Brush Your Teeth
Brush your teeth. Sounds simple enough, but man - oh - man, it is not. I took Matt to the dentist yesterday for a check-up. For the second time in his life Matt has a cavity. It is again along the gum-line. The dentist was explaining to me why he needs to brush along his gums – like I didn’t know already. I know he is concerned about Matt’s brushing habits, but so am I. It’s not like we don’t go over how and why. The problem is that Matt is autistic and teaching an autistic person has to be creative – to say the least.
When Matt was younger the dentist gave him fluoride treatments to help fight cavities. I brushed his teeth for him while trying to keep his mouth open. As he got bigger and stronger we had to resort to private, detailed instruction as he brushed. This supervision paid-off wonderfully as Matt never had a cavity the entire time he was growing up. I knew someday his luck would eventually run out.
Matt has been brushing unsupervised for years. Although he will brush his teeth when prompted, he doesn’t always brush them without that reminder. In addition, Matt has moved around a lot between my husband and I. He stayed with me for a few months while Tom went on work assignments in various states and then we traded and Matt went with Tom. With all the chaos of going here and there, with routines changing every few months, Matt just got lazy where brushing his teeth was concerned. Unfortunately, that lazy streak has resulted in cavities – first last year and now this year. The problem is that a quick brushing doesn’t get along the gum line. By not brushing along the gum line, Matt has developed not only tender, bleeding gums, but cavities.
Now the problem is that brushing along the gum line causes them to bleed – so he avoids the area completely. Unfortunately, Matt also grinds his teeth at night and several teeth are worn away quite a bit. No, Matt will not wear a mouth guard. This means the teeth he has are very vulnerable. He is at major risk of many more cavities if this behavior (avoiding the gum line) is allowed to take hold. I need to address the situation immediately.
So here’s the plan -
Step 1: Get a new toothbrush! I need to purchase an oral-B automatic. The spin brush, while fine for me, is not adequate for an individual who hates the feel of bristles. He needs one that works faster and in more directions to help him get his teeth really clean and can toughen-up his gums.
Step 2: Get a routine down that he and I can stick to. Matt needs to brush morning and night at the very least. He needs a new routine - his “once in the morning” routine just isn’t cutting it.
Step 3: Supervise the brushing. It has been years, but I think Matt needs a bit of supervision for awhile until we can get the gums stronger. The bleeding gums scare him. They hurt. Unfortunately, what I haven’t been able to convince him of is that leaving the gums alone and unbrushed only makes them worse. So, the only way I can be sure he will brush along the gums is to stand there and encourage him (cheer him on from the sidelines).
So there we have it. Brushing his teeth should not be a major task, but alas, if it is then it is. We have assessed the situation (bleeding gums lead to cavities), come up with a plan of action (the steps I outlined above) and will re-evaluate the plan in six months at the next dental check-up. Unfortunately, prior to that visit we have to go in for the actual filling. My dentist is a really good guy and I consider him to be a great dentist. His Novocain needles are rarely felt and he has tremendous patience. I am thankful Matt has him as his dentist. Matt's experience the last time was very positive and Matt did well even with his curiously numb face. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this filling will go as well.
Mostly though, I am hoping Matt will develop a change in his oral care routine to avoid the need for more...