My son hates his teeth brushed, can I make it easier? Help!

Summer - posted on 06/24/2010 ( 18 moms have responded )

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my son who has mild autism, CP and two genetic syndromes is impossible to brush his teeth. I wouldn't even dare try for everyday (that would be a nightmare) but I try at least every other day and believe me it is horrible. We have to lay him down and try to do it that way. He screams, fights, cries. I hate it! We have tried letting him stick stickers on the mirrors and write with markers on the mirros to distract him. We have also tried watching T.V, brushing his Toy Story "Woody" dolls teeth. Nothing works. Help me with idea's please!!

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Tara - posted on 07/07/2010

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My son is mild autistic and has severe sensitivity issues, too. My O.T. gave me the information about the teeth brushing idea. I want to let you know that the only way my son, now 10, toget him to brush his teeth is with a baby toothbrush.The toothbrush is soft enough for him. Let him try with a baby toothbrush himself and I finally found a mouthwash that works act flavor bubblegum to rinse after the teeth brushing. To hopefully prevent cavities. It sounds as if he has the same type of sensitivity issues my son has. I hope this will be of some help. I know howyou feel and what you are going through. Tara

Amanda - posted on 06/25/2010

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have you let him play with a toothbrush and make a game out of it, reward the god behavior, ignore the unpleasant behavior, the more it bothers u the more it will bother him.

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Lisa - posted on 05/13/2013

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I too have this problem. My son is now 11 and brushing is still hard. Every time we go to the dentist, he has so many cavities. The dentist even yelled at me one time because his teeth were so dirty. He thinks I could do better, bc, when at the dentist now, he will open wide for him.
I admit, I have not done the best I could. Frustration and helplessness take over sometimes.
He is getting some better, I guess, but now, he covers his teeth with his tongue and will not open his mouth very wide, unless I force it.
It's gotten to where I cringe at the thought of taking him to the dentist for fear of getting yelled at again.
I have tried the baby toothbrush, wash cloth, electric, mouthwash. Everything, you name it.

Erin - posted on 05/10/2011

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My two year old is the same exact way! Its especially difficult because I can't really give him options, because he doesn't understand what I'm telling him because of his delays. I'm thinking I might go back to a washcloth. Maybe it'll work better?

Shelley - posted on 07/12/2010

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We to struggle with this last time I had one of my oder kids at the dentist he gave me this crayola light up tooth brush & its made it a little less of a fight with it getting just a tad better each wk.

Elizabeth - posted on 07/11/2010

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Can you sit on the couch and lay his head on your lap.
Start with a wash rag til he cooperates with that. Count 3 times up and down and 3 times across each tooth. The first time set a timer for one minute when he has accepted this go to 1 minutes with the softest tooth brush you can find and no tooth past at first. Work up to 2 minutes with the tooth brush and finally let him try.

Baby steps.

Also to help him feel more in control give him 2 options brush his teeth after breakfast or before bed so he feels he has some control. Plus show concern if he fusses. Ask, did I hurt you?

The combination of a time limit and counting while brushing gives confidence that you wont be working on this project of a long time, for both you and him.

One last suggestion is the list.

Make a list of the things you want done everyday and let him check it off or check it off in front of him. With big bright paper and markers. Teaches a sense of accomplishment and goal setting.

Angela - posted on 07/08/2010

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Our developmentally delayed son is 5.5 and still hates having his teeth brushed. I lay him down with his head between my legs and my legs over his arms. We use a double sided toothbrush I found at Nurse Maude which does twice as much as a normal brush ($15) its great then his dad stands over him and makes funny faces or laughs when he does I jump in and brush.

Suzanne - posted on 07/08/2010

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Hi!! Just say your post! My daughter has down syndrome and autism!! Brushing teeth has been a huge "chore" for me!! I have now discovered a great plan.....She loves water!! While brushing her teeth she is allowed to play in the water at the sink and it distracts her. I also do this while she is in bathtub. Don't know if this helps but GOOD LUCK!!! Suzanne

Crystal - posted on 07/08/2010

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We had challenges also and found that if you check out the different toothpastes for texture also. Some are gritty and like food and clothes, those textures make for some serious issues. Also, try a cloth at first to see if that bothers him less. I had to do that for a while. While making this a non-issue is the goal, sometimes you have to work around to get to it no longer being an issue. :)

Danielle - posted on 07/07/2010

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my son has gone through that kind of issue, and what we did, is one, we made it a non issue. He knows that brushing his teeth is not a choice and needs to be done...so what we did is we got him 2 different toothbrushes, and he gets to choose which one to use. We also brush his teeth, and then let him do it for awhile. Are you using an electric toothbrush? If so..this may be too much for an autistic child..or..it could be better...he may like it better. Could the toothpaste be too strong for him? As i said..you might want to take him shopping to pick out 2 new toothbrushes and fun toothpaste. Another idea, and this will take more time...is to tell him that you are going to go into his mouth until he counts to 2 in his head..and that's IT...then slowly extend the time by a second or two every few days...build up the time..this has worked with our child as well....good luck.

Keri - posted on 07/07/2010

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I have to do the same thing with my son.He will open his mouth for me though.Its definitely a struggle too.He doesn't like the dentist but they have an assitant helping.
Keri Giroux
July 7,8:23 am

Ursula - posted on 06/30/2010

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Hi! I agree with the other posts. We had the same issues with my son, who is now 13. He doesn't love brushing his teeth, but it has gotten better. Take it slow and focus on the positive. Try not to convey any frustration or negativity while brushing his teeth. It sounds like it has already become a huge power issue, that is a big hurdle to climb. So start slow. I am going to suggest letting him brush your teeth to start with, it might be fun for him to use an electric brush in your mouth, tell him you need his help, your teeth are really dirty, scrub, scrub, scrub! Give him lots of praise for being such a good tooth brusher. Don't even mention brushing his teeth. I think that stepping back from any mention or attempt to brush his teeth is important. Let him brush your teeth for a while, creating a sense that brushing teeth is important and he does such a good job. Then, tell him that now he can do his teeth. Start little and slow, the first time praising him for getting the toothbrush ready and just putting it in his mouth, not even worrying if there isn't any brushing. Each time be positive, praise each step he does. If he doesn't want to brush the teeth, you could, praising him as he allows you to even brush for a second. Build on the positive experiences, it will take so long, but stick with it. Every little step he takes towards getting his teeth brushed is a step in the right direction. We have had to do this for so many things with our son, hair cuts, nail clipping, tooth brushing, going to movies in the theatre, etc. Be patient and positive. : )
Ursula

Robin - posted on 06/27/2010

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Oh, I forgot one thing that REALLY worked for us too. I started calling brushing teeth "sugar bugs". I will say, "Let's go do sugar bugs!" and he comes running. Early on, I pretended that there were sugar bugs on his teeth that had to come off or they will cause cavities. I started with a fun game of trying to catch the sugar bugs in his mouth (with tooth brush) and brush here and there. Then it just progressed to regualr brushing. Now that my ds is 6 1/2, he still calls brushing teeth "sugar bugs" and has absolutely NO issues what so ever with brushing teeth. He knows that we have to get them all off his teeth or he'll get cavities. If you asked me this 3 years ago if i ever thought I'd be able to brush his teeth, I'd say you were crazy.

Sheryl - posted on 06/27/2010

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I agree the slow process is best I would start by letting him do it first let him play with it feel it then he will be more inclined to use it. For sanitary reason u can soak his brush in mouthwash for 30 min to keep it clean cause of all the extra germs and just buy cheap and change often lol it will get better but the more u force the worse it can become!

Robin - posted on 06/26/2010

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When mjy son was younger, he was the same way. He has SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder). He is now 6 and it totally fine with it. But, when he was younger, it was TORTURE to brush them. I tried the laying down and brushing, but that ended up with fights all the time. I can't remember when it got better, but I THINK I started with telling him that I'd just do one brush on each side and one on the front....with thomas toothpaste (he was into Thomas at the time). Then I SLOWLY built up the amount of brushes on each side. This was a slow process for sure, but now I can brush his teeth like a regular kid. I still brush them to make sure they are clean. I tried the spin brushes (per many peoples suggestions) and it didnt' work for my ds, but maybe try that. But, try the slow process. Even if it only ONE side per night. Once he gets used to it, you can increase. Good luck!

Heather - posted on 06/24/2010

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have you tried a finger toothbrush, like the kind usually used for babies? Sounds like a sensory issue.

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