Brushing teeth is an essential part of dental hygiene. It eliminates the layer of germs and food that accumulates on the tongue, teeth, and in the spaces between the teeth and between the teeth and gums. For this reason, it is extremely important to have a regular dental hygiene routine as an integral part of preserving a child’s general health.

Studies show that indicators for the layer of germs and for gum infections are significantly higher among children with motor disabilities when compared with healthy children.

The primary reason for this situation is neglect of oral hygiene practices among individuals with disabilities because of dependence on others to assist in brushing, as well as reduced muscle action due to disease. Thus, for example, involuntary body movements, a high degree of sensitivity in the mouth area, increased gag reflex as a result of insertion of the brush or involuntary jaw closure during brushing make maintaining oral hygiene particularly challenging and sometimes prevent routine brushing of teeth. An additional reason for difficulty in brushing teeth is the cognitive and communications disabilities that influence both the ability to cooperate and the awareness of the importance of brushing teeth.

Beit Yahalom, the primary facility of ADI in Bnei Brak, is home to toddlers, children youth and adolescents with severe intellectual, motor and developmental disabilities, who require considerable assistance for all routine functions. ADI’s staff provides these residents with comprehensive treatment, support and personal attention.

Given the population of ADI in Bnei Brak and the above-mentioned difficulties, the communications therapy staff initiated a special project, “Maintaining a Healthy Mouth,” during the 2013-2014 school year.

We are so grateful to the Alpha Omega London Charitable Trust for establishing and supporting this programme over the years.

The initiative comprised 11 workshops on the topic of dental hygiene for this population, led by a dental hygienist. The workshops covered relevant theoretical surveys, physiological aspects and the importance of oral hygiene. Tens of staff members participated in the workshops, were introduced to various effective brushing methods, and participated in a discussion and brainstorming session about adapting the methods to children with obvious difficulties. Following these workshops, practical training sessions were provided to 18 groups. During the training, the hygienist demonstrated the proper way to brush each resident’s teeth, including which type of brush and cleaning substance was most appropriate to him or her. All of the training sessions were documented, and some were even filmed, depending upon their complexity, and were passed on to classroom staff. This is an ongoing initiative, which includes training for new caregivers and parents, follow-up meetings and refresher workshops.

By Natalie Zaitel, Coordinator of Communications Therapy Staff, ADI in Bnei Brak

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