How to Encourage Dental Health in a Child with ADHD
It’s 9:00 p.m., time for your child’s bedtime routine. You politely ask your child to please go to the bathroom and brush their teeth.
Fifteen minutes later, they are running around the living room with a stuffed toy. You ask them if they have brushed their teeth. They have not. You send them in again.
Another fifteen minutes go by. Same scenario. You send them back into the bathroom with a little more firmness in your voice.
After ten minutes, you can tell that nothing is happening. You walk into the bathroom with your child and help them brush their teeth.
If you are the parent of a child with ADHD, you may be struggling to help your child stay on top of their dental health.
Today we are going to talk about how ADHD affects dental health in children, what parents can do about it, and how some dentists are trained to help parents of children with ADHD have a successful visit to the dentist.
How Does ADHD Affect a Child’s Dental Health?
Inattention and hyperactivity do more than make your child’s bedtime brushing routine difficult.
Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)
Children who have ADHD are more likely to grind their teeth during both night and day.
Poor Eating Habits
Because carbs and sugars can help children with ADHD maintain their attention, they tend to be more of a staple in these children’s lives, increasing risk for cavities.
Poor Oral Hygiene
As mentioned, children with ADHD struggle to focus on the tasks required for oral hygiene (brushing, flossing, etc.). According to one study, 48% of children with ADHD brushed their teeth every night, compared to 82% of a control group.
According to one study, 48% of children with ADHD brushed their teeth every night, compared to 82% of a control group.
Dental Caries (Cavities)
Poor eating habits and oral hygiene lead to increased risk for cavities in children with ADHD. One study indicated that children with ADHD were twelve times more likely to have decay, missing, or filled teeth.
One study indicated that children with ADHD were twelve times more likely to have decay, missing, or filled teeth.
Biting and Chewing
Children with ADHD have a higher chance of nail-biting, lip biting, and biting or chewing on objects like pens and pencils.
Risk of Oral Trauma
Children with ADHD also have a higher risk for traumatic oral injuries due to hyperactivity, running, climbing, and falling.
What Can the Parents of a Child with ADHD Do to Encourage Dental Health?
There are many things that parents can do to help their child with ADHD maintain dental health, both at home and at the dentist:
- Use stimulating tools like mechanical toothbrushes and timers to keep the child interested in brushing their teeth.
- Talk to the child about visiting the dentist, gently explaining to them what is going to happen. Picture books can be helpful for this.
- Maybe give the child a tour of the dentist office prior to their visit.
- Make sure the child is on his or her normal medications before taking them to the dentist.
- Tell the dentist what they can do to have a successful visit with the child.
What Do Trained Dentists Do to Encourage Dental Health in a Child with ADHD?
Many children who have ADHD struggle at the dentist because they are tired, can’t pay attention, or can’t hold still in the chair. Some dentists are trained in helping children with ADHD have a successful visit. They:
- Tell the child what to expect of the visit as well as what can be expected of them.
- Let the child know when they are getting closer to starting a new procedure, providing advanced notice.
- Use the “Tell-Show-Do” technique when introducing new procedures.
- Provide short, clear instructions, one at a time.
- “Contract” the child to behaviors, asking them to promise, “When we get to this step, will you do this?”
- Reward positive behaviors and the successful completion of tasks with verbal positive reinforcement or toys.
- Provide the child with plenty of short breaks.
Encouraging dental health in a child with ADHD doesn’t have to be challenging. Dr. Owen Mandanas enjoys helping parents and children with ADHD make a successful visit to the dentist. If you would like to learn more about what Dr. Mandanas can do to create a positive environment at the dentist for your child with ADHD, please reach out!