ADHD And The Dentist: Helping Your Child Have A Successful Procedure

Posted on: 20 February 2015

Going to the dentist can be hard for any kid, but if your child has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), it can be even more challenging. In order to make the trip to the family dentist go more smoothly, you can employ some strategies to help your child cope.

The Challenges

A dentist office is full of distractions. Kids with ADHD have trouble sitting still for long periods of time, and may become anxious or excited by loud sounds or bright lights. For long procedures, like fillings or routine cleanings, your child will need some assistance to hold still for the dentist and stay focused on remaining in his chair until everything is finished. Impulsive behavior and inattentiveness can be dangerous when the dentist is working in the mouth.

The Solutions

You should not be discouraged from taking your child to the dentist, even if they struggle with ADHD. Dental care is important for everyone, and caring for young teeth leads to better dental hygiene habits in the future. These tips will keep your child still and safe in the dentist office.

1. Meeting with the dentist beforehand.

Speak with your dentist about the specific challenges that your child faces. ADHD manifests with different symptoms in different individuals, so explain to your dentist which things are especially challenging for your child. If your child will be distracted by tools, like drills, your dentist may need to spend time explaining the procedure and the tools to your child beforehand, so that they are less of a distraction later.

Your dentist can also make some minor changes in how he approaches your child as his patient. He may avoid using trigger words like "needle" or "pain", which could be distracting. He might suggest the use of sedation dentistry if the procedure will be long and your child will have difficulty staying still or controlling impulsive behavior.

2. Choosing a dentist office that has a fish tank.

This may seem like a trivial addition, but fish tanks actually have a calming influence on their environment. Studies show that an aquarium of fish have can be calming for children who have behavioral disorders, including ADHD. Also, if you notice that your child is more hyperactive when exposed to certain colors of types of lighting, always choose office environments that have calming colors and decor. 

3. Looking for good distractions.

Many dentists have things like music, television, books, and other media in the office to help distract patients from the procedure being performed. When deciding on a dentist, you'll find that your child will be more successful with dentists who have:

  • plenty of toys in the waiting area, including books. These will keep your child occupied for as long as possible until the procedure is due to begin. If possible, allow your child to keep playing with toys, even after receiving numbing needles. Only keep him in the chair when absolutely necessary. 
  • movie screens on the ceiling. The movie will play during the dental work, helping your child to stay focused on the screen, and distracting him from the sights and sounds of the drill and the hands in his mouth. If possible, have your child pick a new movie as a special treat. If he has not seen it before, he will be less likely to be distracted from it.
  • calming music. Music therapy is effective for helping to produce calm, grounded feelings in individuals with ADHD. If you train your child with certain styles and songs in the weeks prior to the visit, playing those same songs in the dentist's office will help to increase attention span and give your child the ability to sit still longer. 

Click here for more information, or talk to your family dentist.