Help your differently abled child enjoy at-home dental care by thinking outside of the box.
Your child’s smile lights up the world around them, and a thorough at-home dental care routine will ensure their smile is as healthy as it is beautiful.
Kids with unique needs can benefit from unique tools and tactics when it comes to taking care of their smiles. You’ll discover a number of ideas within the special needs community for helping kids improve their oral health by taking an adaptive, creative approach to brushing and flossing.
Find new inspiration for your family’s oral care routine with these 8 fantastic solutions for differently abled kids.
1. Experiment with different styles and sizes of textured grips to find what your differently abled child prefers.
Traditional toothbrush handles are thin and can be quite slippery when wet. To help your child get a better grip, look into commercially available or DIY handle solutions.
There are brands available that can create custom-molded handles in varying shapes and sizes. As far as DIY options go, many parents find great success with adding rubber bicycle handle grips or a small tennis ball to the handle.
Have fun and play around with different ideas to see what your child likes.
2. Extended or looped handles reduce limitations on how your child can hold their toothbrush.
For kids who can hold a toothbrush handle easily but need more flexibility with hand placement, a looped or extended handle are both great solutions.
An extended handle makes it easy for your child to brush their teeth without needing to elevate their arm as high. A looped handle can either be a standard length or extended, but it gives your child the ability to try different hand placements to find what’s most comfortable.
3. Electric toothbrushes require less dexterity to use, and they offer superior cleaning power.
Brushing with a standard toothbrush requires more intricate hand movements compared to an electric toothbrush. Switching to an electric toothbrush helps kids clean their teeth thoroughly without needing to make tight circle motions with their hands. Electric toothbrushes are also ideal for parents who assist with brushing for similar reasons.
An added bonus is that electric toothbrushes often have superior cleaning power, making them a great choice for kids of all abilities.
4. Flossers, interdental brushes, and water flossers can make flossing easier and less invasive for differently abled kids and parents.
Flossing is an important step but one that can be tricky — even for adults! String floss can be difficult for kids to hold between their fingers. Kids who need parental assistance may also feel overwhelmed with having to open wide with two hands so close to their mouth.
Using a different tool, like a flosser or interdental brush, makes cleaning between teeth much easier. Water flosser systems (Waterpik) are also fun and only require the small tip to be in your child’s mouth. Both flossers and water flossers can also help kids practice more independence.
5. Use a dental gauze roll to help your child keep their teeth apart while brushing.
For kids who bite down on their toothbrush or need extra support keeping their mouth open while brushing, a simple but effective trick is to place a dental gauze roll between their back teeth. This gauze roll will let your child comfortably bite down and rest their jaw, giving you room to brush the front and back surfaces of their teeth.
You can ask your child’s pediatric dentist for some extra dental gauze rolls, or you can purchase sterile gauze and roll your own.
6. Schedule your child’s dental care sessions for when they’re feeling happy and interested.
Brushing in the morning and at night is important, but remember, you don’t need to keep a strict schedule for them to have an effective oral care regimen. It’s better to wait until your child is ready to brush their teeth and feels ready to participate rather than sticking to a strict time when they may not feel as eager.
You know your child best, so go with your instincts. If you anticipate your child may change moods, sometimes it’s better to simply brush earlier or later than your usual time than run into conflict.
7. Follow the 2×2 rule but break down each session into different steps, pausing in between as needed.
The 2×2 rule, brushing twice a day for two minutes, is the standard for oral health, but your kid’s two minutes don’t need to be consecutive.
Go at your child’s pace and take breaks during their oral care routine whenever they need it. When it comes to keeping dental care positive, taking five or even 10 minutes to complete two minutes of brushing is much better than rushing through a straight two minutes of brushing.
8. Brush your child’s teeth from behind them and in front of a mirror so they can watch what you’re doing.
If you stand in front of your child while helping them brush their teeth, consider switching up your position. By standing behind your child while they’re sitting, you can easily support their head against your body while getting easy access to their teeth.
Better yet, place yourself in front of the bathroom mirror or give your child a handheld mirror so they can watch what you’re doing! This is a great way to get your child interested in taking care of their teeth.
Support your child’s smile by booking regular checkups with a pediatric dentist.
Establishing a dental home for your child is one of the most powerful things you can do to protect their long-term oral health.
Choosing a practice like We Make Kids Smile means your child will have access to a team of compassionate, gentle dental professionals with extensive training in working with special needs kids. Most importantly, your child will have time to develop a trusting, comfortable relationship with their pediatric dentist at their pace.
To schedule your child’s first appointment with us, you can either call our Waldorf or Prince Frederick offices or fill out this online form. We would love to learn more about your child’s specific healthcare needs so we can make their first visit as welcoming and relaxing as possible.