Establishing a good tooth brushing routine and visiting the dentist are important – but for some children with additional needs, these things can be challenging.
As soon as your child gets their first tooth, or before their first birthday, you should arrange a check-up with a dentist.
Many problems are related to sensory issues. Mouths are extremely sensitive and the taste and feel of the toothpaste and brush can be an issue. Low-foaming toothpastes (SLS free) may be more comfortable to use. SLS free toothpastes include Lidl’s Dentalux and many of the Sensodyne and Corsodyl ranges, but do check on the packaging. oraNurse is an unflavoured toothpaste suitable for people sensitive to strong flavours. It contains the daily recommended amount of fluoride and is also SLS free. There are many special toothbrushes, including finger brushes and some with a multi-angled head that brushes the sides and tops of teeth at the same time, which means fewer brushes are needed to clean your child’s teeth effectively! Fledglings, Contact’s non-for-profit online shop, stocks a range of specialist toothpastes and brushes.
Knowing how long the brushing is going to last may help your child to tolerate it. Singing a tooth brushing song or using a timer may help. A more expensive option is a smart toothbrush that connects to a mobile phone or tablet via an app which gives feedback on brushing, sets challenges and lets you play video games. Great for children who are motivated by technology!
Sheffield Children’s Hospital’s website has resources for children with sensory processing difficulties. These include a video about tooth brushing and picture symbols for visual timetables.
Use a toothpaste containing fluoride. Spit out but DO NOT rinse after brushing!
Going to the dentist
All dentists must make reasonable adjustments to make it easier for patients with disabilities to use their service. You could ask for your child to visit the surgery before the appointment or request a longer appointment so that the dentist can explain what’s going to happen. Ask for an appointment at the start of the clinic so there is less waiting. Explain to the dentist what might stress your child or what could trigger problem behaviours.
All children get free dental care from the NHS. To find information about dentists in your area, follow this link.
Routine visits to a family dentist from an early age can help build a good relationship, but if your child really struggles to let the dentist examine or treat their teeth, you could ask for a referral to the Community and Special Care Dentistry service. Referrals can be completed by a dentist or another health professional such as a GP, health visitor or hospital doctor. Community and Special Care Dentistry operates dental clinics throughout the city and provides dental care for a wide range of patients with differing needs. The service also visits special schools to provide dental checks and the application of fluoride varnish to prevent decay.
To keep your child’s teeth healthy:
- Brush their teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste containing 1450ppm of fluoride
- For children under 3 years old, use a smear of fluoride toothpaste; for children over 3 years old, a pea-sized amount
- Get them to spit out toothpaste after brushing but do not rinse
- Reduce the consumption and frequency of food and drinks containing sugar
- Visit the dentist at least once a year
- Take your child to have their first dental check by the age of one