Keep Your Child with ADHD Smiling

Roughly 10% of American children have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder—ADHD. Much more common in boys than in girls, ADHD is usually characterized by impulsive behavior, a short attention span, and difficulty listening to directions and completing tasks. Fortunately, we have experience working with children of all types and can help ensure a healthy smile for your child with ADHD.

For successful dental visits, we recommend making dental appointments for children with ADHD at the time of day when they are more relaxed and attentive. When you make the appointment, tell us anything we should know that will help make the visit more successful. If your child has previously visited another dentist, tell us about what happened at those appointments.

Be sure to let us know about any medications your child may be taking. Some medications can cause dry mouth, which can, in turn, lead to a greater risk of cavities, because saliva is important in washing away food particles and bacteria. We can discuss strategies to promote saliva flow, such as chewing sugar-free gum.

As dental professionals, one of our primary concerns for children with ADHD is that they are less likely to follow through with a daily brushing and flossing routine between dental visits. Thus, it is important that parents be vigilant about oral hygiene. Be sure your child brushes for a full two minutes in the morning and in the evening, and that he or she flosses the spaces between teeth once a day. Avoid giving your ADHD child sugary snacks as much as possible, replacing them with snacks known to lessen the risk of cavities, such as cheese and nuts.

Look at your child’s mouth often. Lift your child’s lips away so that you have a good view of the gums. If you notice any changes, call us for an appointment.

Finally, be sure to make regular appointments at our office for cleanings and checkups. Children with ADHD are prone to grind their teeth or chew on objects, which can lead to jaw or tooth alignment problems and dental injuries. When your child visits our office twice a year, we can monitor his or her oral health and treat any problems before they become more serious.

If it has been longer than six months since your child has paid us a visit, please call for an appointment. Remember that we have experience treating children with ADHD. With your help, we will make your child’s dental visit as successful as possible.

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Skip the Sippy Cup—Strive for the Straw

The two most important rules of sippy cup use involve how long to use it and what to put in it. The following recommendations may surprise you.

Many parents assume there’s no harm in letting a child use a sippy cup indefinitely—until it looks rather silly, at age 5 or so. Yes, sippy cups do reduce spills, but that benefits only kitchen floors and rugs. In fact, children should use a sippy cup for only about one month, between the ages of 6 and 12 months, to transition from bottle and/or breast to a regular cup.

Just as important, the sippy cup should contain only water, except perhaps at mealtimes. Sippy cups allow liquid to pool in the mouth. If that liquid is sugar-filled juice, milk or formula, the tooth decay process can begin—even in children with few or no teeth. The increasing rate of cavities in children ages 2 to 5 can be attributed partly to over-reliance on sippy cups filled with sugary beverages.

Do your toddler’s oral development a huge favor. Get him or her used to drinking from a cup or using a straw as soon possible. Instill a love of plain water as the beverage of choice in that cup. We’ll be happy to discuss more strategies for transitioning from bottle to cup with you—just ask at your child’s next checkup.

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Time for a Toothbrush Change

Perhaps your bathroom is furnished with heirloom décor—an antique soap dish, your grandfather’s straight razor, your childhood rubber duckie. Your family’s toothbrushes, though, should be exactly the opposite—bathroom items you dispose of and replace regularly. How regularly? Every week? Way too often. Every year? Not often enough.

The generally recognized guideline, endorsed by the American Dental Association (ADA), is to change your family’s toothbrushes every three to four months, or earlier if the bristles show signs of wear (meaning they’ll be less effective at scraping away debris). Children’s brushes may wear out more quickly, especially when used to brush vigorously.

Here are some additional guidelines for your children’s general toothbrush hygiene:

  • Toothbrush size: Choose a small, child-sized, soft-bristled toothbrush. Soaking the brush in warm water for a few minutes before brushing can soften the bristles even more.
  • Illness: It’s never a bad idea to replace everyone’s toothbrush after a family member has had a cold or other malady, such as the flu or a stomach virus.
  • Sharing: Don’t ever permit your children to share toothbrushes. This is even more important if someone in the family has an infectious disease or a compromised immune system.
  • Rinsing: Have your children rinse their toothbrushes thoroughly with warm tap water after each use to get rid of debris and toothpaste. Don’t microwave toothbrushes or put them through the dishwasher.
  • Storing: Store the toothbrush with the bristles up to promote air-drying. Don’t let the heads of various brushes touch one another.
  • Mouthwash: Mouthwash is not recommended for use by children incapable of spitting and rinsing—skills that occur around the age of 6. In older children, a fluoride mouth rinse can supplement brushing and flossing to help prevent tooth decay and cavities. Rinsing with water after a meal will also help remove some larger particles of food left on or between the teeth.

Although the ADA suggests replacing your children’s toothbrushes every three to four months, you may feel more comfortable changing them more often—perhaps every month or two. Whatever makes dental hygiene more pleasant for you and your children is beneficial to overall oral health in the long run. If you ever find yourself in a pinch and need new toothbrushes for your children while you’re here for a visit, just ask. We have some extras we’ll be happy to give you.

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Laughing Through Dental Treatment

Nitrous oxide—better known as laughing gas—has been instrumental in controlling dental pain and anxiety for more than a century. The relaxing effects of nitrous oxide are felt within minutes, with the patient remaining awake and able to interact with the dentist. But is it safe for children? Absolutely.

Nitrous oxide is considered 100% safe for children. Mixed with additional oxygen, nitrous oxide is delivered through a mask placed over the nose. Once we apply the mask, we will ask your child to breathe normally. Within minutes, your child will begin to feel less nervous and more relaxed.

Some children say that nitrous oxide makes them feel giddy, hence the term “laughing gas.” Some say their arms and legs feel tingly, while others say they feel like they’re dreaming or on a “space ride.” Time often appears to pass more quickly for them, so the appointment may feel shorter. And nitrous oxide helps suppress the gag reflex, making it easier for us to perform a checkup, a cleaning and other dental treatments.

While nitrous oxide is being administered, your child will be able to respond to questions or requests. When the dental work is finished, we will turn off the nitrous oxide and deliver pure oxygen to flush out any remaining nitrous oxide. Your child will feel normal within minutes.

Nitrous oxide is especially effective and helpful for nervous children, children who require a long appointment and children whose gag reflexes sometimes interfere with dental treatment. However, in a small number of children, we may decide that nitrous oxide is not appropriate or effective—especially if your child has a cold or nasal congestion.

If you have questions or concerns about nitrous oxide, please call us or let us know at your child’s next appointment. We’ll be happy to review nitrous oxide and its effects with you so that together we can decide whether it is appropriate for your child.

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Food Foes of Your Child’s Teeth

Feeding your child a healthy diet can help prevent tooth decay while teaching which foods are friends and which are foes of oral health. Candy, cookies and other sweets so beloved by children contain large amounts of sugar, the archenemy of healthy teeth.

When your child consumes sugar, the bacteria that live in the mouth are drawn to the sweet stuff and convert it into acids that can dissolve enamel from teeth, making the teeth vulnerable to cavities. Sticky treats, such as taffy or jelly beans, can be especially harmful. They linger on teeth and get stuck in tooth crevices, coating the teeth with sugar for long periods of time.

Be wary of crackers, potato chips and other high-carbohydrate foods as well, because the body converts carbohydrates into sugar. Sugars also sneak into the diet through sodas, juices and sports drinks. Drink these beverages through a straw to minimize the time they spend on the teeth. Even better, offer plain water as a refreshment or to accompany meals.

Of course, banning all treats is unrealistic, but you can help your child make healthier choices:

  • Sugar-free hard candy or chewing gum can increase the production of saliva, which neutralizes acid in the mouth and helps protect against decay. Choose candy or gum made with xylitol, a sweetener that may help prevent tooth decay.
  • Mount a strong defense by feeding your child a balanced diet that includes plenty of broccoli, yogurt and other calcium-rich foods. Calcium helps strengthen tooth enamel and protects against decay. Offer fresh fruits low in sugar for desserts or snacks.
  • Limit your child’s diet to three solid meals and no more than two healthy snacks a day. Frequent snacking exposes teeth to sugars and other decay-causing particles for longer periods of time.
  • Be sure your children brush their teeth at least twice a day and floss regularly. Have them rinse their mouths with plain water to quickly remove lingering sugars after a meal or snack when brushing is not possible.

These dietary tips, along with regular dental visits, can conquer the food foes that threaten your child’s oral health.

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How Often Should You Visit Us?

Along with twice-daily brushing and once-daily flossing, regular dental visits are important to a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. But how often should your child come in to our office for a cleaning and a checkup? Your child should visit us at least once every six months, or more often depending on your child’s oral health.

Regular dental visits are important for young people, because childhood is the time when teeth and good habits develop. The following are important reasons to bring your child in for regular checkups:

  • Prevent tooth decay: Even with regular brushing and flossing, plaque and tartar can build up on teeth. By examining your child’s teeth and gums on a regular basis, we are able to see and remove the earliest signs of tooth decay. We may apply sealants to your child’s teeth, or administer fluoride treatments to prevent decay. And even though your child’s primary teeth will eventually fall out, they need to be kept healthy so they can properly guide the permanent teeth into place.
  • Ensure proper tooth development: It is crucial to monitor how your child’s teeth are coming into place. With a good understanding of the development of your child’s teeth, we can often anticipate problems before they arise. If teeth are crooked or misaligned, we may recommend an orthodontic evaluation.
  • Education and development of good habits: These visits help your child feel comfortable visiting our office. Through regular visits, he or she is less likely to fear dental treatments as an adult. Regular visits also give us an opportunity to educate you and your child about oral health and the importance of regular dental hygiene.

We generally recommend that these visits begin when your child’s first tooth emerges but no later than your child’s first birthday. Beginning a regular regimen from the first year of life will help build healthy habits so that your child will grow into adulthood with healthy teeth and gums—and a beautiful smile.

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