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Beline Obeid

Brush often for a nicer smile now and later

January 24, 2013
What do they give the dentist of the year?

A little plaque.

Bad dental jokes aside, dental care is an important issue for all of us, perhaps even more so for those in the special needs community.

Looking at adults with special needs, some appear to have poorly maintained teeth.

Maybe brushing has been more uncomfortable for them. Braces may not have been a practical option for a multitude of reasons.

Dental appointments and even typical, daily brushing can be very difficult for persons with severe sensory issues who also may not understand the importance of good dental hygiene.

We want our son, Andrew, 12, to share a pearly white smile now and later in life. When you see him years from now, the last thing we want you to be is distracted by poor dental hygiene.

That's why we take extra time each day to brush his teeth, no matter how much he fights us.

While brushing may be routine for many children, it is not routine for Andrew and many children like him. He really hates having his teeth brushed.

It's painful to have this messy foreign object moving around his mouth — it tastes and feels funny.

His tactile defense system kicks into high gear.

When prompted, he puts the toothbrush in his mouth but does a poor job of brushing.

He may have poor fine motor skills, but he is not incapable of doing it himself.

Mainly his poor brushing is because he detests the feeling and sabotages the process, much like the husband who does not want to take out the trash so he does it poorly.

We used to look at each other and smile when Andrew's dentist would lecture us on how to floss in between Andrew's teeth. Floss? Seriously? We could hardly get him to open his mouth to let us brush his teeth. But flossing may be less of a pipe dream today.

Andrew is putting up with us brushing his teeth these days. Sometimes we wait until he's nearly asleep so he really has no fight left in him. A great trick his dad figured out.

Someday he may allow us to regularly floss his teeth.

Baby steps.

We're not giving up!

For now, we are happy he often has the cleanest teeth in the house.

You'll know when you see him smile.

Grosse Pointe residents Coutilish and Langan created this column to share experiences from their journey as parents of a child with Fragile X syndrome (fragilex.org). Send your questions or comments to mblan


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