Monday, September 23, 2013

Fostering Independence: Dental Hygiene and Special Needs

We took Gess to the dentist the other day and she had a very good report: still no cavities!  Gess actually takes very good care of her teeth.  We go for regular check ups twice a year and I worked hard to instill good habits in her.  As I was talking with the hygienist, who also has a child with Down syndrome, I realized it might be helpful to share some of the things we have done.

When Gess was younger she made quite the mess using toothpaste.  It's hard to know just how much toothpaste to squeeze out of a tube and sometimes our kids lack the motor skills to squeeze it at all.  I found that the pumps were much easier and neater for Gess to use.  You can find them in many different brands for adults as well as children.

One thing Gess always got from the dentist besides a toothbrush was a sand timer.  It's a good visual way for children to see how long they should be brushing their teeth.  We don't use them anymore now that Gess is 11, but this was very helpful when she was younger.

At first Gess was a little uneasy about going to the dentist but after several fun visits with no pain she soon began to enjoy it.  Now she absolutely loves to go!  She was still shy about the equipment that made noise when she got her teeth cleaned and suctioned so for awhile we went to the electric toothbrush.

This was helpful for two things.  When she was younger it helped to cover for her lack of motor skills and assured that her teeth received a good cleaning.  It also got her used to different sounds and feelings in her mouth preparing her for what they might do at the dentist.  She wouldn't let them use anything that made noise on one of her earliest visits and they were good to not force it.  After that I got the electric tooth brush and by her next six month appointment she let them do whatever they needed to!  She was still shy and a little nervous about it, but she allowed it which is the important part.

Now a few years ago I did tell you about the cute Crawford the Cat health videos.  They do have one on brushing your teeth and she watched it a lot too.  They even have a coloring book to go with the videos.  This is great for young kids.

Making oral hygiene a part of a child's daily routine is important.  Every night for years it was "go potty and brush and your teeth" before bed.  We still say this a lot.  We have a morning routine as well.  Now brushing teeth is just something you do every day without any questions asked or arguments.  We started young and were consistent at demanding it.  There were times she would try to say she had brushed her teeth and we knew she didn't so we would smell her breath to be sure.  That became a routine for awhile too.  We always had to smell her breath when she was done, whether we believed her or not!  Oh well, better that routine, than rotten teeth!  Gess has a beautiful smile to prove it!

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