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Strategies to help children cope with the sensory challenges of toothbrushing

NHS England has put together the attached poster which focuses on strategies for helping children cope with the sensory challenges of toothbrushing!

Does your child? - Refuse to allow a toothbrush into his/her mouth?

-Gag or show other physical reactions to toothbrushing?


Here are some tips provided by NHS England to help make toothbrushing a fun and tolerable experience Visual tips - Try a toothbrush that lights up or one which is a different colour - Use a sand timer - Toothbrushing chart to help keep track of daily brushing, and use reward stickers

Tactile tips - Desensitise your child: use a cloth and encourage them to bite down whilst you gently tug on it

-If a toothbrush isn't tolerated, consider a damp cloth to wipe the teeth clean

-Try toothbrushes of different sizes, handles, bristle firmness and shapes

Smell/taste tips

-Try an unflavoured brand of toothpaste

-Try a sodium lauryl sulphate-free toothpaste for those who have difficulty swallowing

-Consider a small quantity of toothpaste or start without using any at all

Auditory tips -Sing a familiar, short song, whilst toothbrushing

-Consider using an app which plays music, for example Brush DJ

-Try a toothbrush that sings

Practical strategies

-Ensure it is a comfortable environment

-Make tooth brushing a game - attack of the bugs! -Keep it fun

If your child struggles with toothbrushing regarding sensory challenges, please review these top tips! Refusing to open mouth -Approach slowly -Allow to explore the texture of bristles of the toothbrush with fingers -Prompt by gently touching lips with a toothbrush or some toothpaste

Turns away when approaching for toothbrushing

-Reposition yourself to the direction which they are turning -Use your finger to stroke their cheek towards the direction of the mouth Biting the toothbrush -Use two toothbrushes - one for biting, one for brushing -Use a foam mouth prop to help keep the mouth open Unable to spit -Dampen the toothbrush in mouthwash or use a smear of non-foaming toothpaste

-Ensure the child is sat up - Use gauze to remove excess fluid or use a suction toothbrush Not letting go of the toothbrush -Hand-on-hand technique to guide them into the right place -Gently stroke their forearm to distract Looking distressed -Stop -Reevaluate the technique -Consider help from another person - Re-attempt at a different time - If it happens repeatedly, please seek assistance from the oral healthcare team - they are here to help!


Downloadable Resources

Toothbrushing resistance-poster
Download PDF • 4.23MB

Fun Teeth Brushing Worksheet Booklet
Download PDF • 972KB

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