The huge range of chewables on the market is great for choice, but can often be confusing, especially if you've never used them before.
Chewables are often called chew toys, sensory chew necklaces, sensory chews, but they all refer to items that are designed to provide a safer alternative for chewing. Some individuals chew, mouth, or even ingest inedible items so providing a non-toxic alternative can be very useful.
When offering a new chewable alternative, one of the most important things to remember is that the chewable item needs to replace the current chew of choice (whether that be clothing, lego or fingers etc). This means that the chew needs to 'satisfy' the need to chew. For older children, teenagers, and adults, it might be useful to have an agreement about the alternative, and to choose together from the collection of chews online.
There are a few considerations when selecting a chew:
(1) Are you learning to chew after being gastro fed, or for rehabilitation after a stroke or accident?
Select the narrowest, softest chews first to develop chewing skills and jaw strength. This will be especially important if the person is unable to open their mouth very wide.
(2) Are you biting down hard, or are you just mouthing objects?
If you are only mouthing or sucking on an object i.e. not using your teeth, then almost any chew should be fine for selection in terms of safety. The selection of chew will depend on preference (style, shape, colour, and texture). However, if you are biting down hard on items, then a firmer chew should be considered, as the softer chews will be damaged very quickly. I must put a caveat here though, and say that some heavy chewers like the softness and 'give' of the softer chews. Finding the balance between chew softness and longevity with a firmer chew, can be a tricky balance to find. We do have some tougher chews that are also hollow to include a slight softness.
(3) Are you using your back teeth to chew on items?
Selecting a chew to reach the back teeth will require a narrower chew, rather than something wide and round. This will enable chewing on either side of the mouth using the back teeth.
(4) Do you like to chew using both sides of your mouth?
Selecting a chew that is slightly wider could be useful. If you wish to only reach the sides, then a chew that is slightly more 'ring-shaped' could be suitable to allow bi-lateral chewing.
(5) Do you require a chew frequently during the day?
Using something that is wearable (such as a necklace or bracelet) might be a consideration. Many of our necklaces have small plastic pull away clasps.The clasps are not suitable chewing and may present a choking risk for those who might chew this. There are also 'clip on' alternatives for individuals who can not tolerate necklaces and bangles.
(6) Are you likely to put an entire chew into your mouth at once?
You must always be mindful of choking hazards when using chewables. For those who might put an entire chew in their mouth, there are some larger hand held chews to help minimise choking.
(7) Do you prefer a chew that is smooth, or do you need textural stimulation?
Our sensory chew necklaces have varying degrees of texture. Some chews are smooth (no texture), and others have texture on all sides of the chew (which gives more stimulation).
It is important to note that no chew toys on the market are indestructible. Even the toughest of chews will be damaged at some point, and will need replacing when wear starts to show so as to reduce the possibility of choking or swallowing pieces of chew. Whether the degradation of a chew takes a few days, a week, or a month, will depend on how hard a person chews, which teeth they use, and the frequency of their chewing behaviour.
Finding the right chew toy or sensory chew necklace may include a bit of trial and error in selection due to personal preference, but hopefully this has given a little bit of insight into the kind of things to consider when selecting. Happy chewing!