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Do children with ADHD have worse dental health?

Around 10% of all children sometimes have problems cooperating during trips to the dentist. The reason is often unclear, but both a fear of dentists and a disability such as ADHD or autism could play a role. Here we talk to My Blomqvist, who wrote a doctoral thesis on ADHD and dental health.

Why is there a need for research into ADHD and dental health?

"Many dentists find it hard to deal with children who don't cooperate or who behave strangely, and there's a need for greater understanding that the cause can be a disability such as ADHD. Children with ADHD are also a risk group for developing caries."

One of your studies filmed 11-year-olds on a trip to the dentist. What were your findings?

"That children with ADHD found it harder to concentrate. They asked more questions about things that had nothing to do with the check-up, and were less likely to answer the dentist's questions."

Have you got any advice for dentists?

"Children with ADHD generally function best in a calm environment. Dentists need to help children to stay focused on the treatment. Explain in a clear and simple way what will happen and offer encouragement instead of asking too many questions. Praise for appropriate behaviour will help children during treatment."

Do children with ADHD have worse dental health?

"Yes, we noted that 11-year-olds with ADHD had worse oral health with a higher prevalence of caries than the control group. The 13-year-olds had also got into unhealthy habits with more snacking and worse brushing."

What are you researching now?

"I'm studying dental health in young adults with ADHD. The preliminary results show that a fear of dentists is more common in this group. They've had more bad experiences in the dentist's chair and feel, for example, that they've been given treatments they weren't prepared for."