Children’s Dental Health

How to Care for Your Mentally Impaired Child’s Teeth

Brushing can be a confusing and scary experience for a mentally impaired child. Here's how to brush your child's teeth in a way that's effective and makes them feel safe and comfortable.

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How to Care for Your Mentally Impaired Child's Teeth
Q:

How can I brush and rinse out my mentally impaired son's mouth when he has no understanding of what I am trying to do and won't sit still and also has feeding problems?

A: A plaque discoloration tablet can be a great visual aid to help your child understand what’s going on when brushing and flossing. I would start with prevention in mind.

Back before processed foods, tooth decay was less prevalent. Start off with a diet that does not promote tooth decay and is rich in antioxidants. This means whole foods only, no processed foods, and no sugars, except for xylitol.

This diet will also protect against gum disease.

Make sure you use an electric toothbrush. Given the same amount of time, electric toothbrushes are more effective than regular toothbrushes at removing plaque.

I would link the act of brushing to another activity or motivator, like something that s/he loves to do every day. By making that favorite activity preceded by brushing, you can link brushing to something positive for him.

At some point, you may want to try a plaque disclosing tablet on yourself and show your son how you make your teeth white again by brushing. He may want to do the same. The color change (purple teeth to white teeth) is visual and easy to understand.

I would take small steps and don’t expect too much in the beginning. Make sure s/he’s getting six-month visits with a dentist (usually a pedodontist that specializes in this area).

Over time this task will become easier. Be persistent, as I think your efforts in time will be a wonderful gift to your child.

Mark Burhenne DDS

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