Sometimes I have a stroke of brilliance that may not seem as exciting and brilliant to your average person. And I often find myself doing things that most people never do. But sometimes there are at least a few other people who do those things and that stroke of brilliance may help them out. And at the risk of making the majority of the world wonder if I've completely lost my mind, I decide to share that idea in the hopes that it will help someone out. This is one of those things. You may think I'm totally nuts, or you may find this to be helpful (or you may think "I've been doing that for years, what's the big deal?")

Students with more severe forms of Autism Spectrum Disorders often need to work on functional, daily-living skills at school. One such skill - brushing teeth - is, I'm sure, practiced in many classrooms. The fact that my students work on brushing teeth isn't the weird part. :-)

I found that many of my students (and probably lots of typical kids, too!) squeeze WAY too much toothpaste on their toothbrush. And toothpaste (if you've ever had tablespoons of it smeared on the bathroom counter you already know this) is incredibly difficult to clean up! So I set out to find a way to keep my kids from making giant sticky blue messes while wasting several dollars worth of toothpaste each week - that would still allow them to develop independence in brushing their teeth. My first thought was - Mentadent! It comes in a pump that only dispenses a small amount per pump - pumping is more difficult than squeezing and makes it easier to control. However, I can't find it ANYWHERE except online and can't find a "kid's" version and I doubt my finicky kids would like it ... so back to the drawing board.

I decided to try travel-size containers of toothpaste - at least then they can only squeeze out so much, which limits the amount they can waste. As they used the travel-size containers, I noticed that as they got closer to emptying the tube, the amount of toothpaste they used was becoming more appropriately sized.

1. Travel-sized toothpaste tubes are expensive, when you consider how much you get in them
2. My students were more successful with almost-empty tubes

So ... I decided to buy large tubes of toothpaste and refill the small tubes - but not refill them completely! For months now I've been making my OWN giant blue sticky mess while I try to refill the small tubes ... and I was wasting quite a bit of toothpaste myself. (Here's where the weird part begins) I woke up in the middle of the night with a flash of genius. Use a syringe!! So this morning I refilled toothpaste containers without making a mess!! And it was SO easy!!  So I thought - maybe someone else out there is trying to figure out how to refill travel-size containers of toothpaste in their classroom, too. And this blog post was born. :-)

So here's how brushing teeth goes in my classroom. Students are eating lunch at the kitchen table. One parapro is sitting with them at the table. One adult (myself or a parapro, depending on the day) calls students one at a time as they finish eating to wash their plate and cup. After they do their dishes, the student comes to another adult (me or a para, whoever isn't doing dishes) in the bathroom to brush their teeth. Then they go to the table in the classroom for free-play time. (The para at the kitchen table moves to the classroom table when there are more kids out there than in the kitchen - in the meantime whoever is doing dishes and whoever is in the bathroom can see the kids at the classroom table)

I have this toothbrush caddy that I got from Lakeshore, each child has a toothbrush with a cap labeled with their name. They also have their own tube of toothpaste (that way, when they lick the toothpaste straight out of the tube before I can stop them ... I don't have to throw the whole thing away!) with their initial on the cap of the toothpaste. I put little 3 oz cups along the bottom of the toothpaste caddy, put the toothpaste in the cup under each kid's toothpaste. There is also a little basket of bathcloths on the counter.

Some students come in and get their own toothbrush/toothpaste/cup/cloth, for others I lay out their things by the sink. Some fix their own toothbrushes, others get some help. Some brush independently, others get assistance, etc. After they finish, they throw their cup away and put their cloth in the laundry basket. Some get their own new cup and put their toothbrush/toothpaste/cup away - others give their toothbrush/paste to me (or a para) and we get a new cup and put it all in the caddy.

Another side-note: the toothbrushes I use (and LOVE) are FireFly toothbrushes -  you squeeze the bottom and a light in the handle of the toothbrush begins to blink. It blinks for 60 seconds - visually letting my kids know how long they need to brush!

3 Responses to "Toothpaste"

sheryl (visit their site)

You are truly amazing....the things you come up for your students.

Mrs. C (visit their site)

Thank you! Thank you! I will definitely use this toothpaste idea at home.

Sally Well (visit their site)

This is a great idea!! My only comment is that my dentist suggested that we not use a 'regular', fluoride toothpaste for my son (5 y/o). The mint is too strong, the SLS makes it foam up too much for him, and he wasn't always spitting it out so I was worried that he was swallowing fluoride and other bad stuff. The dentist said we should try a natural toothpaste (he gave us Dr. Nate's Naturals, but I have seen others) which seems to help. And I'm not worrying so much about what he's swallowing! (I think I'll give some to his teachers now, too - and tell them about your idea!)