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StarSprinkle
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18 Mar 2021, 1:43 pm

Brushing my son's teeth makes me feel like a rapist.

Is there an obvious thread (or whatever we call the posts around here) about how to do it consistently but without all the struggle? It always feels like his little gums is no place for brute force, but it's happening all the time because I can't get the procedure accomplished without it.

I'm sure I'm an old dog that can learn new tricks if so done just points out the lessons. My child and I thank you in advance.



DW_a_mom
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21 Mar 2021, 8:09 pm

Tooth brushing is so very uncomfortable for a child with sensory issues. I was too much of the brute force mom, born from frustration and feeling I had no other choice, but my kids are grown and still talk about it. So ...

Electric tooth brush so at least he feel he has some control? With a timer. He has to keep moving the brush around until the timer goes off?

A water jet system?

The rubber finger cap brushes they make for babies?


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Mom to an amazing young adult AS son, plus an also amazing non-AS daughter. Most likely part of the "Broader Autism Phenotype" (some traits).


StarSprinkle
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22 Mar 2021, 1:35 pm

All good suggestions! Thank you!



Juliette
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22 Mar 2021, 6:50 pm

Hi Star - DW has already done an amazing job of helping here. I found that provided I kept the routine tight around the tooth cleaning procedure both morning and night, this helped reduce issues. With my youngest, an electric toothbrush was terrifying to him when younger, so we used a fun looking toothbrush and he would never use anything but this particular strawberry flavoured toothpaste and his favourite type of toothbrush. Change in any form was a process.

My youngest son was very sensory sensitive. There are particular de-sensitising exercises you can do to help, but knowing what comes before and after the teeth cleaning experience was always key in transitioning from one necessary part of the daily schedule to the next. We always enjoyed two story books after nightly teeth cleaning, so the young Master would be looking forward to that and was happier to get through the teeth cleaning. I also had a children’s book or two that included looking after your teeth. Social Stories can be a very useful part of easing a child into situations they don’t enjoy or like at first.

There can be so many difficult/tricky moments to get through with toddlers and beyond. Trying to make it as pleasant an experience as is possible, and introducing a sticker/star chart can also help I’ve found. It’s important to never raise your voice when attempting to encourage a toddler on the spectrum to follow through with a request to do something. He/she needs to know that you are in control and can be relied upon to safely steer them through the experience and out the other side. Think, calm, cool and collected. All the best :).

Supporting children to look after their teeth:
https://www.optionsautism.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Options-Issue-15-May-2018-Looking-After-Your-Teeth.pdf

Going to the Doctors, Dentists, Hairdressers & Personal Grooming Issues on the Spectrum:
http://www.aspie-editorial.com/goint-to-the-doctors-dentists-hairdressers-personal-grooming-issues-on-the-autism-spectrum/



Danusaurus
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03 Apr 2021, 4:52 am

Juliette wrote:
Hi Star - DW has already done an amazing job of helping here. I found that provided I kept the routine tight around the tooth cleaning procedure both morning and night, this helped reduce issues. With my youngest, an electric toothbrush was terrifying to him when younger, so we used a fun looking toothbrush and he would never use anything but this particular strawberry flavoured toothpaste and his favourite type of toothbrush. Change in any form was a process.

My youngest son was very sensory sensitive. There are particular de-sensitising exercises you can do to help, but knowing what comes before and after the teeth cleaning experience was always key in transitioning from one necessary part of the daily schedule to the next. We always enjoyed two story books after nightly teeth cleaning, so the young Master would be looking forward to that and was happier to get through the teeth cleaning. I also had a children’s book or two that included looking after your teeth. Social Stories can be a very useful part of easing a child into situations they don’t enjoy or like at first.

There can be so many difficult/tricky moments to get through with toddlers and beyond. Trying to make it as pleasant an experience as is possible, and introducing a sticker/star chart can also help I’ve found. It’s important to never raise your voice when attempting to encourage a toddler on the spectrum to follow through with a request to do something. He/she needs to know that you are in control and can be relied upon to safely steer them through the experience and out the other side. Think, calm, cool and collected. All the best :).

Supporting children to look after their teeth:
https://www.optionsautism.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Options-Issue-15-May-2018-Looking-After-Your-Teeth.pdf

Your posts are always very well explained,informative and easy to understand!

Going to the Doctors, Dentists, Hairdressers & Personal Grooming Issues on the Spectrum:
http://www.aspie-editorial.com/goint-to-the-doctors-dentists-hairdressers-personal-grooming-issues-on-the-autism-spectrum/



Juliette
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04 Apr 2021, 2:32 am

Thanks Dan - kind of you to say. Hope you’re doing alright. Happy Easter btw.



StarSprinkle
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07 Aug 2021, 5:52 am

This is such great advice! Thank you!

It's been some time since I made this post. His teeth brushing has only just started to get better. He is 3 years and 2 months. It really seems like the last few weeks he has advanced in a lot of ways with his language development. It seems much easier to reason with him about it and more of a routine has been established. It still isn't great but he seems to understand that the fight doesn't need unlimited rounds and to cry with everything he has over teeth brushing and a handful of other things.

I feel a little better about parenting life, but not much. The news has me really bummed that I can't vaccinate him yet. Everything feels catastrophic and irrelevant at the same time and this is a strange headspace to spend a lot of time.

I hope you other parents are hanging in there too!



SocOfAutism
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01 Sep 2021, 3:53 pm

You already have some good suggestions here, so I'll just add one more nugget.

My husband is also sensitive to tooth brushing. He is 44 and has had many years of experience with this. Several years ago our dentist told him to book an extra cleaning each year and that would make up for his under brushing and lack of flossing.

As long as he keeps the appointments (about 3 per year), he does not get any cavities. During the pandemic, he did get a cavity, which has since been filled. So I suppose the extra cleanings were working.

Perhaps this would be an option with your child?

Ours is sensitive to anxious people though so I guess it depends on if the kid will tolerate the dentist.



jasmine83
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20 Jun 2022, 12:56 am

Oh, we have been through similar stuff. ds would fight to have his teeth brushed and wouldn't let us do it for longer than about ten seconds, and we caught a bit of staining forming on two of his teeth and freaked. We took him to the dentist, who said no cavities and only light staining, but you've got to brush his teeth for longer.

She showed us how to hold his upper lip up to expose his teeth better...half the problem was that he was clamping his mouth down and I couldn't see what the heck I was doing when I had the brush in there. At first, I tried to do it like she did, with him lying on the bed. I had to hold him down with nearly my whole body and we both hated it, and I kept thinking...there has got to be a better way. ds is only 13 months and doesn't understand many languages yet, so I don't think counting or something like that would help.

Buying an electric toothbrush helped reduce the crying a tiny bit because he got distracted by the sensation (he's not really "into" the kid's toothbrush designs yet, but a two-year-old likely might be). It also maximized the effectiveness of brushing. But still, I couldn't get in there long enough to do much without inflicting great trauma on us both.

So then, when I was studying some Montessori toddler ideas, I read about a Montessori toothbrushing presentation I could do with ds. I had him get up on a stepstool in front of the sink where he could see the bathroom mirror. I had laid out all of the supplies, and then showed him an exaggerated ritual of wetting the toothbrush, putting the toothpaste on the brush, etc. etc. I started with my own toothbrush (I got an electric one so it would be like his), and did a very dramatic toothbrushing in which I admired my teeth in the mirror as I went along. Then I did the ritual to prepare his toothbrush, and I turned it on and let him play with it for a bit. And after a moment, I let him hang onto it and just guided it onto his teeth (off his tongue), and did a couple of scrubs. Then I stopped, and let him play some more. Then I did a couple more scrubs. Then stopped, and let him play some more. And so on. I tried this several times over the next couple of days. The whole routine. If the going got rough in the middle of brushing, I went back to the dramatic presentation of doing my own teeth and just tried to model enjoyment of it (not sure if that was the Montessori thing to do, but it got us through).

Suddenly, while there was still some crying and fighting at times, it got much easier and less traumatic for both of us. I no longer do the whole exaggerated presentation (as he becomes interested and able, I'll begin having him do parts of the prep), but I do brush my own teeth before starting on his, and I try to model enjoyment. I've noticed over time that it generally is okay as long as I'm not in a hurry. If I get in a hurry and try to just rush through it, he ends up screaming and fighting again. So I'd say the biggest thing that made a difference would be the slowing down of the whole process. I admit sometimes it can take fifteen or twenty minutes to finish, but it is worth it to avoid the trauma of doing it any other way.