5 Tips for Helping Kids With Special Needs Learn Good Brushing Habits
Teaching the art of brushing teeth to young kids is difficult enough as it is, but when a child has special needs, it can seem downright impossible. Yet failing to get your child used to the tooth brushing process will only lead to more pain later as their teeth are attacked and destroyed by the bacteria that thrive on leftover food particles. Use these five tips for slowly easing your child into the practice of brushing twice a day, and remember that every single successful brushing event is a victory.
Role Playing and Modeling
For many special needs children, watching someone else do a task is the best way for them to learn and grow comfortable with a new action. Encourage your child to get up close and personal as you brush your teeth. Hand them a flashlight and open your mouth wide so they can see the details. Once they've watched you do it, hand them a toothbrush and ask them to practice on some of their favorite toys.
Distractions are essential when you need to overcome a child's aversion to brushing or an inability to focus on less-than-exciting tasks. Pick a song that is just about 2 minutes long for perfect timing. Start by having the child brush through just the first chunk of lyrics until the chorus, then slowly extend the practice until they're brushing to the end of the song.
Move Around the House
Sometimes it's not the tooth brushing that's uncomfortable but rather the bathroom setting. Does your special needs child cooperate much better in their bedroom or another favorite part of the house? Grab a towel, a cup of water and a bowl for spitting in to take the brushing routine to any part of the house. Try having your child lie down on their bed or your living room couch so you can get a better view of their entire mouth as well. Make sure to only use a minimal amount of toothpaste so there's as little foam as possible to cause discomfort in this kind of position.
Even if your special needs child has all their baby teeth or is starting to grow in their adult teeth, encouraging teething behavior can help them adjust to having a foreign object in their mouth. Start with nubbed teething toys, then offer a training toothbrush so they can chew on the bristles without knocking them loose.
When you can, bring in another adult. Having someone hold or hug the child while you handle the brushing can be the trick that makes all the difference. It's also far easier to distract a child struggling with the brushing routine where there's a second pair of hands to hold up a picture book or press play on a favorite video.
We're currently accepting new patients, so please schedule an appointment with the dentist if you're struggling with a special needs child who needs better brushing habits.