

I am grateful for the small accomplishments. Learning to sit still while people touch me took  years of practice, determination, and hard work.


#ActuallyAutistic #SheCantBeAutistic #AnonymouslyAutistic #InvisibleAutism #InvisibleDisability


41 thoughts on “Trying to Explain Autistic Adults at the Dentist – We Blend In Better Than Autistic Children”

  1. shame is so far from the only reason to hide it. when your closest friends and family try to cater to or avoid anything happening they dont understand– its going to create a divide. when they try to coddle you (but all the wrong and misguided and useless ways that have nothing to do with your actual needs, but are based on what they assume– and for some reason, they stop listening when you tell them what the actual needs are because they cant relate or dont believe you? ugh!)

    how many spoons have you got? can you throw half away dealing with the way people try to help when they know? when first they arent helping (so thats zero spoons saved) and then they make it worse (negative spoons saved) plus the frustration with the knowledge that they could be helping if they just listened (more negative spoons) plus they resent you because (duh,) their unrelated “help” isnt helping? then they freak out because they KNOW youre going to, even if you were actually ok this time, but ok fine–LETS ALL GO NUTS NOW! EVERYBODYS DOING IT! AAAAAAH!!!!!!

    thats when they get to step back (hold on, wait…) and remind themselves theyre not the crazy one– it was just you all along. well thats going to be an awkward ride back, for sure.

    shame aint a thing to do with it at all– hiding is for spoon hoarding. and its not hoarding, its covering your ass for the coming spoon shortage. if i could go back in time, id have never told my family anything. theyre not really my family anymore. but they think im just ungrateful– and negative. theyre a bunch of entitled fing terrible listeners, is what they are. instead of hiding this one thing, i now have to hide every single thing about my life or they will make it worse. THATS why people hide. well, ymmv– i sure hope so. theres love there. but not much for my family– this realy made us not a family anymore, and they dont know it, because if i try to tell them its like im just saying it to hurt their feelings? oh, f it all 😛

    im getting used to it, so i really dont want pity. not to be c**ky but its their doing, their arrogance, and their loss. they think its love, but its closer to narcissism and cluelessness. my old family (before we knew) wasnt like that so much, or i didnt notice before. friends and coworkers? well, we arent “there” yet. the future is already here, it just isnt evenly distributed (and its never going to be– but someday there may be enough spoons saved for most of us.) ❤ youre a pioneer coming out and all– its not the easy way– its not the economy of spoons way, at least in the short term.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. wow for me it never been like that .people can tell I have autism or if they don’t no what autism is then they may think I’m slow or something
      is it harder for those of you when other can’t tell

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I grew up undiagnosed so I learned to sit still and when to be quiet. I keep all speech and movements carefully planned like I am in a play. It’s an act I put on – hiding my Autism as a survival mechanism not knowing why I was different. I wanted to be more normal.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. oh and even though they wouldnt know a spoon if it were stuck to their forehead (because they dont know what actually costs them and whats free) instead of letting you– the only person who knows or even can know how they work– manage your spoons to the best of anyones ability– they cant tolerate failure. they always assume youre just throwing spoons away (and you are– by having them in your life.)

    so now they try to take your spoons and manage them for you “oh dont do that, it will stress you out.” “no you dont get it, i need to do that to manage this other thing” “well just wait until later, itll be easier then [when you have more spoons]” (this is metaphor, thankfully weve never talked about spoons, its just one more thing theyd f*** up if they knew.) “no, you dont get it– its costing spoons to not do it now– its costing them to argue about it when you dont know what youre talking about.”

    theyre suddenly f***ing spoon experts! after all, they manage their own spoons fine, so they know more about my spoons than i do.

    except they dont HAVE to manage spoons. not in the same way– its just pretty ironic when we grow up thinking everyone thinks and works like we do– and one day we realize it isnt so, and now THEY think WE work like they do, to the point where they know more about us than we know ourselves!

    i lost my family to this. theyre gone forever– i mean theyre still around, we just arent a family anymore. we dont know each other, we dont communicate effectively, i suppose we could go to a professional– we can sit around a fire and sing songs from the dsm-5…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I struggle with pretty much any kind of physical contact, I don’t mind so much when I’m in a relationship with someone I care about and trust, but outside of that, I’m reluctant even to shake hands. The idea of the dentist putting tools in my mouth is making my teeth ache as I sit here shudders I hate anything like that.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. The first time I visited my last Dr, at the end of the appointment, she said, “You do not seem overly anxious to me.” I told her I have had 50 years of practice. I should have taken that as a clew. She turned out to be useless on mental issues. And she was Chief of Medicine at a Providence medical center!!!!!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I never had an issue with the Dentist. I have only ever had ONE filling MY ENTIRE LIFE and one root canal back in June 2014. I credit this more to drinking milk than toothpaste; bloody Sodium Fluoride in our water. (NaF off, that’s what I say)

    Though yesterday I went to a Turkish Barber for a weekly shave and they take an eternity applying shaving cream on me; I can’t shave for toffee and when I do I come out in cuts and rashes. Heading to a Turkish/Kurdish Barber once a week has helped my skin considerably.

    I’m heading to a Meetup this evening in Belfast and managed to get a last minute Hotel deal thanks to booking dot com; even though their TV ads are bordering on ridiculous. Plus I can pay by cash with them. Smiles all round.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My main issue with the dentist is impatience and anxiety at the waiting room. When I was 13/14 I had a dentist appointment my mum took me to after school and the wait was over an hour and it was excruciating. (the appointment itself went fine, my teeth are awesome)

      But I had no experience of life outside TV and wondered if the dentist was dealing with a crocodile as I remember the kids game ‘The Crocodile Dentist’ being advertised on TV as a kid. I was cheeky as Hell as a kid, but I wasn’t social back then.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Having to go to the dentist with my husband is a traumatic ordeal for him, I can empathise totally, you suffer as he does. He has declined to tell his dentist & will avoid going if he can. Many many meltdowns over dental appointments. Well any appointments really!! Fab that you can make it to them alone:) x

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I was recently “fired” by a dentist because they refused to accommodate autism and Meniere’s Disease. They said they couldn’t do the work if I wasn’t completely flat on my back. I went to another dentist, and he had no problem at all working with me. It’s so ironic that those of us with these difficulties are the ones who have to be ‘flexible’ to accommodate the lack of it in the NT population.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. It’s great you were able to do this. Well done! Frankly, I avoid the medical community like the plague. I did all the prenatal stuff readily because another life was depending on me and that was motivation enough to push through- in fact, I was always complimented as a “model patient” in those days. But, now, I struggle to bring myself to do dr. or dentist appointments. It all feels so intrusive.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. I am an adult with Sensory Processing Disorder, just recently diagnosed. Don’t remember much of my childhood due to a variety of issues month them ECT, trauma, bad memory and mental illness in general. I find with this new awareness or at least diagnosis I am less tolerable as now I have a name and a reason for all these “quirks” I had. It’s acceptable and while for the most part I do try to blend in and use coping strategies it’s nice to know there is a name and I like to bring awareness as most people don’t even know what SPD is let alone that adults have it.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I’m glad you were able to tell your dentist. I’ve gotten the same things said to me. I think it may be a compliment, but it is important to let others know that hiding to accommodate NT society isn’t ok. The next time anyone tells me I don’t seem autistic or hide it well, I will tell them, that’s because there isn’t a barking dog or screaming child around, or fireworks. I find it comforting to wear the vest as well. I refuse to use regular dental floss. I’ve been hasssled over that over my life, too. It cuts into my gums. I use GUM brand ones that look like green toothpicks, btw. The rubber is fine. The stringy floss is horrible, like getting paper cuts on the gums.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I feel you, girl ❤️ I’ve had an extensive amount of dental work done over the past 6 months, and I’m just getting started! I told both dentists that I’m autistic, adding that what that means for myself and them is that it explains the anxiety I always feel and that after reading up on weighted blankets and how they are said to really reduce that anxiety, I asked if they had one and they did! They obliged me very graciously and assured me that a lot of people ask to use it. They’re also very kind about my pain sensitivity and they try to be really gentle, which I definitely appreciate. Dental work is never fun but having professionals I trust who aren’t judgmental is priceless. Good luck with everything and happy healing! 😊❤️

    Liked by 3 people

  12. If Autism was neatly defined, like it was back in the 70s, then you could say that autistic people had an issue with this product, that product, etc. When you have this blurry “spectrum”, then it becomes impossible to say that somebody with autism is unable to use product x, but they would be fine with product y.

    It might be possible to send out an e-mail to a really large number of people, and ask them to check a box for “Diagnosed with ASD” (if they’ve been diagnosed with ASD) and another for “Issues with product x as a result of your autism”. The e-mail should have an editable field for “product you use instead of product x”; make it visible only if they have already checked “issues with product x…”. If 75% of autistic respondents couldn’t use product x, then you’d be onto something.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Dave – I was more thinking we start to recommend products most of us agree on – for example fidget cube is amazing and the green gum floss is the BEST. Although I had not gone so far as the trouble that would go into collection of the data. We normally think of things like weighted blankets and fidget toys with AS but sometimes forget the day to day – like my one type of special socks. lol. I honestly don’t have time to collect the data.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I avoid blankets, they feel like they are crushing me while I’m trying to fall asleep. It’s stuff like this that makes me “feel” that an ASD friendly list is impossible to create (unless you actually did survey a bunch of people with “autism” and found there were products that were hated by lots of people in the survey, and associated “approved” products).

        A website could be created with survey pages in it, and the results could be stored in a database (I’m thinking MySQL). Criteria could be created for triggers that sent the surveyor the results of losers and their associated winner(s).

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I think it would be good to note the tools that go with opposite sensory needs. Sounds like you are hypersensitive to pressure while we are hyposensitive to and crave it. Maybe the products could fall on a scale since everyone’s senses are different.

          Liked by 2 people

  13. Weighted blankets can be found here: I wish I had one.
    Stimtastic makes chewable jewelry:
    I don’t have any issues with clothes that are not wool or fleece that doesn’t make contact with my skin. I shop at Kohl’s and find that many brands are making smooth tags, not the old,harsh plastic kind.
    Crocs are great for people who cannot tie their shoes. To make a truly comprehensive list, you would need more than just me. To take into account the varied spectrum, you might want to word it like this; if you are hypersensitive, products a,b and c will work for you. If you are hyposensitive, x,y and z will work for you. Some on the spectrum are both in different areas, so categories for both would be helpful. I can see the diagram in my head but cannot put into words.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. If I were your dentist, and you told me you were autistic, I’d say the same thing. Why? Because you have learned to mask it so well, combined with that in society, all people are taught to hide everything about them. Reason being is that we know people who ask us how we are doing, only care to hear “fine” and move on. Anything beyond “fine” is an emotional, unwanted assault of information no one cares about. We, as a people need to rise above that and learn that EVERYONE on this plant, even the entitled, has issues to deal with. Personally, from my life, the entitled can go to hell. ALSO and FINALLY, autistic people are vilely portrayed wrong on TV. autistic people are portrayed as mixture of down syndrome, with moderate mental retardation, and finally, a strong need to react violently when challenged. Sometimes, where I see it, I wish a group of people would sue the hell out of the companies. Just sue the breaks off of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I despise going to the dentist. I have some sort of milk allergy (it’s never been tested) so I have spent years not getting enough calcium (I don’t always remember the supplements). Three pregnancies have successfully drained my teeth of calcium and I need a lot of work done. At this point, I need partial dentures at the top and the bottom.

    Being a redhead, I feel pain more than most people, and painkillers don’t work as well on me, so I need more pain/numbing medicine than most people.

    I’ve had one dentist who was pulling a tooth, and I told her that it was really hurting me, tell me after my maximum amount of numbing, that I just felt pressure, not pain. I was crying because it hurt so bad and I couldn’t do anything about it.

    Going to the dentist is extremely stressful. There’s always the guilt “Haven’t you been brushing and flossing? You need to do it more often.” My approach is to go as late in the day as I can, that way I don’t have to worry about functioning that much at home before I go to bed. And I lay there, with my eyes closed, just focusing on my breathing just like I did when I was in labor. Always a model patient even though the anxiety and panic is suffocating me.

    I’ve never told my dentist of my disorders before, it never even occurred to me.But often when I do tell people of my disorders, I’m usually met with the same response you were by your dentist. If only I had a dollar for every time I heard that…

    Liked by 1 person

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