In this article
ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, can significantly affect a person's oral health. While there’s no inherent risk for people with ADHD, the disorder may make it harder to maintain dental health and practice good oral hygiene.
This article explores the relationship between ADHD and oral health, providing useful tips for patients, parents, caretakers, and dentists.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder doesn’t cause dental issues directly but can complicate it by affecting a person’s oral health behavior. The disorder can make maintaining healthy oral hygiene habits at home harder and increase stress around visiting the dentist.
The primary issues that arise with oral health in people with ADHD are:
Adults or children with ADHD are less likely to spend time on oral hygiene habits due to the interruptions they experience in their attention. Oral diseases may develop over time due to the behaviors associated with ADHD, including a lack of focus and consistency.
Because of their poor oral hygiene practices, people with ADHD are more likely to have:
Children with ADHD tend to experience higher levels of anxiety and fear during dental visits. They might also act out or “misbehave,” making routine dental treatment difficult.
This increases their risk of severe dental problems, as regular visits to the dentist are essential to looking after your oral health.
Children with ADHD who show symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness are at a higher risk of dental trauma.
They may take more physical risks than other children, which can lead to traumatic dental injuries. This raises their potential need for invasive or extensive dental treatment.
People with ADHD are more likely to consume higher amounts of sugar. Increased consumption of sugar can lead to tooth decay and other dental issues.
Certain medications used to treat ADHD change or increase appetite in some patients, increasing the risk for tooth decay.
Many of these medications also list dry mouth as a side effect, which can cause cavities and impact plaque levels.
While attention deficit hyperactivity disorder presents a unique challenge to maintaining oral health, several things can make overcoming barriers easier, including:
Routines can be difficult for people with ADHD to establish, but they’re essential for practicing good oral hygiene habits. Most dentists recommend brushing twice a day and flossing once a day.
Keep your oral hygiene routine simple. Start with a manageable goal, such as brushing once a day. Once you’re successful at that, add on a second brushing session.
You can introduce a reward for completing your oral hygiene practices. You can also bundle brushing your teeth with another activity, such as watching your favorite show or listening to a song while you brush.
If going to the dental office makes you anxious, talk to your dentist or dental hygienist. Many dental offices have experience with anxious patients and can take steps to alleviate your nervousness.
For instance, some dentists may offer specific accommodations, such as soothing scents or music in the room. You can also discuss a signal indicating when to take a break.
Another way to have a successful dentist visit is to practice stress reduction techniques before and during your appointment. Techniques for easing anxiety include:
ADHD can add a layer of challenge to eating regularly and preparing healthy meals. People with ADHD are often more likely to neglect their nutrition and eat more sugar.
One way to protect your oral health status and reduce your chance of dental caries is to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Exercise is good for your health on many levels, but it has a particular benefit for people with ADHD. Regular physical activity can increase dopamine and norepinephrine, both of which play a role in regulating attention.
Not only that, but exercise can curb sugar cravings and lead you to build other healthy habits.
Learning as much as possible about dental health and oral hygiene will make you more likely to take care of yourself. Read about the effects of ADHD on oral health and how you can make a routine work for you.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that disrupts focus and impulse control. Symptoms begin in childhood and often continue into adulthood.
People with ADHD struggle to focus, control impulsive behaviors, and sit still. Children with ADHD, in particular, face ongoing issues with focus and control. They may need accommodations that other children don’t to flourish and stay healthy.
Symptoms of ADHD range from mild to severe and include:
Everyone is different, and ADHD symptoms vary from person to person. Some people have only mild symptoms, while others struggle to function with routine tasks in daily life.
It’s also possible to experience only one or a few symptoms or deal with all of them in varying degrees at the same or different times.
If you’re the parent or caretaker of a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, there are several things you can do to make dental care easier, including:
The most important thing is to create a consistent oral hygiene routine with clear expectations. For many children with ADHD, a tooth brushing schedule is essential.
If your child knows they need to brush their teeth every morning and night, it eliminates a lot of anxiety and confusion. You can even brush your teeth with them to model positive habits for your child.
Children with ADHD are more likely to stay consistent if the habit involves an element of fun. For example, you might implement a tooth brushing chart that tracks and rewards consistent at-home dental hygiene habits.
You can also let them pick out their own toothbrush and toothpaste to ensure they’re more likely to use them. Provide them with highly stimulating educational material to keep them engaged.
Your attitude around building an oral care routine makes a difference to your child. Use a gentle but firm approach that conveys confidence and helps them feel safe and supported.
Repeat instructions as often as needed until your child can brush their teeth independently. Explain the risks of neglecting healthy dental hygiene practices, including dental caries, cavities, or gum disease.
Research the dentists in your area carefully. It’s best to choose a dentist and hygienist familiar with the needs of ADHD patients.
Some pediatric dentists may specialize in treating children with ADHD or other special needs. Consider a pre-examination visit so your child can get used to the environment and their dentist before needing dental cleaning.
It helps to interview a dentist in advance to ensure they understand your child’s needs and will take an ADHD-friendly approach to the exam. Questions that can help you evaluate a dentist’s ability to work with your child before a dental visit include:
Pediatric dentistry often requires special attention for different patients. You can do several things to make the experience more accessible for everyone involved.
Understanding your patient and their needs is the best way to determine the most effective way to treat them. If they or their caregiver wants to discuss their ADHD or anxieties, listen with an open mind.
Other tips for using a patient-centered approach include:
Familiarize yourself with common oral health conditions associated with ADHD, including a higher risk of dental caries and gum disease.
You should also understand common ADHD medications and how they might impact a dental visit. Discuss any prescriptions a patient takes before the dental visit. Dosage or timing can sometimes be adjusted for the smoothest dental appointment possible.
Additionally, some medications can interact with drugs used in dentistry. This is why getting clearance before restoration or surgical visits is essential.
Some dentists believe that morning appointments are better for people with ADHD than later dental appointments. It might also be easier to do shorter, more frequent treatments.
For example, instead of two dental practice visits for basic dental cleanings per year, you can divide these appointments into two sessions within a week or two of each for four total dental appointments per year.
Pediatric dental patients diagnosed with ADHD often fare better with shorter but more frequent dental visits.
In some cases, when a patient’s ADHD is severe, or they are undergoing an invasive dental procedure, dental sedation might be necessary.
Although some people are reluctant to use oral sedation, it’s a valuable tool and soothes mental health issues like stress and anxiety. Sedation dentistry is safe, effective, and more accessible than ever.
The following resources offer information about ADHD:
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can make maintaining dental care harder. It disrupts focus, affects impulse control, and complicates healthy habit forming.
People with ADHD are more likely to develop oral health problems like gum disease, cavities, and bruxism. Establishing a consistent dental hygiene routine is key to avoiding such problems. ADHD can also increase anxiety around visiting the dentist regularly. Reducing stress and talking to your dentist can mitigate this anxiety.
Dentists working with people who have ADHD should get to know their patients and take steps to accommodate them. Shorter, frequent appointments or taking breaks during procedures can help people with ADHD feel more comfortable at the dental office.
In this article