Oranurse is a flavour- and froth-less toothpaste which we recommend for all of our special care/paediatric patients who cannot tolerate ‘normal’ toothpastes. Results have been very positive.

Get used to it...

Start dental check-ups as young as possible. A good dentist will just examine a child’s toy’s teeth if the child is particularly anxious. The key is building up trust and confidence.

Find the right dentist

We found out that there are dental therapists who are specially trained to work with people with special needs and are free on the NHS. Most areas of the country have a Salaried Dental Service with staff who have experience and training in the care of people with special needs. Some areas will have a Specialist in Special Care Dentistry. Find a special care dentist.

Time it

Use an egg timer to time for brushing (3 mins).

Clean teeth without gagging

For children who have poor swallow reflex / can’t take fluids and food orally and have difficulty with choking when cleaning teeth – use biotine as does not froth like ordinary toothpaste.

Teeth grinding

Vibrating teethers have really helped our son to stop grinding his teeth. The normal teethers didn't work but the vibrations obviously give him the sensory feedback he is trying to get from grinding his teeth.

Make it fun!

John loves to be tickled, so I say we're going to 'tickle your teeth' and then he is quite happy!

Fluoride pills for toddlers

We gave Jules fluoride tablets which we got from the chemist. They gave her good strong teeth as she was growing.

Find something that does work

Milly has sensory issues, she prefers to clean her own teeth using her finger instead of a toothbrush. We sometimes clean her teeth with a thin damp flannel with some toothpaste on it.

Eazy squeezy

Susie has limited use of her hands to brush her teeth independently. She likes to squeeze the toothpaste directly into her mouth instead of trying to load the toothbrush as this is often a struggle. It ends up there anyway!

Theme tune

Use a favourite song roughly 3 mins long to brush teeth to (spice girls wannabe is a good one!)

Funky toothbrushes with timers

I have found that some supermarkets and toy shops sell toothbrushes that contain floating toys that light up in the handle which turn off after 3 minutes to indicate when to finish brushing; there are also musical ones around too which seem to be encouraging my son to brush his teeth more thoroughly!

Hot, cold or just warm!

Instead of reaching for the cold tap (which we automatically do) try using WARM water. It worked a treat for me and Hassam, cleaning his teeth was far less traumatic.

Take your position

I sit on floor with Charlotte's head in my lap. Brushing her teeth in this position means her head is supported and not able to move around so much and I can see what I am doing plus the hand position is easier.

Like a dentist

We stand behind Duma and approach him from over the shoulder, like a dentist. It makes the brushing more gentle and you can see better than if both of you are bending over the sink. Play favourite music at same time.

Open up!

We got a little ‘mouth-opener’ gadget from our dentist for the hard to reach back teeth/gums because Gilly can’t/won’t keep her mouth fully open.

Kin toothpaste

Toothpaste that is recommended by special needs dentist is Kin. If you are having trouble rinsing out mouth, use a big syringe (no needle!!), and insert inside cheek. Also works with liquid medicines.

GC Tooth Mousse

GC Tooth Mousse comes in different flavours, small tube, very expensive but used occasionally, good for killing bacteria, as special needs often have hands in mouth. Brush teeth with normal toothpaste, rinse, then use mousse, you don’t rinse the mouth.

Flavoured toothpaste

My daughter prefers flavoured toothpaste like strawberry or banana flavour because she says it doesn't feel like it's burning her mouth.

Relax with a head massage

Whilst doing personal care for clients with PMLD (Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities) recently, I had one young man who hated having his teeth cleaned and would bite the toothbrush. One morning whilst washing his hair, I started to give him a head massage. He relaxed so much that the other support worker was able to brush his teeth for the whole 3 minutes.

Teeth the Musical

Teeth – the Musical is an entertaining training DVD about brushing teeth and the importance of dental hygiene. Produced by JUMPCuts and funded by NHS Somerset, there is also a trainer's pack and student workbook available.

Make it fun

Make the toothbrush more exciting by putting a bell on the end. Use rewards and stickers for good teeth cleaning. Read books on going to the dentist, and use dolls and puppets in role play to make it fun.

Firm grip

Put a tennis ball on the end of a toothbrush for a firmer grip if needs be.

Choosing the toothbrush

Encourage the person you are supporting to choose their own toothbrush.

Soft brush

I use a toddler toothbrush because it's nice and soft, with adult toothpaste… then we make funny noises/faces in the mirror to get him to laugh. Works every time!

Two brushes

For those who are reluctant to having their teeth brushed, try using two brushes together. They can bite on one of the brushes whilst you use the other one to clean. Also helps to keep their mouth open and give access to the back teeth. Worth trying an electric and regular toothbrush together like this.

Use gauze

Our daughter barely lets us get anywhere near her to clean her teeth and will bite or clamp her mouth shut at the sight of a toothbrush! We've found gauze wrapped around our finger is a good way of getting to the front ones with little trauma.

Take your time

A dentist advised us to attempt to clean our daughter's teeth in stages as she is extremely opposed to having her teeth brushed. So over the course of the day, we will attempt a quarter of her teeth at a time. It is not so traumatic for her and means all her teeth get a good brush a day.

Good vibrations

A cheap, battery-operated, vibrating toothbrush is worth a try. Great for oral sensory seekers, great for inducing calm in stressful situations, and much cheaper than special needs items doing the same thing!

Fuzzy brush

For anyone who won't let you near them with a toothbrush - Fuzzy brush chewable toothbrushes are a godsend. Obviously no good if the person is likely to swallow but my son just has a good chew and gives it back! 

Dentist role play

My son Alistair hated going to the dentist so much. I bought a stainless steel dental kit online and made a game of using the mirror, picks and scraper. We play to prepare him for appointments. Result! Ali now sits straight in the dentist chair and appointments are 10 minutes rather than one hour.

A different flavour

If you are looking for an alternative to mint toothpaste. Lidl does a herbal toothpaste, Holland and Barratts an Aloe Vera one. It’s always worth having a look in your local major supermarket for different flavours like banana and strawberry.

Collis Curve toothbrush

The Collis Curve toothbrush is great for people with oral sensitivity. It cleans all the surfaces of the teeth at the same time, using simple backwards and forwards brushing. Easy for carers and great for children themselves.

Picture this

We've stuck some laminated picture cards in our bathroom to help our son brush his teeth. They remind him to put toothpaste on his brush, use water, clean the top teeth, spit out and clean the bottom teeth and spit out. The spitting out picture prompt is good for him as he would swallow all of the foam in his mouth.

Adult brush

Rather than a small child's toothbrush, I use an adult size toothbrush on my son's teeth. The head is bigger so you can cover more area quicker and the longer bristles reach down the sides too.

Molar mission

I find that if I let my son bite on the Collis Curve toothbrush and I start at the back of the mouth, giving his teeth a good clean is much easier. Also means I've got to the main teeth likely to end up causing problems should he get too distressed for brushing to continue.

Repetition, desensitisation, persistence

My son would chew on a soft child's toothbrush whilst I brushed my teeth and modelled the correct actions. He gradually got used to the texture of the brush and then the technique. Repetition and persistence were key, we did it every morning and night.

Talking Ginger app

I found an app for iPhone / iPad called Talking Ginger which has really helped my son with ASD brush his teeth. It features a cat in the bathroom who repeats what you say. He brushes his teeth for two minutes, there is a progress bar at the bottom and it plays music. Well worth checking out!

Cotton bud brushing

A good trick on occasions you can't brush someone's teeth is to dip a cotton bud in any mouthwash and rub the bud around the base of the teeth and gums. Can help with reducing swelling in swollen gums.

Playful brushing

To encourage Magdalena to open her mouth wide, I say we need to look for fairy dust/pirate treasure and exaggerate the size of the bits of food from the day. She enjoys this game!

Finger brushing

Try using the soft toothbrushes that fit over your finger from a chemist or Mothercare. They are great.

Milder toothpaste

I've heard that a toothpaste called Colgate Gel Kam Sensitive is good for people who want a mild toothpaste. Apparently you only need a pea-sized amount.

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Using these tips

These tips have been contributed by members of our online community. We hope they will give you some ideas to try, but if you need further help why not post a question to the community or talk to one of our community advisors. If you have any concerns about your health or the wellbeing of someone you are caring for, please consult a doctor or qualified professional.

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