Sensory Integration

Healthy Oral Sensory Processing

The senses play an integral role in day-to-day life. In order for each of the five senses to serve their intended purposes, they must effectively communicate with and receive from the brain. For some people, including children, however, this communication is askew and leads to sensory processing disorder (SPD.)

Any one of the five senses can be impacted by sensory processing disorder, including the mouth. Every time the jaw bites down, it sends messages to the brain. In children with oral SPD, the messages sent from the jaw are not properly received by the brain. This impacts the way a person uses his mouth, causing difficulties with swallowing and speaking.

What is Healthy Oral Sensory Processing?

Children who have healthy oral sensory processing tend to eat a wide variety of foods with different tastes and textures. They are more willing to try new foods and can tolerate foods with combined textures (moist milk mixed with crunchy cereal, for example.) They are also able to tolerate other feelings in their mouth well, like brushing and flossing their teeth.

Issues Caused by Oral Sensory Processing Disorder

For kids who experience difficulties with processing and responding to sensory information through their mouths, everyday tasks can become a challenge. Because these individuals experience a heightened sensitivity to oral input, they can be resistant to various oral experiences. For instance, they may gag when they are brushing their teeth or when they eat foods with a combination of textures. These children may also be resistant to trying new foods.

Children with oral SPD may also react to sensations that they find displeasing in severe ways. For instance, they may have a tantrum when chewing on something crunchy, or brushing their teeth may cause anxiety.

If you believe your child is exhibiting signs of oral sensory processing disorder, a San Diego pediatric occupational therapist can assist you by diagnosing the condition and offering effective ways to handle the issues associated with the disorder.

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