Food Pocketing in the Lips, Cheeks, and/or Gums

Question:  My four year old daughter pockets food in her lower gums.  Foods like pizza, chicken, egg whites, etc. (that do not melt like crackers or cookies).  She will simply let it stay in her gum pockets until she looks like a chipmunk and eventually we will have to remove it with our fingers.  She is not able to automatically understand the natural process of not allowing the food simply stay in her gum pockets.  How can we help her get the natural biting and chewing action which will prevent her from pocketing food in her gums?  We have a Grabber already and have her practice chewing on both the left and right sides.


Food Pocketing - possible causes & what you can do

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Great question.  There may be a few different reasons involved and a few different strategies to try: Continue reading Food Pocketing in the Lips, Cheeks, and/or Gums

Oral Motor Exercises to Improve Jaw Stability

This young man in the video above has a jaw slide, meaning that his jaw shifts either to the left or to the right when he talks.  Since the tongue is connected to the jaw, the tongue follows the jaw, also shifting to the left or right.  Why is this a problem?  Speech sounds are properly articulated when the jaw and tongue are midline and symmetrical.  If the jaw and tongue shift to the side during speech, certain sounds may seem slushy and unclear.  So in order to clearly articulate sounds, we’ll need to stabilize his jaw at center.  To work on jaw stability:
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Jaw stability oral motor exercises

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1.  
Put the extension of the Grabber (or Y-Chew or Probe) in between the molars, as shown in the pictures above.  Ask the child to bite down and hold for a count of 10.  Repeat a total of 3 times on each side.  If necessary, provide support to the chin with your free hand.
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Bilateral jaw stability with the Grabber

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2.  
As you try this exercise, check to make sure that the space between the upper front teeth is lining up with the space between the lower front teeth.  If it’s not, switch to using the loop of the Grabber instead, and place it in the front of the mouth (see the picture above).  This position will force the child to bite on both sides at the same side so the jaw can’t shift and will instead stay centrally aligned.
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Jaw stability with the Grabber placed laterally

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3.  
You can also do this with the extension of the Grabber (or Y-Chew) placed laterally in front of the mouth (as shown above).
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4.  Finally, another way to stabilize the jaw is to use two Grabbers (or Y-Chews or Probes) simultaneously – one of either side of the mouth in between the molars.  This is essentially step 1, only with a tool on both sides of the mouth.
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As always, keep in mind that you may have to start with a shorter count, and work up to 10.  If you only get a couple counts, that’s okay!  Make a note of the progress, and try to do more in the next practice session.
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A note on counting: you’ll notice that I don’t always have the same beat to my counts in the video.  If I sense that the child is losing interest, I mix things up to refocus their attention.  You can change the beat, count faster or slower, say it with a deep voice or a high voice or anything in between, count backwards, use funny voices, and so forth.  Just have fun :)
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Debbie

Debra C. Lowsky, MS, CCC-SLP
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How to Teach Biting and Chewing Skills

For infants, learning how to bite and chew is a crucial stage of feeding development.  At approximately 5-6 months of age, babies begin using their fingers and teethers for oral exploration using a bite and release pattern.  The development of biting and chewing continues from this point on, with the baby refining the movements of the jaw, tongue, and lips.  When infants miss a part of this developmental process, intervention may be necessary to develop the ability to bite and chew.

 

Teach Biting & Chewing Skills

1.  One of the ways I like to begin is to provide the child with the opportunity to mouth ARK’s oral motor chew tools (the Grabber, Y-Chew, Probe, and/or Animal Tips).  These tools were specifically designed to increase oral awareness, to provide stimulation and tactile sensation, and to exercise the lips, cheeks, tongue, and jaw.  Through oral exploration, the child just might begin to bite on his/her own, and from there you can progress to chewing.

Continue reading How to Teach Biting and Chewing Skills

Inappropriate Chewing & Finger/Knuckle Biting

My son chews on his fingers so much!  He has chewed right through the first layer of his skin on his index finger and thumb.  Would ARK’s Grabbers be good as an alternative for him to chew on, on his own?  He is 4 years old, on the autism spectrum, and doesn’t talk much.  Thanks for your help!  He really needs something else to keep him from getting sores.

My 9-year-old chews on everything… erasers, the foam rubber that often covers remotes or exercise equipment, I have even caught him chewing styrofoam!  He has always had an oral fixation since he was a toddler, putting rocks in his mouth and chewing on everything in sight.  Is this something more than typical childhood behavior?  I’ve read on some discussion boards that your Grabbers are often used by other kids with the same issue.  Looking for advice!


Dear parents,

First and foremost it is important to provide them with a safe outlet for chewing.  About 13 years ago, I was working with a child whose parents were so desperate, they began giving him dog toys!  It was specifically for this child (and now many others) that we decided to invent safe sensory chew tools.
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A safe outlet for chewing

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All of ARK’s chews (such as the Grabber, Y-Chew, Brick Stick, and Krypto-Bite) are made in the USA out of medical grade, FDA approved materials that contain no lead, phthalates, PVC, BPA or latex.  And all are designed to provide proprioceptive input to the lips, tongue, cheeks, and jaw during chewing and mouthing activities.  Very importantly, they have long extensions to reach all the way to the back molar area where chewing is typically needed the most for input to the jaw.
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ark-grabber-family-chew-set
They’re also available in various textured versions for additional sensory stimulation, particularly for sensory seekers.  And they come in three different toughness levels for mild to moderate to avid chewing needs.
Y-Chew Oral Sensory Chew ToolsARK's Krypto-Bite

 

Each time your children reach for an inappropriate item to chew on, simply replace it with a Grabber or Y-Chew.  Be consistent and patient.

chewelry

For help choosing which one is the best option, consult our Chew Chart and/or How to Choose the Right Chew guide.
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Please note, however, that although it’s very important to provide them with a safe outlet to chew on, that may not be the only intervention needed.  For example, they may also benefit from gum massage.  And it may be helpful incorporating more harder-to-chew foods into their diets, such as apples, carrots, celery, etc.  This will hopefully help provide more of that heavy jaw input they’re likely seeking.

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Most importantly, however, I recommend that they see an occupational therapist who deals with Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD) as soon as possible, as they will be able to assess and address their sensory needs.  For tips on how to find an OT in your area, click here.

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All my best,

Debbie
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