Many people have recently expressed their discomfort and sensory problems with dental hygiene and dentistry. This seems to be a fairly common difficulty for my Autistic followers. Luckily, Tumblr user keeperofthehens has offered to share her dentistry knowledge with our readers.
What can you do if the feeling of the toothbrush on your teeth bothers you?
” A way to help is to make sure you have the right toothbrush. The most common problems are either not having the right toothbrush or you’re brushing too hard. When you pick out a tooth brush you need to make sure you pay attention to the hardness of the bristles. NO ONE needs a hard toothbrush. I repeat no one. People very seldom need a medium one. The vast majority of people should use a soft toothbrush. Avoid “natural” ones like boar hair or some stuff like that, They are very harsh on the teeth as well.”
“Also, you need to make sure your toothbrush’s bristles aren’t straight across. They should to be different lengths. The reason the different lengths are important because they can reach in the grooves of your teeth without being shoved in there.”
“When brushing people have a tendency to brush too hard. Your toothbrush’s bristles shouldn’t be splayed out when brushing. But have a gentle, constant, slight pressure on the teeth.”
“Here is a great video that shows the right way to brush your teeth.”
“Notice how the bristles aren’t straight on touching the teeth. They need to be at a 45 degree angle. This will help a lot if you don’t like the feeling of the bristles right on your teeth. If this still doesn’t help you can sit while watching tv and desensitize yourself to the feeling for like a few minutes a day like they would in OT.”
What can you try if you do not like how the toothpaste feels?
“For toothpaste, I only know the standard for America so may not apply to some. The only thing toothpaste needs is to be ADA approved in America in order for it to be considered a good toothpaste. Go wild and find what you like. I recommend trying travel sized so you’re not wasting money on a giant tube. I would avoid whitening type pastes too because they are very harsh on your teeth and can hurt in the long run. If you can honestly not find a toothpaste that works for you I would rather you use a kids one than none at all. It’s not the best but it’s better than nothing. I find if I use the inch of toothpaste I’m wasting it. Just use half of the toothbrush length if that helps too.”
What can you do if the wetness on the brush bothers you?
keeperofthehens suggests trying a few things. You could try mixing toothpaste with some water in a cup and then putting that on your toothbrush. Alternatively, you could try mixing mixing the toothpaste with mouthwash if that is less bothersome for you.
What can you do if you have trouble incorporating brushing your teeth into your schedule, or if you have trouble remembering to brush your teeth?
“Setting reminders is very helpful or keeping your toothbrush near where you can see it if that will help you remember the task. I have multiple in different areas of my home like at the laptop, my dresser, in a cup by the microwave, several in the bathroom, and other places. I also tie it into another task like when I get dressed in the morning or for bed. Heck, at one point I wrote on the mirror with lipstick when I brushed or just put a check for that day.”
“If someone has a terrible time remembering then it is okay to just do it when they can remember. Like there is no law you can’t do it at midnight or in the middle of the day. Twice a day is our goal here. Or to rinse your mouth out with water after drinking sugary and acidic drinks. That will help a ton.”
What if someone is bothered by electric toothbrushes?
“Electric brushes are very tricky. Most people do not need them and should be used by people with motor skill issues and just don’t have the spoons for it. You do not need to “brush” like you would with a manual one. The brush just needs to stay on the surface of the tooth for like 30 seconds while it does the work for you.” Additionally, keeperofthehens suggests checking out the different settings on an electric brush to see what is best for you.
What can you do if you have difficulty with dentistry in general?
“Tell the dentist before you schedule the appointment that you have issues with oral stimulation. I know some high volume offices will be kinda harder to work around this with you. But a lot of dental teams will bend over backwards to make sure you get proper care without being uncomfortable. Maybe contact your pediatrics to see if they work with disabled adults as well as children.”
“Try to ask for an appointment for when they are least busy, so they have more time to work with you and take more frequent breaks so you can calm yourself. Or at the end of the day as the last patient. Some might be rushed at the end of the day but every office is different.”
“Explain your sensory issues and maybe have someone there who is familiar with your issues as well in case you get too overstimulated to talk. Bring comforting sensory stimulus and stim toys. I have never been upset for a patient bringing in a bear or something like that. As long as it isn’t in the way I could care less. Also, look into those new relaxing dental offices where the aim is to make the environment as least stressful as possible. They’re called dental spas if you can afford them.”
“Those foam blocks are for holding the x-ray film in place unfortunately. BUT they are relatively not too expensive. Ask if you can pay to take one home to desensitize your mouth to it.”
DISCLAIMER: I’m a dental assistant who has 2 years of training. This all falls under the umbrella of patient education which I have been trained to give to patients and have done so in different environments. I do not diagnose, administer treatments, or claim to have the knowledge a dentist does. This was made to help those with sensory processing issues in order for them to best improve their oral health. I also have sensory processing issues so I am also drawing upon past personal experiences. Online help does not compare to seeing someone in person. Please contact your licensed dental professional for emergencies and issues/concerns about your oral health.