I Hate Brushing My Teeth – Sensory Sensitivities Learning to Cope

That’s right. Almost thirty years old, masquerading as a fully functional member of society and I still hate brushing my teeth.

I’ve always hated brushing my teeth and I doubt that will ever change. Although as an adult, with more control of my own surroundings, I am finding more and more ways to make the intolerable tolerable.

My mother called me rebellious because I refused to brush my teeth and ran away when she tried to brush my hair. She made me sit through manicures and pedicures – procedures that were pure torture for me. I even bit a dentist once when he forced his finger into my mouth.

I’ve learned to deal with the day to day distractions, bright and humming florescent lights, intense smells,  and even dental appointments. There are lots of little tricks I’ve learned along the way.

Growing up undiagnosed was hard, but it prepared me for life in the real world. Despite my difficulties, I am grateful that my mother did not coddle me, the way she did my sister, and always encouraged me to “toughen up”.

My sister and I have a lot in common but we also have our differences. I was “rebellious” and “manipulative” but my sister was well behaved. She has always been sweet, sensitive, and intelligent. I was a B-C student throughout school, while my sister “the compliant child” consistently had perfect attendance and all A’s.

It forced me to develop useful coping mechanisms that allow me to blend in with society today. Because my mother fought to keep me from being tested, I was never allowed to fall behind the excuse of being Autistic.

Many of my more obvious Autistic habits have faded away as I’ve grown up, morphing into more discrete and subtle eccentricities. I learned not to complain about things that don’t seem to bother “normal people” – pretending everything is okay even if it isn’t.

Despite all the tricks I’ve learned to help me go about living a normal life, brushing my teeth is something that I may never learn to tolerate fully.

As long as I am using an electric toothbrush, I am sometimes able to get though a full thirty seconds of brushing before I have to stop to prevent myself from vomiting. Some days I can only tolerate fifteen seconds of brushing. There are even days when I can’t handle brushing my teeth at all, but I always try.

Using a manual toothbrush or letting someone else brush my teeth is completely out of the question.

Some days I have to scratch my back do distract myself from the sensations inside my mouth. Scratching hard is the only way to draw my mind away from the sensations pulsing from the nerves in my teeth.

My body quivers, twitching, as goosebumps appear on my neck and arms. My brain is paralyzed, retching as all my focus goes into holding back my gag reflex in response to the sensations and strong flavor of toothpaste in my mouth.

It is painful when my brain gets stuck. I don’t think many people can understand the anguish of brushing your teeth when you have sensory issues. I’ve had many cavities in my life, but now that I can’t afford them I force myself to endure the torture.

No matter how how old I get, I may always hate brushing my teeth.

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34 thoughts on “I Hate Brushing My Teeth – Sensory Sensitivities Learning to Cope”

  1. I remain anxious about anything dental, but I have gone the other way after a childhood and adolescence spent struggling with sensory issues and brushing my teeth. I now follow a very strict regime which includes flossing, mouthwash, gum/tongue cleaning and teeth brushing. When I was a child I ground my teeth together and ground my teeth against things/things between my teeth as a stim. This has resulted in many dental problems as an adult and I force myself to carry out this regime to minimise further damage whilst I start the slow and expensive process of repairing the damage. I always feel like I am a bad person because of my ongoing dental issues, even though logically I know this is not the case. I relate to many things within this post, so thank you for writing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s one part of autism I think people find really hard to understand is the sensory issues. When I try to explain to people my sensory difficulties with textures of certain food (most fruit and veg the fact that there’s that water juice sensation when you bite into them ewww) they always call it fussy eating. It’s so frustrating because I can’t help that it causes me such distress it actually causes a physical reaction (usually hand flapping aggressively because I feel so uncomfortable). So like yourself I’ve learnt to grin and bare.
    Great post! It’s good for people to hear not just about light and sound sensitivity. ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sensory issues are, for some like me, a HUGE part of having autism, and yet I don’t see that included in autism definitions in news articles even in 2016. And then there’s hypo as well as hyper sensitivity.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. your comment caught my eye. my little toddler (with autism symptoms diagnosed) is having problems with textures i can only give him fruit if i make it piured/ smashed. He doesn’t want to bite down on fruit and cheese and other food. I figured out that he is probably feeling what you feel. i just want to know if this gets better? i mean if he would be able to eat fruit? because i know that some fruits have great flavor and taste and i want him to experience that. so is there a solution?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It is hard to say if this will get better or worse, but always give him the opportunity to try something not smashed, maybe he won’t want to make the switch or maybe he will. Us Aspies tend to like to do things under our own free will so forcing is never helpful. (Like with my teeth I had to logically find a reason to put myself through the brushing before I started to try to learn to tolerate it.)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. One thing to remember that for all children Austistic or not professionals say it takes about 15 tries of a food before you actually know whether they like it or not, something scientific about taste buds and them getting used to things etc. I guess also there could be other ways to introduce fruit and veg I find it easier if they are mixed into something for example like a stew, because it’s altogether and for some fruit and veg that can make it not as bad.
        Good luck with it ❤️

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m the same, I hate foaming toothpastes especially. Dental floss is another level all together, the whole lot just makes me feel really sick and mouthwash properly gi’s me the boak. In fact, even seeing/hearing someone gargle mouthwash gi’s me the boak. No thanks.

    It’s nice knowing i’m not the only one that hates this!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Don’t get me wrong. I can do it, but only for about 5 seconds tops. I’m ridiculously bad at it. I used to also avoid washing my hands with anything other than really hot water because I hate slimy stuff between my fingers. That changed when I began caring for my then boyfriend now husband who is on immune suppressants to help manage his Crohn’s Disease. I still hate it but I now wash my hands more than anyone else I know lol!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for your post. This certainly explains why I am always chasing my four-year-old around the house with a toothbrush. I have about giving up on the comb.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for sharing this! I always got the showering and hair brushing issues with my teen son but couldn’t understand why he refused to brush his teeth. It makes sense to me now and maybe we can work on ways to make it easier on him. I always thought this was just his stubborn streak. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can not express how happy I am that this has helped you. Does he have an electronic toothbrush? I know everyone is different, but for me if the sensation is more intense it actually makes it a bit easier to tolerate. Honestly I didn’t start brushing regularly until I was over 21, when I had to start paying for my own dental work and didn’t want to be toothless.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. He does but to get him to use it regularly is always a fight. But, now we can talk about why. He couldn’t explain it but I never thought of sensory issues. I am usually good at figuring them out but totally blew thus one.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s ok, I had never been able until I found out about being an Aspie as an adult. I couldn’t put sensory processing problems into words until I learned the words. Theory of Mind – knew something was different but had no clue what until reevaluating everything in my life through the lens of Autism.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for your post. Family members told my mom not to baby me when it was obvious I was too old (over a year) to be carried down the stairs. That judgement hurt my mom. She told them over and over that I had spatial difficulty. What was she supposed to do? Let me fall down and break my neck?
    I am not one who can blend into society due to my hypersensitivity with sounds. This worsened in my teens. I tried to get a job as a way to prove myself and had a self-injurious meltdown @ 16 on the way to work. I didn’t know how to communicate that I just could NOT STAND working retail-screaming kids, moving fast, and having to answer the phone.
    I can’t live independently, and this has infuriated NT people, because they say I’m so smart. I can’t figure out to this day how my possession of smarts is supposed to make my hyper-acute hearing go away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always have noise canceling headphones, earplugs, and something that I can use to play music if I need to tune things out. Perhaps there is something that you are good at that you can do for yourself VS working for someone else. I know a lot of us Aspies thrive in tech careers / writing / behind computers. Try freelancing, so you can have more control over when you need to say no to something. 🙂

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  7. I absolutely love everything you write–you give me such insight into my 19 year old son. His enamel was wearing down so we started using ACT Restore which leaves protection behind. Now we also use Pronamel to keep him from having more dental visits. And of course we use an electric toothbrush just like you do.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi, you are very outspoken in a very kind way, you will help many many people when you keep this up. It is very hard to understand the autistic person however when you have someone opening up like you do it is wonderful. I appreciate your going to my blog, I am helping a lot of children in Turkey and US esp now to clear. They are coming along some slower than others however every body is unique and takes its time in clearing toxins. If ever you wish to have information from me please just ask, I cannot imagine having to cope as you do each and every day, each person I can aid in clearing means the coping skills do not need to be put into place as often and sometimes not at all. I appreciate your posts, do take care

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I am so excited, I have asked a mom from Turkey to talk about her son, Firat, he is pretty well non verbal, is 8 yr old, he is starting to have some words, not many but some, he is going to do well just takes time and patience. She is more than happy to give me a letter for those who wish to read it. When a person who has autism is able to clear the toxins the brain responds beautifully, clearing changes everything, I cannot imagine living in a body that is so challenged with life. It is my goal to reach out and aid those who wish to be aided. It makes my heart sing!!!! Just needed to share this excitement. do take care and have a great wkend

    Liked by 1 person

  10. what we are finding is that as the toxins are clearing the brain is able to function making new pathways becomes much easier and clearing the old pathways. It is fun to listen to the parents of the children as they loose their autistic symptoms. One more little boy is now starting to talk, I am so excited for these parents and also the children.

    Liked by 1 person

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