As a parent, you know how important it is to make sure that your child brushes their teeth regularly, but if your child suffers from ADHD or other sensory processing issues, you know that this is easier said than done. Here are five ways to help your child maintain healthy brushing habits despite having trouble with sensory input or focus.
1. Let them choose the toothpaste. For a child with sensory processing issues, taste and texture are a huge concern. If they consider the toothpaste that they are using to be gross, no amount of forcing them to brush their teeth is going to help. Instead, allow them to help pick out their toothpaste. Start with a fruit-flavored, baby toothpaste that is fluoride-free. This way, if they do decide that they like it, you will not risk a fluoride overdose.
2. Set a timer for brushing. If your child struggles with task-completion, setting a timer is a great way to ensure that they are brushing their teeth for long enough to do some good. A toothbrush that blinks or plays music is one way to ensure that they are brushing for the right amount of time. You can also set a colorful egg timer for two minutes. This way, they will have a visual reminder of the task at hand.
3. Make brushing a family routine. Chances are good that you have a regular tooth-brushing routine, but does your child? Sometimes, one of the easiest ways to motivate your child to brush his or her teeth is to see mom or dad brushing theirs. Allow your child to participate in your morning routine. Have them brush their teeth while you are brushing yours. Make it a game of "who can get their teeth the cleanest?" and have your spouse judge.
4. Overcome distract-ability with motivation. If your child forgets why he or she went to the bathroom as soon as they are sent to brush their teeth, offer an incentive for remembering the task. For example, tell your child, "We have ten minutes until it is time to leave for school. If you brush your teeth now, you will have five minutes to play on your phone before we go, but if you don't go now, you will not have time." If your child runs out of time, allow the natural consequences of his or her choice to take effect. After a few days, the results of this may surprise you.
5. Reward them for a healthy smile. Finally, make sure that your child knows that you are proud of his or her accomplishments. A cavity-free trip to the dentist is a great cause for celebration. Even verbal praise or a small treat can be enough to instill in your child that his or her brushing habits are important. Talk to your dentist, such as Russell Pollina, DDS for more information.