February is dental health month! Love your child’s teeth! It can be tricky trying to figure out how to care for your child’s teeth – when do I start? When do they need to go to the dentist? Where? My child’s special needs cause him to hate brushing! Oh dear!
Infants and Teething
It seems like they teethe forever! Those sweet little chompers begin to come in when your child is about 6 months old, and the last molars arrive between ages 2 and 3. Teething can be painful for babies – some even run fevers, have upset tummies, or runny noses.
There are a ton of products out there to help with teething pain – the choices parents have is wider than ever. Teething toys, amber necklaces, teething jewelry for mom to wear, teething tablets, Tylenol or Motrin, essential oils.
Find what works for you and your child, but please do your own independent research before using any of these products and use an abundance of common sense and caution.
Always supervise your child with teething toys and when wearing teething jewelry/necklaces. Always remove the necklaces while your child is sleeping. Some sources specify that only specific essential oils should be used for infants and children under a certain age. So just always do your research and/or talk to your pediatrician, and then make a decision that you feel comfortable with for you and your child.
Make Brushing Fun
“Open your mouth! I think I saw something! What?! – is that an elephant in there?! Let me get him!”
This little game makes brushing fun at our house. Before I discovered it, my son thought it was more fun to close his mouth tight and giggle at me through gritted teeth. Toddlers are tricky little ones! I “find” all kinds of things in his mouth now – Bob the Builder, dump trucks, Mickey Mouse, etc.
Bonus: this helps at the doctor’s office when he wants to look at my child’s throat.
Try singing songs while you brush. They can be songs about brushing or just songs your child likes.
Have 2 toothbrushes and give one to your child to use while you use the other one.
Let your child brush and then you have a turn.
Watch a YouTube video about brushing – there are tons! And this may just hold your child’s attention long enough for you to get in there and do what you need to do! Here is one of my favorites! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pd4WnsXwdqw
Special Sensory Needs
Some children who have sensory processing issues absolutely hate to have their teeth brushed! Please speak with your occupational therapist if this is a problem for your child. Your OT will not know unless you tell them – but if they are aware they can help! Also, try some of the ideas listed above under “Make Brushing Fun.” You may have to tackle sensory defensiveness along with behavior.
Choosing a Dentist
You can begin taking your child to the dentist as soon as they have teeth! Many families wait until the child’s first birthday unless they are having problems. Your child may not cooperate at their first visit to the dentist, but this is okay – taking them will get them used to the idea and will help the next visit to go better. Some dentists’ offices will allow you to bring your child prior to the first visit to let them explore the office – that way they will feel more comfortable on the day of the appointment.
Choose a pediatric dentist, if one is available near you. They have special training on working with children that a regular dentist does not have. Your EI can help you find a pediatric dentist in your area.
Let your dentist know of any special needs your child has before the visit, so they can plan how best to meet those needs.