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Toothbrushing Time

Brushing, along with regular visits to the dentist, is key to a healthy mouth! 🦷😁

Many children and those with sensory differences dislike having their teeth brushed. Our mouths and lips have lots and lots of sensory receptors. These sensory receptors help us to understand what we put in our mouths. Sometimes individual’s struggle to interpret these signals. They may have too little awareness of what is going on inside their mouth and, therefore, certain textures and movements, such as teeth brushing, can be confusing and scary. Some children can be extremely sensitive to touch within and around their mouths, causing teeth brushing to feel extremely uncomfortable and even painful.

Try these tips to support toothbrushing, to make bedtime and morning routines less stressful for both you and your child!

Tip #1: The Environment

Start with finding a calm place to brush teeth. Often, standing by the sink can be too over stimulating, particularly with the water running, and children can become fixated on this.

Think about where and when your child is the most calm and consider starting to introduce ideas around toothbrushing during these times. For example, bath time can often be a great time to introduce brushing!

Tip #2: Model the Activity

Having children watch you brushing your teeth is really important so that they can see it isn't a scary or negative process. You can even let them practice brushing your teeth, or practice on their favourite teddy.

When brushing their own teeth, you can also add a mirror so they can see where they are putting the toothbrush in their mouth. Make it fun by pulling funny faces together!

Tip #3: Give Choices

Go out and shop for toothbrushes together, getting your child to choose one they like.

Encourage your child to play with the toothbrush and explore using it throughout the day. This will help your child to see toothbrushing as a positive activity.

Tip #4: Make Use of a Countdown

Use strategies, such as a fun song, which last approximately 2 minutes. A visual timer can also be helpful for your child to understand how long they need to brush their teeth for, and when it will be finished.

It can be helpful to start brushing for only 10 seconds, but slowly building on this duration each time until 2 minutes is reached.

Tip #5: Trial & Error

Consider what type of toothbrush and toothpaste you try, as there are many options!

Try: soft baby toothbrushes, finger toothbrushes, signing toothbrushes, and toothbrushes that light up.

Try: adding in a silicone toothbrush with bristles to explore and chew on.

Try: different flavours of toothpaste or zero flavour toothpaste.

See what works best for your child!

Tip #6: Mouth Sensitivity

Often children like firm deep pressure touch and muscle resistance activities to assist with calming them down (but not all children!). Try wrapping your child tightly in a blanket, holding them tightly on your lap, or giving them a big bear hug or encouraging them to tightly hug themselves.

Once anxiety is lowered, carry out one step of toothbrushing and give your child another firm hug before the next step.

Place a tiny amount of toothpaste on a washcloth and rub it over your child's teeth and gums. Once they can tolerate this, move onto using a toothbrush.

Play oral motor games to get used to having things in their mouth and to help desensitize the mouth. Some examples could include whistling, drinking a smoothie / milkshake / yogurt through a straw, or blowing bubbles.

Encourage your child to drink plenty of water throughout the day to help with desensitizing their mouth!

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