Does your sensory child hate brushing their teeth?
Don’t panic! You’re not alone! Read on to understand why this may be the case and how to help your sensory child with toothbrushing.
This is really common in the sensory world, but clearly, something you want to find a solution to. We all know the importance of good dental hygiene and health. Not brushing our teeth leads to bad breath at best, cavities and pain at worst.
But why does this happen?
This can be a challenge to figure out, some maybe orally under sensitive (Hypo sensitive). Therefore they may feel on edge about brushing and anything to do with the mouth. You might find they drool or overfill their mouth. Conversely, they may be oversensitive (Hypo sensitive) and find brushing teeth painful and overwhelming. A mouthful of water, toothpaste and a full brush can just feel too much.
There may be other signs and challenges associated with oral sensitivity. For Example an aversion to eating, or certain food textures. So given the choice of battling either nutrition and eating or brushing teeth, then eating comes wins every time.
Whatever the reason, it is something you will no doubt be keen to find a solution to. Now I am no therapist, and so the following is not a therapeutic plan, rather a series of suggestions to try, a collection of things we have heard from our community over the years have helped.
Tips That Help (I)
Trial different flavoured kinds of toothpaste, some find the sensation of mint flavours to feel like they are burning, flavours may help, like strawberry or bubblegum.
If foaming toothpaste is causing challenges try to seek out some none foaming varieties and unflavoured ones.
Try different toothbrushes, seems obvious but it could be as simple as the size of the head, the harshness or softness of the bristles. Soft bristled silicone brushes can work well (in fact they can just be fab for helping desensitise the mouth or for oral sensory input) and we have a fab one in our shop that fits on your finger, making it less overwhelming and more familiar, check it out here
Brushes that are multi-sided, this means you can reduce the time they have to endure brushing as more teeth are being covered.
Start out with small super soft baby brushes and work up to an adult toothbrush.
Tips That Help (II)
Make a game of it, use one of the many apps or games brushes which can distract from the process and make it fun.
Use music, either in the form of playing their favourite song and having to brush for the length or that, or investing in a singing toothbrush.
Let them brush themselves, rather than you doing it, which gives them a feeling of control, you can reward and praise to encourage increasing the time they do it.
Try different temperatures of the water, most of us brush with ice-cold running water, perhaps lukewarm would be more appealing, worth a go!
Don’t be scared to take it really slowly… a few teeth a day and build up!
Use a timer to increase brushing time… sand timer, clock, phone, whatever appeals to the individual. Start with a low amount of time and slowly add on.
Use social stories and storyboards to help prepare and plan so the individual knows what’s happening and why.
The above is not a magic wand, like any change it takes, patience, perseverance and a good chunk of praise and encouragement. You can also speak to your dentist, occupational therapist or other healthcare professionals who will be able to suggest other options you could try.
Or join our Sensory Support Community on Facebook, you won’t find a friendlier bunch, post there and I am confident you will be inundated with tips and support, hope to see you there!