Thursday, October 3, 2019

Dental Tips for Children with ADHD and Their Parents

Dr. Greg Grillo (

When it comes to oral hygiene, it can be really difficult to get children on board. If you have children with ADHD, it can become even more difficult. It is a struggle to get them to follow a routine, to follow proper brushing techniques, and to take the time to do things right. In fact, parenting in the summertime can be downright stressful!

Frequent Dentist Visits

The good news is that there have been a lot of studies among pediatric dentists focusing on how to promote great oral hygiene among children with ADHD. They are fully qualified to help your children through the process and partner with parents. Make dental visits your first step.

Your child’s first dental visit should happen when they get their first tooth. Regular visits should be planned after that to keep them healthy and establish that the dentist isn’t a place to fear.

Children with ADHD have a lot of sensory obstacles to overcome as well. A lot of dentists are well aware of how important it is to partner with children with additional needs, so their offices offer look and play appointments. In these appointments, your child won’t have any dental work done, but they will be able to familiarize themselves with the dental staff and the office.

If your child likes to constantly ask, “What’s that? What’s it do?” and look and touch, these special appointments will help them get all of that out of their system before their actual dental appointment. This helps them get used to some of the sensory overload they may experience ahead of time so they will be calmer in the appointment.

Watch Their Diet

A lot of times, what you cook and serve to your children can have a huge impact on their diets. It can be very tempting to just give children whatever they want to make them calm, but this can be very detrimental to their oral hygiene and lead to a diet full of sugars and snack foods that will cause tons of cavities.

Get children used to healthy foods from an early age. If they hate a specific vegetable, that’s fine. Serve a different one. If they don't want to eat any vegetables, put your foot down and don't allow desserts until they eat healthier foods.

Good Foods

Some foods are good for oral health. Apples are a great treat that kids usually love, and they are really good for your teeth, too!  Yogurt and milk also help promote strong teeth thanks to all the calcium, phosphates, and vitamin D that strengthens teeth.

Nuts and seeds are also great. These snacks will replenish your kid’s energy with protein but they also replenish the minerals that tooth enamel needs and counteract acids. Eggs also provide vitamins and minerals essential for good oral health.

Bad Foods

Avoid sugary drinks. Not only are these triggers for ADHD behavioral tendencies, but they also wreak havoc on healthy teeth. These drinks are filled with acid and sugar that causes tooth and gum decay and damage.

Citrus fruits are also not the best snack. Although we tend to think of fruits as healthy, citrus fruits have a very high acid content. These will begin to erode the enamel in your child’s teeth earlier than necessary. Try to get them to eat less acidic fruits, like apples and grapes.

Candy is already out the window. If you are compassionate, you will let them have treats every once in a while. When you do reward them with candy, avoid the chewy ones. Gummies, gumdrops, taffy, and caramel will stick to their teeth and make it very difficult to brush away – especially for children who have ADHD and who don’t have the attention span required to brush it off thoroughly and immediately.

Believe it or not, chips and pasta also make the naughty list! Starches found in bread and chips break down into simple sugars in your body. Sugar is the biggest enemy of healthy teeth. It leads to gum decay.

Develop a Good Routine

Children with ADHD are at a higher risk for dental issues unless they develop a good oral care routine, so it’s up to parents to help establish this from a young age.

Make sure they include dental care in their daily routine. You can use timers to help them count down, and if they start getting impatient, turn it into a fun activity. Maybe you can find a 2-minute dance song and throw a party for them while they brush their teeth to keep them entertained.

A lot of parents like to develop incentive systems to reward good behavior. This is fine, as long as your system doesn’t involve those bad candies I mentioned earlier. Try rewarding them with stickers, toys, and extra playtime instead. Encouraging them to work over a long period of time will establish a good routine, and when the reward at the end is a day at a fun park or activity, like bumper cars or mini-golf, it avoids sugars and incentivizes active play.