Halloween is still a few days away, but I’m on my fourth bag of candy. Oops! I can’t resist goodies like Reese’s and Kit Kats!
But with all those extra sweets comes extra time brushing my teeth. I hate to admit this, but there are times I’m worse than a little kid when it comes to brushing my teeth. It’s not that I don’t want to brush my teeth; it’s that the pain and fatigue of juvenile arthritis (JA) sometimes causes me to brush less than thoroughly, especially if my jaw is hurting.
Between my jaw flaring, my hands hurting, and feeling overall fatigue, it’s not a surprise that there are days I’m in a rush to be done with my nightly routine. Many parents of kids with JA probably notice a similar bad habit, and this time of year may be particularly problematic. You don’t want your kid’s teeth rotting out, after all!
But not to worry: There are lots of ways to help your child, from gadgets to coming up with a treatment plan with their dentist.
Talk to the dentist.
First and foremost, talk to your child’s dentist about your child’s struggles and work on a plan. They may have recommendations to help keep plaque at bay, such as using a fluoride rinse. They may also want to see your child for dental cleanings more frequently to ensure your child’s teeth stay healthy and strong.
It’s also important to let your child’s dentist know of any issues they’re having with their jaw. It’s not uncommon for JA to attack the jaw, so the earlier the dentist can keep an eye on it, the better.
Electric toothbrushes can help kids who have hand pain brush more effectively. While correct brushing is still essential, having an electric toothbrush helps.
It might be worth investing in an electric toothbrush that charges on its stand and has replaceable bristles. While it can be expensive, these seem to perform better than the cheaper electric toothbrushes. They also don’t have to hold a heavy battery, which I’ve found makes them much easier to hold.
Flossers can help.
If your child has a hard time holding floss, they may find plastic flossers helpful. It has more room to grip, and you have better control of the floss than when using only your fingers. If you’d prefer a more eco-friendly option, there are some reusable flossers on the market now.
Avoid sticky situations.
While this tip isn’t fun this time of year, it may save your child from quite a bit of tooth decay. I have a hard time brushing my teeth after eating sticky candies and snacks, such as fruit leather or Milk Duds. So it may be a good idea to avoid those treats this year if your child’s JA has kept them from brushing effectively. (Those snacks should be avoided if they have a jaw flare.)
But that doesn’t mean all the good stuff is off the table. Chocolate tends to be easy to brush off!
Pain makes self-care difficult.
Something I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older and more independent is that chronic pain and fatigue can make it harder to take good care of yourself. When you don’t feel good, you’re far more likely to neglect yourself: You may feel too tired at the end of the day to cook a healthy meal, exercise, or brush your teeth.
Helping your child make these routines less painful early on will encourage them to keep going as much as possible. Of course, there will always be a day they’re too sick to do their hygiene routine. But what’s most important is encouraging them to do their best and finding creative ways to make it easier.
Note: Juvenile Arthritis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Juvenile Arthritis News, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to juvenile arthritis.
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