Have ever you gone to the dentist after putting it off, had a mouthful of cavities and need more crowns than the royal family?
Do you swear to improve your oral hygiene routine by brushing better and more frequently, becoming a master flosser, buying new mouthwash (or paying for the medicated stuff from the dentist)… and then promptly forget to brush your teeth that night? No? Just me? While I’m sure the rest of you would never have this experience… some of us are in the middle of dental hell.
One of my favorite sayings is, “anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.” This is particularly applicable when it comes to taking care of my oral hygiene. it’s easy for ADHD brains in particular seem to get caught up in perfectionism or “norms.” Like thinking you need to brush your teeth both morning and night and floss and rinse with mouthwash in order for it to “count.”
Taking care of yourself is a good thing, no matter when or how it happens. Some teeth brushing is better than no teeth brushing. The best time to brush your teeth is when you remember!
Overall Tip? Carry supplies where you need to so you can do the things when you remember to do the things! When I used to work in an office I would bring deodorant, tooth brush and toothpaste, makeup and a hairbrush to work in my workbag. Then no matter where I was or what I was doing, I could run to the bathroom and resolve and issue if I had forgotten to brush my teeth or put on deodorant (my top two things I habitually forget).
Now that I work from home that’s largely resolved because I almost always have access to whatever I need. But I STILL carry a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant and make up in my bag. Because Inevitably I’ll forget one of those things as I’m headed to the doctor on on a date or to the grocery store!
Here are a few other life hacks for ADHD brains and taking care of our oral health:
- Brush when you remember. Brushing my teeth twice a day is a hard one for me and I know I’m not alone here. I often forget to brush in the morning and when I remember it’s a weird time in the middle of the day. As hard as brushing my teeth is to remember, flossing is even worse! But there is no bad time to brush. Whenever you remember to do it is better than waiting for the “right” time. There are people who set timers as a reminder but I’ve just ignored those. I’m more likely to brush after lunch than any other time of day.
- Commit to the minimum. It’s the Atomic Habits style of habit creation. Don’t commit to brushing your teeth perfectly every day followed by flossing, because then when you fail once it’s easy to just give up. Instead commit to getting your toothbrush wet every day at least once. Your brain is rewarded with dopamine for completing the small task and is more likely to continue by putting toothpaste on and brushing.
- Get an electric toothbrush (with a built in timer). You’re supposed to brush your teeth for two to three minutes at a time. That amount of time feels like forever. I got an Oral-B toothbrush that “stutters” every 30 seconds so I know it’s time to move to the next quadrant of my mouth. I didn’t realize how long two minutes was until I started doing this! Pro-tip: Put your toothbrush refills on subscribe so they just show up when you need a new one!
- Toothpaste flavor and texture matters. If you don’t like the flavor or texture of your toothpaste then you’ll be less likely to brush! Find a flavor you enjoy so you’re less resistant to using it! I personally love the minty flavor of toothpaste, but some mints are too strong for me. I’ve heard some people love cinnamon or bubble gum flavor and even buy children’s toothpaste because it’s more mild.
- Put on entertainment! Bring your phone with you in the bathroom and watch TikTok or YouTube videos, or a show you enjoy while you brush! This takes some of the boredom out of brushing which is (at least for me) 99% of the battle.
- Brush better for happy gums. The older I get the more my gums hate me. A dental hygienist told me once that the most important place to brush was along the gum line. It was revolutionary to me at the time. Brush so you’re at an angle to your gums and brushing them along with the bottoms of your teeth and you’ll have much happier gums.
- Flossing. Flossing is where I feel eternal guilt. I know it’s the thing that helps more than anything else, but there is something about the traditional flossing methods that are just too much for me. I switched from regular floss to flossing tools a couple of years ago and that has made a huge difference. I keep a stash of them everywhere. In the car, my desk, my purse, my nightstand… I love the twin-line ones from Plackers, but there are a million brands and options to choose from.
- Mouth wash. I am an occasional mouthwash user. But sometimes, when the thought of brushing is too much, a swish with mouthwash is better than nothing! If you get a fluoridated mouthwash that you enjoy the flavor of, this is even more incentive!
- Brush your teeth in the shower. I don’t personally do this, but for a lot of people with ADHD this is a key to getting their teeth brushed daily when they’re teeth brushing resistant but are great at daily showers.
- Waterpic in the shower! This tip was recommended by Nicole in The ADHD Life Facebook Group. Her sister (a dentist) recommended this shower set up to remove plaque at the gumline. As a bonus? According to one reviewer (who sounds like he should perhaps join our group) the key is location and ease of use.
- Brush with a friend. Not joking. I was better at brushing my teeth when I’ve shared a bathroom with other people. ADHD makes us bad at routines, but if your loved one is asked to invite you to brush teeth with them so you get it done, you’re more likely to do it! The buddy system also works for making and keeping appointments!
- Dental appointments. This is currently the bane of my existence. I’ve moved, changed insurance a handful of times and then there was that whole pandemic… all of this resulted in putting off regular cleanings and the resulting exams and follow up cavity fillings etc.Recently I had a crown come loose and then the underlying tooth broke because of this delay in regularly scheduled cleanings. (sad face). It was much easier for me to make and keep these appointments when they just showed up on my calendar because they were scheduled six months ago.Now I’m paying the ADHD tax for dental work. If you’ve had appointments canceled or delayed because of the pandemic I”m going to take this moment to encourage you to make an appointment today for the good of your future self. If you need to have someone else make that appointment for you then do it!Which brings us to our final hack (for today)…
- Do it for future you! Remember that oral health is part of your overall health and gum disease can lead to heart disease. Caring for your mouth means you’re caring for your heart! You may have a hard time taking care of yourself in this moment, but think about what it means for future you!
How do you handle oral hygiene with ADHD? Tips? Tricks? Recommendations? Join the conversation on Facebook and share your ADHD life hacks and connect with other adults who are trying to hack their ADHD!