Helping Children with Special Needs Brush Their Teeth

It is challenging to get any child to brush their teeth properly, and it is more complicated if the child has special needs. Kids with special needs make dental care trickier because additional factors need to be considered, such as mobility or sensory issues. Considering this, we eventually realize why it is not easy to brush their teeth for some. Holding the brush, the smell or taste of the toothpaste, the feel of the toothbrush, the environment of a dental surgery – these can be overwhelming for kids.

Here are some valuable tips to help children with special needs brush their teeth.

  • Referral to Specialist Dental Services

Depending on where you live and the child’s condition, you can ask a member of your child’s health team for a specialist dental service that caters to children with special needs. The setting will be more relaxed since the dental team is more experienced with working with children with special needs, and they can give help for the children to get through their appointment.

Appointments are arranged every few months to ensure that no significant dental problems happen. If a child with special needs has any dental issues, they may be required to undergo a general anesthetic, and this is the incident that a dental team avoids as much as possible. A dentist might apply fluoride varnish on the child’s teeth to prevent decay.

  • Try Different Kinds of Toothpaste

A toothpaste brand can affect a child’s likelihood to brush their teeth. If your child does not like the taste of your toothpaste, consider trying different brands of toothpaste. Sometimes kids do not know how to say this, especially kids with special needs. There are lots of other toothpastes available with different flavors, textures, and colors.

  • Consider the Toothbrush

It is recommended that adults help kids brush their teeth until they are seven years old, but it is different if they have a neurological or physical disability. They need help for a lot longer.

Some children cannot brush their teeth because they cannot move their arms or hands to use a toothbrush. There are toothbrushes that can help develop the skill to brush their teeth. Talk to your child’s Occupational Therapist about the toothbrush adaptations that can help them with their tooth brushing skills and hand grips.

There are electric toothbrushes that are recommended for kids with special needs. The design and vibration of the toothbrush can help encourage your kid to have their teeth brushed. 

If you find it difficult for your child to brush their teeth because they are clamping down on the brush or do not let you have good access around their teeth, a three-headed toothbrush might be helpful. These types of toothbrushes will allow the user to brush all surfaces of their child’s teeth simultaneously.

  • Ask for Sugar-Free Medication

If the child regularly takes medication for their condition, you can check if it is sugar-free, and if it isn’t, you can ask their doctor to prescribe a sugar-free version, especially if it is a syrup. Once you visit your child’s dentist, let them know what medicine your child is taking because any changes may impact their dental care.

  • Create Social Story

Social stories are a great tool to explain scenarios and develop understanding to kids. You can consider this if you are having difficulty getting a special needs child to brush their teeth. The visual cues can help your child to understand the importance of brushing their teeth. They will know when to brush their teeth, the process of doing it, and help to alleviate any anxiety they are feeling.

Every kid has different needs, and they also need to have proper dental care and understand its importance. We hope that these tips will be helpful to you and your child to keep them dentally hygienic.

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