Hello – my name is Rochelle, and I have bad teeth. This is my story.
I was blessed with a beautiful baby boy ten years ago, and he is the best thing that has ever happened in my life. He is bright and creative, and he loves cats. When he was four, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, and Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder. I worked in a department store for several years and in that time saw my insurance premiums go up and my benefits go down, but I figured I was doing what I could. Then my little boy started kindergarten.
It was an overwhelming change for him, going from a couple of hours a day in a daycare so close to our apartment that he could look out the window and see home to a large and industrial-feeling building two miles away, where he spent seven hours in a classroom of eighteen students. He enjoyed learning and even made a couple of friends, but the enormity of the experience was often too much for him and he would throw things to the floor or hide in a cabinet. He would be escorted to a small room with one adult and if he could regain composure, return to class.
We visited with a case manager. A therapist. A speech therapist. A social worker. A behavioral interventionist. A psychiatrist who tried prescriptions that failed as often as they succeeded. By the spring, he was spending six hours a day in “seclusion.” When the school felt there was no more they could do, they would call me and ask me to take him home, with the understanding that he would return the next morning with a clean slate and the chance to have a better day. When I got these calls an average of three or four days a week, I felt I was near my breaking point and my employer was not sympathetic. When given an ultimatum, I chose my son.
He was transferred to a larger school that had a wing for special needs children, where they had smaller class sizes but also the opportunity to interact with the average children if they were up to it. This had its ups and downs, but my son is tenacious and he has always looked forward to school, regardless of its challenges, due in part to the wonderful teachers who have come to care for the boy with the lovely blue eyes and offbeat sense of humor, one manifestation of which is a collection of t-shirts with cats on them. Cartoon cats. Unicorn cats. Cats eating ice cream.
I have not had insurance for years, but my son is covered under my state’s plan for low-income children. My teeth were not in the best shape to begin with, but they have deteriorated considerably. Five are broken (one of those is just a stub of root that penetrates the gum) and one is completely gone. I have two impacted wisdom teeth and a swelling in my jaw below the missing tooth (see photo). Yesterday I saw a nurse practitioner who gave me some antibiotics to bring down the swelling and a mandate to find some way to get to a dentist as soon as the infection is controlled.
I am humiliated to think about what my mouth must look like. I am embarrassed to be asking complete strangers for help. I know my chances are small, but I would be so immensely grateful for any help one might offer. Last night I had a nightmare about my teeth falling out into the sink and I was unable to sleep after that. I don’t want to be in need. Damn it, I want to be okay so I can focus on being the best mama I can be, and not wrapped up in pain and feelings of guilt and powerlessness.
Thanks for reading this. I hope you have a good day, with peace, and health, and happiness.