Little boy feeling thirsty

ADHD Meds and Dry Mouth

The average age of ADHD diagnosis is 7 years old. 11% of children under the age of 18 are diagnosed with ADHD, and the rate of diagnosis increases every year. In the last 5 years, the number of Americans treated for ADHD rose by 36%.  As diagnosis increases, the number of Americans taking ADHD medication also rises. In 2012, spending on ADHD medication rose by over 14%, and that number continued to rise through 2015. While these drugs do wonders for the attentiveness of the people taking them, they can also cause oral health to suffer.

ADHD Stimulants and Oral Health

“Stimulants continue to be the most popularly prescribed drug therapy for ADHD, while a smaller population of patients are treated with nonstimulant medications.” Stimulants such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse are extremely effective in managing hyperactivity, short attention spans, and impulsive behavior. Where these drugs fall short, however, appears in the common side effects. Headaches, upset stomachs, loss of appetite, and dry mouth are routine complaints from users of ADHD medications. Where your dentist becomes concerned is when your ADHD medication evokes a severely dry mouth.

For some people, the effects of ADHD medications are subtle and overlooked. For others, side effects of these drugs are almost worse than ADHD itself. One of the most unbearable effects is a dry mouth. Amphetamines cause dehydration which decreases saliva production in the mouth. A dry mouth can cause sores on the tongue, difficulty talking, a hoarse throat, and many other distressing symptoms. This is surely a nuisance on its own, but a dry mouth can eventually cause several oral complications.

ADHD - Printed Diagnosis with Blurred Text. On Background of Medicaments Composition - Mint Green Pills, Injections and Syringe.

A Dry Mouth Prompts Bad Breath & Gum Disease

The easiest sign of dry mouth is bad breath. Saliva’s main function is to wash bacteria, food particles, and dead cells out of your mouth. When you lack saliva, bacteria and dead cells multiply and wreak havoc on your mouth as they decompose.

Similarly, a lack of saliva can increase your risk of gum disease. Saliva washes away the “plaque that builds up around the gums and between the teeth– which causes gum disease. The lack of saliva allows plaque to build up more rapidly and puts the person at a higher risk of gum disease.”

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Combatting Dry Mouth

To protect yourself from a painfully dry mouth, bad breath, and gum disease you should take extra precautions while taking ADHD medications. To prevent dehydration caused by amphetamines, drink lots of water throughout the day. Replacing soda, coffee, and other sugary drinks with more water will drastically decrease the consequences of a a dry mouth. Additionally, “chewing sugar-free gum can help stimulate saliva without coating the teeth with excess sugars.” Lozenges will also stimulate saliva production and moisten your mouth. Though rinsing daily with mouthwash is recommended by dentists, the alcohol in mouthwash can contribute to, and irritate, a dry mouth. To prevent this from happening, use an alcohol-free mouthwash. You can also keep an eye out for mouthwashes produced specifically for sufferers of dry mouth. These mouthwashes and other dry mouth rinses can add moisture back into your mouth.

A dry mouth is no fun, and it can cause many oral repercussions if the problem persists long term. But for many people, these drugs are worth the unfriendly side-effects. If you have been struggling with an unbearably dry mouth, talk to your physician or dentist on ways you can dilute the problem. Make sure that you drink plenty of hydrating fluids, and always keep gum or lozenges with you. Though there is no way to stop the problem for good, these things can help you cope with the pain. Take precaution and fight against the effects of ADHD medications!