Introducing the concept of dental care to a child with a disability can be challenging. Your child may be fearful of brushing and flossing, and this fear can stand in the way of good oral hygiene. Depending on the disability, their understanding of why a routine is essential may need your help.
Make the process a little less stressful by taking a beloved doll or stuffed animal and demonstrating dental care techniques on your child’s buddy. Have them assist during the pretend session as you demonstrate brushing and flossing, and be sure to talk about what’s being done in a way they relate to.
Brushing can be physically challenging for some children with functional needs. Proper form is a must when cleaning your teeth, and if your child has difficulty gripping or maneuvering the brush, it may impact their oral health.
Be sure the handle is large and easy for them to hold. If dexterity is an issue, attach a bigger handle—such as from a hairbrush—to help. A pediatric dentist will also help you find an ideal solution when it comes to the right toothbrush.
While flavored toothpaste is made with a child’s palate in mind, kids with sensory processing issues may be put off by strong flavors, such as mint or bubblegum. Unflavored toothpaste is often easier to tolerate, as it doesn’t leave an aftertaste after rinsing. If your child is put off by the gritty texture of some toothpaste, look for a gel. Whichever flavor you choose, make sure the toothpaste contains fluoride.
Diet plays a leading role in your child’s oral health, which is why it’s important to send them to school with meals and snacks that will make their dentist happy. The right foods will promote healthy development and also combat decay. Use the following as a starting point and make sure to promote proper brushing and flossing at home.
Calcium is the building block of teeth. It fortifies enamel and keeps decay-causing bacteria at bay. Milk is the most famous source of calcium, but yogurt is also a great place to find it.
Just make sure to pack your child a natural, sugar-free option. Artificial flavorings and sugars will promote decay and cancel out the benefits. Adding blueberries or sliced strawberries will add some natural sweetening if your child isn’t a fan of plain yogurt.
Carrots are packed with nutrients and have their own brushing power. When your child chews, the texture of the carrot will naturally scrub plaque from their teeth the same way a toothbrush does. Carrots also contain the compound keratin and vitamin A to both combat plaque and reinforce tooth enamel, the protective layer on each tooth.
Apples have the same brushing qualities as carrots and are a tasty flavor complement. They’re also packed with fiber, which promotes saliva production. This is beneficial after eating because saliva will wash food particles from teeth. The vitamin K in apples also helps the body absorb and process calcium and phosphorus so it can more efficiently fortify enamel.
Oranges have a high vitamin C content. This nutrient will strengthen the blood vessels in your child’s gums to keep them healthy. Along with at-home dental care and trips to the dentist, this will combat gingivitis—the precursor to serious gum disease. Just make sure your child drinks water while eating oranges so they flush the acids from their mouth.