Tooth Watch - Tops Tips for Teeth

I recall clearly the worry when Natty's very first tooth fell out. I'd heard somewhere about a need for prophylactic antibiotics lost teeth and heart conditions, so I took her to the dentist.  

Natty was relaxed about it all of course, and the dentist very kindly told us not to worry and sent us home, somehow managing not to make me feel too neurotic.

Tooth watch

Natty wasn't too concerned and when tooth number 2 fell out we didn't notice until toothbrushing time that evening. I suspect it was somewhere in the play park, nestled in the grass beneath the see saw. The Toothless Fairy visited regardless. 

So far so good I thought...

But somewhere along the line there was a period of time when Natty didn't want to have her teeth brushed, didn't care too much for the dentist, and, much to my horror, she even needed a small superficial filling. We needed to up our game.

Getting oral hygiene right for all children is a must but those with a learning disability may need some additional support to get it right.

Thumbs up for Terrific Teeth

Ask an Expert

So we asked Craig Bell, a learning disability nurse who has carried out extensive research in this area, to tell us why it's so important. 

"They key to a healthy mouth begins in infancy and continues with the support of families and carers.  Oral health has positive links with general health, speech development, communication, psychological wellbeing, self-esteem and social integration. To allow for this all children must be supported to get the oral healthcare, and quality of life, they deserve."

Craig also told us about Special Care Dentistry (SCD) who ensure that children with learning disabilities are given the treatment they deserve in the right place and by a suitably trained dentist.

Craig Recommends  

The leaflet Oral Health Care for People with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities produced by PAMIS which includes information on Bruxism (grinding teeth) and tooth erosion as well as tips on brushing techniques.

Colgate's page Dental Health for Children with Special Needs, which covers topics such as delays in tooth eruption and missing teeth. 

Oral B's tips to encourage Good Oral Hygiene For Children.

Dentistry Professional Karen Bellis from the Bristol Dental Hospital has produced a comprehensive booklet for carers and parents of children with PMLD too. You can read A Healthy Mouth here. 

Downs Side Up love Monkey Wellbeing

Our Furry Friend Monkey Wellbeing

Craig also recommends a little furry friend that we at Downs Side Up are rather fond of too... Monkey Wellbeing and his Mum Helen Sadler.

Monkey is a little hand puppet that comes with a range of booklets that help children through tricky times like starting school or having a blood test. 

He of course has his own fabulous resource pack all about going to the dentist that comes complete with stickers, activities and stories, all for £3.95. It will help you prepare, educate, reassure and support your child.

Buy Monkey's Healthy Teeth activity pack

Our Tops Tips for Terrific Teeth:

   Encourage your child to choose a novelty toothbrush that flashes or has glitter inside the handle. Give them a choice between 2.
   Some children enjoy the sensation of an electric toothbrush. Others can't bear it, but it's worth a try.
   Make up your own toothbrushing song and sing it every night. just something simple like "Brush, brush, brush your teeth, up and down and round and round" is enough.
   Use a fun timer to mark the time required to brush teeth. Set it for a couple of minutes. You could use an egg timer or some toothbrushes time themselves.
   If your child won't let you brush their teeth, try putting on a glove puppet or character bath mit before you hold the brush. They might let Monkey Wellbeing do it instead.
   Use a visual timetable for your bathroom routine and encourage your child to remove each picture as each stage is complete. 
   Start young and take your baby to the dentist when you go for a check up and ask the dentist to look into their mouth even before they have any teeth. It's a good routine to get into.
   Buy a book about visiting the dentist. Usbourne do one, as well as a sticker version. Read it at home and take it with you on dentist visits.

   Play dentists at home. There's nothing like turning an experience into a game to take away the fear.

And finally, be gentle, consistent and persistent. It will pay off in the end.

You might also find this article by Yvonne Newbold useful. It charts her son Toby's complex dental story and shows what committed teams can achieve when they work together. Our NHS Learning Disability Success Story.


  1. One of my twins has lost 3 teeth now and has 2 of her big ones and the other is just desperate for even one to be wobbly!

    Natty looks so proud of herself - just beautiful.

    Mich x

    1. I can imagine the tooth rivalry must be high between twins. Here's hoping for a wobble soon :)

  2. 'Toothwatch' like 'springwatch' I love it! That describes it perfectly. Just this week I was editing old photos on my computer and came across several I took just like this. a) tooth is wobbly, child is grinning widely, b) tooth is hanging on--barely, child looks vaguely excited/nervous, c) gap! Child is thrilled.

    1. Oh that is so lovely. We all do the same things with our children don't we :) xxx


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