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Making Dental Care a Positive Experience for Children with Special Healthcare Needs

1. Establish the Importance of Dental Care With the Help of a “Friend”

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.

2. Choose the Right Toothbrush

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.

3. Look for a Mild or Unflavored Toothpaste

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.

 

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