My son has ADHD, SPD and needs braces

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    • #51579

      I’m not sure when he’ll need them, but at some point soon he’ll need braces. Last year was hard for him. The anxiety, depression, etc. was bad. This year is better. He has a loyal friend and I think that’s turned things around for him. But last summer he had *so* much anger… I just don’t know how this summer will go. My concern is that the sensory processing disorder will be a major problem when he gets the braces and that things will go bad again. He’s so sensitive to any kind of pain or annoyance and it just makes everything else worse.

      Has anyone had experience with a teen with SPD and braces?

    • #51628

      Does he want braces? Does he need braces for other reasons than cosmetic? It will make a big difference. No experience as a teen, but I had braces as an adult to correct a severe and worsening bite problem (ironically, my teeth looked fine, but they only touched on the very back molars), and yes, I have ADHD and SPD, (and no, SPD doesn’t go away as an adult). The process was very painful, and every brace adjustment required several visits because as the teeth shift you need to ensure they touch properly, and I was extremely sensitive to even the smallest imperfection. Having food stuck on the braces bugged me a lot (I refused to eat rice for years after that). To fix that, I had to brush after every food I put in my mouth, and I have a severe gag reflex with brushing — and I also despise the taste of practically every toothpaste. Then there was the flossing through the braces. Let’s just say it was more pleasant not to eat, and in the pictures of that time I looked like I will break in half if you breathe on me. Did the braces help? Oh yes! But I had strong motivation to put up with all that.

      And after it’s all over, you need a retainer and you need to wear it if you don’t want it all to go to waste. (And while I had braces, my coworkers which had braces as teens showed me the teeth that went back into position because they refused to wear their retainer). And that’s where the ADHD kicks in. You need to remember where you put it. You need to remember to wear it every night. You need to remember to take it to travel. I threw it in the garbage twice by accident and had to dig for it. You need to wash it every day or it will really stink. You need to get these tablets to dissolve scale, and use them occasionally.

      So yes, it is an unpleasant process :p But as with everything ADHD, motivation can go a really long way. If the motivation is not there, I don’t know that I recommend it. I can see the parent point of view on this one, being a parent myself (and knowing how unbelievably expensive and inconvenient the process is as an adult!). But as an ADHD and SPD person, this was very, very hard.

    • #51650
      Penny Williams

      I know a lot of families of kids with SPD, ADHD or autism wait until their kids are older than normal to get braces, and only if they really have to have them. I thank my lucky stars that my son doesn’t need braces (unlike his sister, who’s teeth were a crazy mess). I don’t know that he would tolerate them, and I know he certainly would have constantly picked them apart.

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

      • #51764

        I agree with some of the other comments. It really depends on why he needs braces. Are his teeth super crooked where getting them clean because of overlapping could be and issue? Or is just for a perfectly straight smile, which might not be worth it? My son (9 ys old) may need braces, he has SPD and can barely tolerate going to the dentist for cleaning. For cavities he needs nitrous oxide (laughing gas). His dentist told me to get an orthodontist consult a little over a year ago. His mouth is small and the dentist was worried his teeth wouldn’t come in properly. My daughter just got her braces off, she needed two expanders, and then braces. So I was so worried my son would need an expander which would be torture for him (and for me as I would be the one tightening it everyday). I found a really good orthodontist. I explained his anxiety. I explained he can barely tolerate a cleaning at the dentist, etc. The office person was so nice. The orthodontist is so nice and understanding. Usually orthodontists have all the exam chairs in one room. He has that but has one room off to the side for patients that are anxious. He is still only going for consultations, we are on our 3rd or 4th one. He’s just checking on how everything comes in and waiting. Since he knows and understands my son’s issues, his attitude is to not use an aggressive treatment.
        So, call around for a consultation, they are free. Visit more than one orthodontist. They all have different philosophies and how to treat, some are more aggressive than others.
        I would say, as this is my plan for my son too, wait. Because like the other post says. Teeth shift even during and after the treatment. My daughter needed an expander twice because after the first time, we were waiting for one baby tooth to come out and her pallet moved back so she needed the expander again. She had braces on for about 18 months, and is now in a retainer-“nighttime for lifetime” is what they say. If she goes one night without her retainer it is tight the next night. That is how quickly her teeth shift. Now, she needed braces. She sucked her finger and her teeth were horribly crooked. For my son, his are coming in a little bit crooked. He never sucked his thumb/finger/pacifier. So I am hoping it will be up to us if we go with braces. I think for him it will be purely cosmetic, and honestly not worth the pain-literally. And for the retainer, it’s hard to say how compliant a child will be. I never thought my daughter would use it but she likes it after having braces in her mouth for so long. Now, I don’s see my son wearing the retainer (but you never know), and if you don’t wear the retainer your teeth will move. If your teeth move enough then all that time and money for braces was a waste.
        I had braces as a kid too. And while the process is better than it was way back then, I can tell you it hurts. It hurt back then and it hurts now. And you go every 6 weeks to get them “tightened” It hurts.
        Another thing to consider is waiting until he is a little older and getting Invisalign or a similar product.
        The key if you choose to get braces, is finding a really good, understanding orthodontist. And convenient since you will go often.

    • #51763

      Braces and ADHD, SPD…. my son struggled at first. He wouldn’t let them take his photo with the flash at the Orthodontist. He took the braces off when we had storms. He was the Houdini of Braces- quite skilled. We worked with him to replace the braces with fidget cubes and a relaxation taped called “I Can Relax” from the Child Anxiety Network. You can also get it through iTunes…it’s good to help adults relax too. We used a calendar and every day that he kept the braces on then we gave him a sticker. If we had to go outside of his regular appointment time to fix braces he took out then I didn’t stop and get him a smoothie after the appointment. We took electronics from him when he pulled braces off until his fix it appointment. It took about 4 months and now he doesn’t take them off. Also if he pulled them off then we changed the color to silver and told him if he kept them on he could pick a color at his next appointment. We did all of this calmly. The office has been great about it. They just fix it and give him little attention about it if he pulls them out. When he keeps them on we all make a big deal about it and congratulate him. We had to try several things and not sure which one worked the best but worth trying whatever can help them to have awareness about keeping them on. We have a Water Pik that helps to clean out his braces too. His smile is getting so much better and worth all of the struggle. He also can look back and know that he conquered wearing braces. Tylenol is good for the first three days but our son feels little pain and when we offered it he would say no that he didn’t need it. I know Tylenol helped other kids in my family for the first three days. It is worth doing – it reminded me a little of potty training- we didn’t get there overnight but eventually it’s all OK.

    • #52310

      My son also has both ADD and SPD and had to have braces as a teen. Im writing so you can hear a great experience in addition to people’s difficulties. BOTH my son and I were surprised that the braces didn’t bother him anywhere near as much as we expected. He refused for most of the time his braces were on to smile without his keeping his lips closed, but thankfully, he didn’t suffer that much from the physical feeling of the braces. I know when I was a child I suffered much much more from the wires and brackets scraping on the inside of my lips. He did have pain after the visits where they would tighten the wires and knowing how he would feel I encouraged use of Tylenol for a day or two. My son almost always refuses to take any medication or vitamin and true to course would refuse the painkiller (I very rarely encourage it as I think its best without anyway) but after several hours or certainly by the time he’d been in bed for awhile and unable to sleep he’d return and say he “guesses” its hurting more than he thought and he does need a Tylenol. Even the retainer didn’t bother him that much. When I was a child it was sheer torture for me and to this day I have an occasional nightmare about it and remember how much the retainer hurt me!
      Im sure you do, but discuss your son’s issues with his dentist / orthodontist. They’ve made strides in orthodontics that are more comfortable and their are more choices these days. Plus orthodontists who specialize in children are usually very good with them. My son enjoyed the tokens all the patients would receive at their visits which could be saved up to “pay” for prizes. He also very much enjoyed the coupon for a free ice cream that he was given on the day he got his braces. Be sure to get a lot of extra wax. One thing we found out, when he had to have some teeth pulled due to overcrowding before the braces were put on, he reacted badly to the nitrous gas – clenched fists, very angry and even punched me (absolutely not normal for him and undoubtedly the nitrous; btw I wasn’t hurt and he still remembers, years later, how much he hates nitrous). I think it was helpful that he’d seen a friend or two go through braces before him and right before he got his braces, a friend with braces came over and talked to him about it. They laughed and talked for a long time. That seemed to relieve a lot of stress. Maybe you can get an orthodontist recommendation from a child who lives in your area with similar needs? Best wishes.

    • #52311

      I was a teen with braces and undiagnosed SPD. A “prickly pear”. (I also needed glasses around the same time, so I was a real cutie!)
      I’d say wait as long as possible, in case of a growth spurt. This will give him time to learn tools to manage discomfort and frustrations.

      My family was/is pretty dysfunctional but I’ll share what I wished for/know now:
      Buy those fuzzy-tipped flossers and small toothbrushes. String floss won’t be a good option. Make oral care as easy and fun as possible.
      Make eating as tolerable as possible for the most painful times after adjustments, which I think lasted about 2 or 3 days…it was a long time ago! Unfortunately, mac-n-cheese and nut butters are orthodontic disasters. Soup. [Thinly-sliced candy bar (for a treat that can melt on the tongue- like a 3 musketeer).] Jello. Smoothies if using a straw doesn’t hurt. Peeled grapes. (I did that! Sometimes I still do- I have food quirks.) Peas. Yogurt. Little stick pretzels.

      Hugs. Or at least just being there. And a long-sleeved shirt for chilly offices.

    • #52318

      My son is an adult now with both ADD and SPD. Most of his friends had braces so he wanted them too. He got them when he was 12 for purely cosmetic reasons and did great. He always had some serious SPD issues but i gave him the choice of getting the braces or not and i acted very non-chalant about the whole think and everything went perfectly. If i had acted like something would go wrong he would have picked up on it and would not have reacted the same way. Try not to let you son see your concerns. Good luck to you and your son. Now that my son is an adult I realize how often I worried unnecessarily.

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