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Help with tooth-care

If you find helping your child look after his or her teeth, difficult, you’re in good company; even the experts can find persuading children with special needs a bit tricky. But don’t give up. Every little helps. 

That’s one of the messages of Kim Chambers, part of a dental outreach team  – run by Kent Community Health – who visits schools helping improve dental health through a variety of techniques including supervised toothbrushing programme.  

The team regularly visit Early Years in Whitefield Schools and a few weeks ago, they visited to paint fluoride solution onto some of the children’s teeth. How did that go? “Pretty unsuccessfully”, she admits  – if a child or young person refuses to open his or her mouth, there’s not too much you can do.   However the secret, she says, is not to let it get you down. Try again tomorrow – getting even a little bit of toothpaste into a child’s mouth can help prevent decay – especially if you can do this twice a day.

Finding the right dentist

Finding the right dentist can make a difference –  and there are some who are great with children with special needs – other, less so.  To find the one that suits you and your child

  1. Start off by asking friends. Word of mouth (pun intended) recommendations are always worth getting or
  2. Look on the NHS Choices website  where you can find a list of local dentists with reviews. 
  3. The dental outreach service has also put together a list o child-friendly dentists below, current as of Spring 2018.
  4.  Finally, if you still can’t find anywhere suitable, search for your local Community Dental Service, specialist practices who are there to ensure everyone can have access to dental health and who know all about special needs in both children and adults. You can find your closest by phoning NHS England on 0300 311 2233… there’s no good online search. 
Graphic showing a table of child-friendly dentists
 List of local child-friendly dentists, as compiled by the dental outreach service

Useful equipment for use at home

Most of us will start off trying to use the conventional toothbrush and toothpaste, but if those aren’t working to well, there are alternatives (click on the yellow text for more info and where to buy):

  • Finger Brushes – originally designed as an alternative to toothbrushes for very young children, but can be useful for anyone who refuses a toothbrush. They slip onto a parent’s finger and then be gently rubbed over teeth and gums with a dot of toothpaste.
  • Barman’s Toothbrushes are cleverly designed to brush the inside and the outside of teeth at the same time.
  • Finger Guards – if you tend to get chomped on while using finger brushes, these provide an effective but gentle way to keep your child’s mouth open while you clean their teeth and gums
  • Unflavoured, non-foaming toothpaste– really useful for young people who don't like the strong flavour of toothpaste or the sensation of it foaming in their mouth. Also good for children who don’t swallow well too. 

Top Tips

  • Don't be hard on yourself if your child isn’t brushing perfectly – every little helps and getting even a bit of fluoride toothpaste into the mouth can help prevent decay. 
  • Don't bother with toothpaste that is sold for babies and toddlers. You’re better off using adult toothpaste from the start, as it has more fluoride. Just use a smear for babies and toddlers. For children over three, a pea sized amount of toothpaste is enough.
  • There’s no need to rinse the mouth out following brushing – in fact its actually better not to, according to the latest advice as the fluoride continues to protect the teeth.
  • Mouthwash is a waste of money, it really doesn't do anything. 
  • Keep sugary snacks and drinks to a minimum. Frequent intake of sugar will cause tooth decay. The only safe drinks for teeth are plain milk and water. Fruit juice will cause decay like any other sugary drink but whole fruit is safe for teeth. 
  • Ask for sugar free medicines, if possible.

Thanks to Kim for the information in this article

Photo of Kim & a big model set of teeth
Kim, with a set of model gnashers.