February is National Children’s Dental Health Month! While we all know that our children should brush their teeth two times per day, for some of our kids, getting a toothbrush even near their pearly whites is impossible!
Try some of these strategies to beat the tooth brushing battles!
· Make it part of his daily routine. Always do it in the same place at the same time with the same expectations.
· Do some heavy work before going into the bathroom. Maybe wheelbarrow walk or crab walk to the bathroom.
· Massage the outside of his mouth and his cheeks with firm pressure prior to brushing.
· Provide deep pressure with textured finger puppets or washcloths around his mouth and cheeks.
· Try some heavy work with his mouth by biting on foam bath letters, refrigerator tubing, chew tubes, NUK brushes or other safe mouth toys. (Always offer these with supervision to prevent choking.)
· Don’t feel like he has to stand at the sink. Allow him to sit in a chair, lie on his stomach, or even do it in the bath if that is a fun time for him!
· Have him wear a weighted vest or a compression vest while brushing. If you don’t have one of those, fill a long sock with rice or beans, tie the end up and drape it around his shoulders while he brushes.
· As always, give him a sense of control by choosing which tooth brush or which tooth paste he would like to use that day.
· Try a vibrating tooth brush. He’ll either love it or want nothing to do with it.
· Consider trying different bristles- soft, medium or firm.
· If a toothbrush is impossible try a thin, wet washcloth, NUK brush, or infant gum massager, then work towards the toothbrush.
· Characters do count! Distract him with fun characters on the toothbrush or toothpaste.
· Give a time frame expectation: the length of a song or until the timer rings. Sand timers work well for those children with auditory hypersensitivity.
· To ensure thoroughness, have him brush for a count of 10, then you brush his teeth for a count of 10.
· Sometimes the brushing sound of the toothbrush may be bothersome. Try music or other noise to distract him.
· Reward him with a sticker chart or other motivating tools.
Hopefully you'll both have something to smile about!
Michelle Yoder, OTR/L