Research studies show that children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) develop certain habits or tendencies that affect their dental health along with dental-related side effects seen with some ADHD medications.
ADHD and the Dental Visit
What does my child’s ADHD diagnosis have to do with his or her dental care? As it turns out, more than you might think!
ADHD Medications Affect on Your Child’s teeth
Common dental-related side effects seen with some ADHD medications:
- Dry mouth (xerostomia)- a potential side effect of ALL ADHD meds. Dry mouth predisposes the child to cavities and gum disease
- Inflammation- of the salivary glands, sinuses, soft tissues of the mouth, tongue, and gums
- Swallowing difficulties
- Clenching or grinding teeth (bruxism)
If you notice any of these side effects with your child, please let us know
Habits Seen in Children with ADHD
Studies show that certain habits or tendencies are seen more frequently in children with ADHD:
- Clenching and grinding their teeth (especially those on ADHD meds)
- Oral Habits such as nail/lip biting, and chewing on objects (pencils or pens)
- Less thorough brushing and flossing regimens
- Higher propensity to drink caffeinated beverages to help concentrate (many which are acidic and contain high sugar)
- Higher frequency of snacking throughout the day or “grazing” which can lead to increased cavity risk
Tips For Home to Prevent Tooth Decay
It has been reported that children with a diagnosis of ADHD are up to 12 times more likely to develop tooth decay. Here are some tips to help prevent this:
- Avoid rewarding good behavior with starchy carbs or sugary sweets. Instead try stickers, or special privileges.
- Timers or electric toothbrushes with timers built in can be very helpful ensuring proper brushing time
- Encourage healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts, and cheese
- Chewing sugar free gum or sugar free candy (especially types containing xylitol) help increase saliva and fight the bacteria the cause cavities. * Keep xylitol products away from pets as it can make them sick*
- Some patients with higher cavity risk may benefit from a prescription toothpaste
Tips for a Successful Dental Visit
Some patients with ADHD can experience significant dental anxiety. Here are some tips to help in having a positive dental experience:
- Please bring a list of all of your child’s medicines
- Share with our dental staff the most successful way to talk or communicate with your child
- Calm energy: Help your child stay calm by being as calm as possible yourself.
- Prepare your child ahead of time for what he or she can expect: There are many kid-friendly books and videos about going to the dentist, and we have and can offer you a list of kid-friendly dental terms and expressions to minimize anxiety.
- Clear and concise instructions: Many children with ADHD respond better to short and clear instructions as opposed to lots of talking that can flood them with information.
- Schedule for success: Studies show that the absolute best time for ADHD kids to come to the dentist is in the morning, approximately 30-60 minutes after taking their medication. Avoid “rebound” times when the meds are wearing off. We want your child to come away feeling positive, and scheduling him or her the right way helps your child to have a good visit!
Having the most up to date information on your child’s medical history allows us to provide the most effective and individualized care possible. Lastly, you know your child better than anyone. If there is anything special you want us to know that might help improve their visit, please let us know, and thank you for entrusting us with their care!