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Helping Your Child with Oral Care When They Have Sensory Issues
December 30, 2023

Mother helping son with sensory issues brush teeth.

Sensory issues can make getting proper healthcare a challenge. And this is no different when it comes to dental health. There are several sensory sensitivities that can stand in the way of dental hygiene and regular dentist visits. Of course, as a parent, you want to do everything you can to ensure your child is comfortable and healthy.

Sensory Issues That May Affect Oral Health

Many individuals with autism spectrum disorders have difficulties when it comes to managing sensory input. Other conditions, such as sensory processing disorder, can impact how a person interacts with sensory inputs as well. But there are ways to make these experiences more comfortable for your child. Finding the right strategies can make all the difference for your child’s oral health.

Sensory Issues and Oral Hygiene

Tooth brushing and flossing can present a challenge for those suffering from sensory disorders. The key is often to identify triggers and seek to address them in the most effective way.

Find the Right Tools

The taste of toothpaste, the feel of a toothbrush, or the discomfort of dental floss can all be problematic for those with sensory issues. It may take some time, but attempt to identify what is bothersome about a product and seek out other options that may address the issue. For example, mint is not the only toothpaste flavor available. Even though it is a popular option, many people do not enjoy the taste, so there are other choices, from fruity to flavorless.

As for choosing a toothbrush, always pick a soft-bristled brush to minimize damage to enamel as well as discomfort. If your child has trouble with a traditional brush, there are other options for that as well, including ultra-soft bristles or sonic toothbrush trays.

Fine-Motor Coordination

For those who have difficulty with fine motor control, oral hygiene can be understandably frustrating. As we mentioned, sonic toothbrush trays are an option, as are traditional electronic toothbrushes. Electronic toothbrushes move on their own, so you can have your child move the brush slowly, pausing over each tooth, without the need for back-and-forth motion.

There are even alternative flossing options out there, such as water flossers or floss picks, that many prefer to traditional string floss.

Difficulties With Timing and Task Switching

Using a timer is a great idea for everyone. Kids and adults tend to underestimate the amount of time they spend brushing. A small sand timer is a tried and true method, or choosing a favorite song that is about 2 minutes long can make brushing fun.

Lastly, reinforcing a routine is key. Children thrive with consistency, so continue with repeating a regular routine until it becomes a habit.

Better Dentist Visits

Dentist visits can be stressful for children with sensory issues. Being in an unfamiliar place with new sounds and sensations is difficult. In addition, they may not know what to expect and fear the unknown.

Communicate With Your Dentist and Your Child

Let the office know that your child has sensory issues while booking your appointment. We can take steps to make your child’s visit more comfortable, as well as help you prepare for your visit.

Bring Some Comfort

Urge your child to bring a favorite toy, blanket, fidgets, or other item to help comfort and distract them. If your child is helped by headphones or sunglasses, it may be a good idea to have those on hand as well. A tablet to watch or music to listen to on headphones is another possibility.

Consider Laser Dentistry

Just like laser dentistry can be a saving grace for those with dental anxiety, it can also be a In option for those with sensory issues. Laser dentistry makes many common procedures, such as fillings, completely painless. Another extraordinary benefit of laser dentistry for those with sensory concerns is that a laser is completely silent. This means the loud noises of the drill are a thing of the past, as are the uncomfortable vibrations.

Play at Home

Explain to your child who a dentist is and what they do. Many children enjoy playing dentist with their stuffed animals or dolls. Roll playing with your child and acting out each step of the appointment, from checking in to sitting in the waiting room to getting an exam, may help prepare your child for what to expect.

Schedule Your Child’s Appointment

Even though we understand, don’t put off scheduling your child’s appointment. The more routine your child’s dental visits are, the easier they will become. Reach out to our office today so we can work together to make oral care easier for your child.


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