Parents of autistic children face countless challenges and sometimes even the simplest of activities can be a major issue for them. One of these is helping their children keep their teeth clean. Oral hygiene is important to everyone but autistic children can be hypersensitive, feeling tastes, smells and sensations much more acutely than other children. If getting children in general to clean their teeth can be a struggle, getting autistic children to clean their teeth can be a major battle. Fortunately there are some useful tips to managing this situation and Fuzzy Brush Products can be a big help.
Be prepared to start small
Often in life, it’s better to accept a small win than to fight a huge battle over a larger one. Instead of trying to get a child to accept the strange texture of a toothbrush and the taste of toothpaste and the action of cleaning teeth all in one go, take the process one step at a time. Start by encouraging your child to chew on a wet facecloth and, when they are finished, give them a drink of water, if they’re still learning to rinse and spit. Once they’ve accepted that, then introduce toothpaste, (or a little fuzzy rock) with its minty taste. Only once they’re comfortable with that situation, move on to step two.
Give your child a fuzzybrush, while you clean your teeth
A Fuzzy Brush requires no water or toothpaste (coated with Xylitol – see below) and can be moved in the mouth in the same way as the facecloth. All you’re doing now is introducing a new texture. By modelling the behaviour yourself, you’re showing that it is safe. You may wish to use a Fuzzy Brush yourself so that you and your child are on an absolutely identical footing, you can always clean your teeth with a regular toothbrush later.
Fuzzy Brush is coated with Xylitol, which is a sweet, white substance that looks and tastes like sugar, but has 40% fewer calories than sucrose and is diabetic friendly. Xylitol is organic and all natural.
Xylitol fights tooth decay, protects tooth enamel, kills harmful bacteria in the mouth, to leave your breath fresh and also promotes healthy gums. It’s also vegan friendly for those who are concerned about ethical issues.
We spoke to Ageno Ochola who’s son is now 9 years old with severe autism and complex health needs and he is 100% non verbal.
“Your product has been a Godsend to and my son. It was so difficult to brush his teeth. I used to ask 2 of my neighbors at the same time to come and help brush his teeth as I could not do so alone. Then came a point when even 3 of us could no longer hold him down to brush his teeth, he is now too strong with an epic strength. I can only describe him as my "modern day Samson"!!
When I researched about chewable toothbrush online, your product sounded just right. Day 1 & 2 my son did not really accept it but on the 3rd day he was chewing on it and I sincerely knelt down and prayed and thank God for finding your product and thanked your company for inventing it!! It was traumatic for my son to be held down for teeth brushing but I did not know any better and that your product even existed. I wished then that someone, hospitals, dentists were aware of this and can recommend it. In the end when I discovered it, I was the one recommending the product to our dentist for her patients with disability. I also do the same by word of mouth and through a parent/carer support group I belong to (Parentsactive) where we generally share useful information and tips on the health of our special needs children.”
Keep plugging away every day
This is important with any hygiene practice, especially anything which relates to children, and autistic children have a particular need for familiarity and routine. Think of riding a bicycle uphill, it may be tough work, but momentum helps keep you going. If you stop, even for a moment, you lose all the momentum you have developed and have to start again, not exactly from scratch, but without that useful impulsion you worked so hard to gain.
Make transitions slowly and be prepared to backpedal
Fuzzy Brush was initially intended for occasional use eg: office workers on the go, traveling but more recently we've noticed other applications, especially for use in extreme health situations, such as Ageno’s son. If your child likes to chew as we know many autistic children do, then this can be seen as fun for them. Once they’ve shown that they’ve become accustomed to using the fuzzybrush, which has the same texture as a regular toothbrush, then you can try moving them on, if it doesn’t work, continue fuzzybrush and wait a little longer before trying again.
You could also try another Fuzzy Brush Product - FuzzzyRock which is in the form of crystal cool mint and bubblegum flavours. One piece will kill the bacteria in their mouth and can be used on days when perhaps stresses are high.
Finding the right dentist
Even with the best oral hygiene in the world, your child still needs to become accustomed to visiting the dentist. This means that you have to find the best dentist for their needs, taking into account factors such as travel time, which may also be stressful for them. Given that any child can pick up on their parents’ stress and that autistic children are particularly sensitive to this, it helps enormously if you are completely comfortable that you have made the right choice before you take your child there. Ask friends, family, therapists - anyone you know and trust for referrals, then go and check out your shortlist. If you find a dentist who seems suitable and friendly but whose premises are too harsh a sensory environment for your child, then let them know. They may be perfectly willing to make changes.