Low Spoon Living

Practical tips for navigating daily life with low energy, executive function challenges, and disabilities

Tips to motivate consistent toothbrushing

38 tips to motivate consistent tooth brushing

When dealing with physical or mental hurdles, keeping up with your dental hygiene can really feel like a tough job. If you find yourself in a place where brushing your teeth has become a task you keep putting off, or perhaps your child is struggling with brushing their teeth, consider these tips – these can be what saves you from a lot of pain and possibly a hefty dentist bill in a few years’ time.

Why is it so hard to get in the habit of brushing teeth regularly?

There are two common barriers to brushing. One is executive dysfunction – when it is just very difficult or impossible to get started. The second is sensory aversions. There may be something that is bothering you physically (that you may or may not be aware of) such as the taste of the toothpaste, the feel of the bristles, or even the water temperature.

Tips and Creative Strategies for Maintaining Oral Hygiene

The following are some tips and a few possible creative strategies to help tooth bushing to become a more manageable task.

When you are struggling to get started:

1. Keep a Toothbrush in the Shower or Bath: This simplifies the routine by integrating toothbrushing into an existing habit (showering).

2. Keep a Toothbrush visible in the bathroom (or wherever): Having a toothbrush accessible and visible can help in initiating the task.

3. Multiple Toothbrushes: Keep one in the shower, one at the sink, or wherever else you find it easier to brush your teeth.

4. Rigid Routine Incorporation: You could embed toothbrushing into a structured daily routine, like brushing after getting dressed or drinking your morning coffee.

5. Calendar, checklist, or stickers: Find a calendar to put on the wall nearby and check off each day that you brush your teeth. This can serve as both a visual reminder and a reward system that can give you a sense of accomplishment.

6. Brushing Before Dressing: Creates a simple rule to prompt action.

7. Gamify: You can download toothbrushing apps or buy an electric toothbrush that comes with an app. These can be rewarding to use and help with maintaining focus and consistency.

8. Buy a Toothpaste Dispenser: This simplifies the process of applying toothpaste and removes one step from the task.

9. Buy Waterless On-The-Go Mini Toothbrushes: These offer a convenient solution for brushing outside the regular environment, like in the car, next to the bed, etc.

For Sensory Issues:

Sensory issues can include discomfort or overstimulation from textures, tastes, or physical sensations. These tips offer alternative methods and tools to accommodate sensory problems.

1. Gagging Solutions: If brushing your teeth sets off your gagging reflex, try using less foamy toothpaste or a smaller toothbrush to reduce gag reflex triggers.

2. Buy children’s Toothpaste: These can offer gentler textures and more pleasant tastes.

3. Warm Water Brushing: Sometimes the cold water can be a sensory discomfort. Warm water can be more comfortable for sensitive teeth and gums.

4. African Chewing Sticks (Miswak): Provides a natural and potentially less irritating alternative to toothbrushes. Research suggests it is just as useful as brushing with a toothbrush.

5. Toothpaste Tablets: A different texture and form of toothpaste that might be more tolerable.

6. Gauze-Wrapped Finger: A softer, more controlled way to clean teeth for those who find bristles uncomfortable or irritating.

7. Silicone Toothbrushes: Another toothbrush alternative that is softer and gentler on the gums and teeth.

8. Micro Fur Toothbrushes: Offer a unique, ultra-soft brushing experience.

9. Teeth Wipes: Just like wipes for your face, they make these for teeth too. While this is not as effective as brushing because it can’t get into hard-to-reach places, it is better than not doing anything.

Additional Tips

1. Timed Toothbrushing Music: Play a short, favorite song to brush your teeth to, ensuring you brush for the entire duration.

2. Visual Timers: Use a visual timer to see how long you’ve been brushing.

3. Break brushing up into segments: 30-second time blocks, after each block you switch to brushing the other side, etc.

4. Brushing Teeth While Doing Another Activity: Brush your teeth while watching TV or scrolling through your phone to distract yourself.

5. Mouthwash Before Brushing: Start with mouthwash to freshen your mouth and motivate you to continue with brushing. Even if you don’t go on to brush, this is still better than nothing.

6. Brushing Teeth with a Partner: Coordinate your toothbrushing routine with a partner or family member if it helps.

7. Brush Teeth at the Start of a Commercial Break: Use the length of a commercial break as a timer for brushing.

8. Flexibility: You can brush your teeth any time you want to (or are able to). Don’t restrict yourself to morning or night. Brush earlier in the evening before getting tired or in the morning when you first use the bathroom or any time that you find helpful.

9. Brushing with Just Water: If brushing with toothpaste is challenging, using just water can be an alternative that is just as effective.

And finally,

10. Reminder of Consequences: Remembering the long-term consequences of not brushing, such as gum disease and tooth decay, can serve as a motivation to maintain dental hygiene.

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