3 Ways Your Child's ADHD Can Affect Their Dental Health

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When your child is diagnosed with ADHD, their doctor should discuss with you how that diagnosis will affect their physical health. You will need to learn about different medications and their side effects. You may need to consider making dietary changes. ADHD and ADHD treatment can affect your child's weight, growth, and development. It's a lot to think about, and what sometimes gets lost in the shuffle is the way that ADHD can affect your child's dental health. Though this is sometimes overlooked, it's important to understand the challenges you'll be facing when it comes to your child's dental care, because dental health is so important to overall physical health. Take a look at a few of the things that you'll need to be on the lookout for when it comes to keeping your newly diagnosed child's teeth healthy.


Children with ADHD have a greater likelihood of a number of different sleep disorders, one of which is nighttime tooth grinding – a condition known as bruxism. This condition can be triggered by the anxiety that ADHD patients often experience. Bruxism can have serious negative effects on your child's teeth and jaw. Nighttime tooth grinding wears down the back teeth, causing them to decay faster. Bruxism can even cause cracks and breaks in your child's teeth. Additionally, they may wake up with a sore mouth, jaw, or neck because of the nighttime grinding.

If your child is complaining of a sore jaw or pain in their back teeth, these are good signs that they may be grinding their teeth at night. Your dentist can help your child by prescribing a nighttime mouth guard. This is an oral appliance that prevents your child from grinding their teeth at night. The sooner you help your child find a way to cope with the grinding, the less likely they are to suffer serious damage to their teeth.

Dry Mouth

Another condition frequently associated with ADHD is xerostomia, otherwise known as dry mouth. This condition is caused not by the ADHD itself, but can often be caused by the medications that are used to treat ADHD. The symptoms of ADHD are often best controlled by drugs that contain stimulants, which are known to inhibit the production of saliva.

Dry mouth may not sound like a serious problem, but it can easily become one. Saliva has a protective effect on your child's teeth. It washes plaque and food particles off of the surfaces of the teeth, which helps to prevent decay. A lack of adequate saliva can also lead to bad breath, which can have negative social consequences for children.

There are several ways to treat dry mouth. Increasing your child's water intake can help, and chewing sugarfree gum can also stimulate saliva production. Look for gum that contains xylitol, a sugar substitute that has cavity-preventing effects. Avoid mouthwashes containing alcohol, as they can dry the mouth further. There are mouthwashes on the market specially formulated to treat dry mouth that can help.

Dental Appointment Difficulty

All children can have anxiety or fear over dental appointments or behavior issues in the dentist's office, but children with ADHD can pose particular challenges for dentists, and appointments can be frustrating for the parent, the dental office staff, and the child. Unfortunately, frustrating appointments in childhood can have long-term effects on a child's impression of the dentist, and can make your child reluctant to seek dental care later in life. Taking steps to ensure a positive experience at a pediatric dentist can set the stage for good oral health care habits in the future.

Your best bet is to choose a pediatric dentist who has experience with all types of children, including those with ADHD. A dentist who is familiar with your child's condition will be more likely to know how to help your child through a procedure or a cleaning, perhaps by providing step by step instructions, taking periodic breaks so that your child can move around, and providing positive reinforcement for cooperative behavior. You should also discuss your child's medication schedule with your dentist so that your appointments can be scheduled for a time of day when your child is at their best.

As important as it is to discuss your child's diagnosis with their primary care doctor and any specialists, it's just as important to discuss it with your child's dentist. The more information your dentist has, the better care he or she can provide for your child.