Need help choosing which chew tools will be the best fit? You've come to the right place! Below is an in-depth explanation of our different hardness levels, what the best recommendations are, and more. As a heads up: it's a lot of info! For a lot of people none of the below will matter - they'll love any of our chew tools in any hardness level. Some people have more specific preferences/needs, though. So this guide is meant to cover everything you might need to know to "chews" the right chew tools.
How old is the child / person?
For babies and toddlers (under about the age of 2.5 years): Any of these baby chews are the way to go. We especially recommend the Baby Grabber - it has a stem that’s long enough for babies to reach their molars, but short enough so that it doesn’t go back too far. The Baby Guitar is also a similar shape, but with added texture on the stem for extra sensory input. Both are easy for little hands to hold.
For anyone 5 years and up: Chewelry becomes an option as well. Because these are worn on a necklace (which have a clasp + cord), we recommend them for 5 years and up. Many parents do give them to younger kids, supervision is just even more important in that case.
For 6-7 years and up: Pencil toppers become a great fit, too, especially for schoolwork.
Please note: These are not necessarily hard-and-fast rules. For instance, a lot of babies and toddlers use the regular Grabbers instead of the Baby Grabbers. They usually learn very quickly to gauge how far to put the extension back in their mouth. Or as another example, a lot of parents give chewelry to kids younger than 5 years if they deem it appropriate, and if used under direct supervision.
Does the person chew with their back teeth, front teeth, or both?
If the person currently chews on things with their back teeth, you'll want to get a chew tool with a long slender extension that can reach the back teeth, like any of these back molar shapes.
If they chew mostly with their front teeth and/or pre-molars, you have a wider selection to choose from, as shape doesn't matter much in that case - you can chew on any chew tool with your front teeth.
If you're not sure what the person's preferences are, when in doubt, go with a back molar shape. That will cover both bases.
Does the person chew through / cause damage to what they currently chew on?
All ARK chews come in 3 color-coded toughness levels:
• Standard/Soft - the softest, “chewiest” option that you can “sink your teeth” into the most. Recommended for mild chewing (for individuals who do not chew through anything that they chew on).
• XT / Medium Firm - XT stands for "Xtra Tough." This option is firmer, but still fairly chewy. Recommended for moderate chewing (for individuals who sometimes chew through things and/or have chewed through the standard level before). Depending on the shape of the chew, this level is usually most similar to the firmness of Pink Pearl erasers.
• XXT / Super Firm - XXT stands for "Xtra Xtra Tough." This is the most firm option. These are pretty tough and rigid, but still chewable. Although no chew tool is indestructible, this is usually the longest lasting level in any given shape for heavy chewers.
We recommend starting with the standard/softest level by default. Unless the person chews through or causes damage to things that they currently chew on, in which case it's usually best to go up to the middle XT level (if you want something that will last longer).
If someone does chew through things - it's possible they may eventually need the toughest XXT level, but we usually don't recommend getting that one right off the bat (unless they've already chewed through other chews and/or very hard items like legos, hard plastic toys, wooden items, etc.). Otherwise, XXT may be too hard for their liking.
When in doubt, we always recommend leaning towards something softer rather than harder. We've never had anyone ever say they didn't like a chew because it was too soft (they may eventually chew through it and need something tougher, but they'll still use the chewier ones). But we do sometimes hear that someone didn't like their chew because it was too hard.
Narrowing it down from there:
• Choosing between any of the handheld chews is mostly just preference. The Grabber and Guitar both have a built-in loop handle that some people prefer. The Y-Chew has 3 different extensions to chew on. For more information on the difference between the Grabber and Y-Chew, click here.
• Choosing between the different chewelry designs is also mostly preference. If the individual likes chewing with their back molars, one of these back molar chews would be a good idea (those all have a long extension to reach the back molars). Other than that - go with whichever design you think the person will like the best.
• Pencil Toppers are a great idea for those who tend to chew on their pencils.
• Some of our chew tools are smooth, others are have tactile bumps and/or ribs. Sensory seekers usually love texture. If the individual has low tone / oral awareness, texture is good to help “wake up” the mouth.” If the person is orally sensitive, you may want to start with the smooth options and progress to the textured ones to slowly de-sensitize.
• If you are using our chew tools to work on oral motor skills - the Grabber and/or Y-Chew are the best options for that. Start with the soft/standard versions and progress to the XT to gradually build jaw strength. For more ideas on how to use them, visit ARK University and scroll down to the Grabber / Y-Chew section.
Good to know:
• Some people may want a variety of chew tool shapes and toughness levels. Sensory preferences can vary from day to day or even hour to hour. At times they may want something very chewy (the soft level). At other times they may want something more rigid that provides a lot of resistance / proprioceptive feedback to the jaw (XXT level).
• Each toughness level is not necessarily 100% equal from shape to shape. For instance, the Dino-Bite in XXT will feel tougher than the Brick in XXT. This is because geometry plays a big role - the Dino-Bite is much wider / "beefier" whereas the Brick is more slender. As another example, our Saber Tooth narrows down to a point, so that part of the pendant feels a bit softer than the rest of the tooth (which is also why that shape is not recommended for avid chewing). We do our best to make things as consistent as possible though. And no matter the shape of the chew, there is always a definite progression of hardness between the levels from soft to XT to XXT.
• Keep in mind that everyone has different preferences. We’ve had parents tell us that they've received their package and feel the XXT is too tough for their child, but when their child actually tries it, he/she loves it. XXT may feel too tough for one person’s jaw, but for others it is just right. We all have different levels of sensory needs.
• Sensory preferences can throw us curveballs sometimes. Which means that in a rare case, someone may prefer to chew on the soft level, but needs the XXT in terms of intensity. In other words, the XXT is too firm for their liking, even though XXT would last the longest for how strongly they chew. At the end of the day, if someone won't use a chew tool because it’s too tough, then it won't serve its purpose. So in this case, it’s best to stick with the softer chews that they prefer. They may chew through them more quickly than the XXT, but at least they will use them instead of chewing on other potentially harmful items. And there are several other things you can do to help them last longer.
• When it comes to oral sensory needs, chew tools are usually just one piece of the puzzle. A very important piece, but only one piece. Other sensory / calming strategies are usually also needed and very helpful. For more information on this, click here. And for a related article on the reasons behind the need to chew, click here.
• For the necklaces, the cord and clasp are not meant for chewing. Some kids may gravitate to the cord and/or clasp in the beginning, in which case you’ll need to redirect them. Each time they try to chew on the cord or clasp (or anything else), remind them to chew on the pendant instead. Be consistent and patient, as it may take some time to redirect the habit. For the best results, it helps to get everyone involved in redirecting - teachers, parents, siblings, grandparents, babysitters, etc., at least until it “sticks.”
• If redirecting won’t work, or if the individual can’t wear anything around their neck, you can try tying the necklace to a zipper pull or through a button hole instead. Bracelets are also a great alternative to necklaces.
• The Y-Chew XXT is typically the overall longest lasting chew for avid chewing.
• To view a Chew Chart comparing the different options, click here.
Still not sure which option to get? No problem - please contact us via the form below with the individual's age and chewing preferences (what they like to chew on, if they chew through those things, etc.) so we can help :)