Tooth Grinding Sends a Signal to Parents

Reported June 12, 2008
Tooth Grinding Sends a Signal to Parents

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- When a little tooth grinding becomes a nightly gnashing of teeth in young children it can cause more than dental problems.

According to a new study, 36.8 percent of pre-schoolers grind their teeth in their sleep one or more times a week. 6.7 percent grind four or more times a week. And as the frequency of nighttime grinding and clenching increased, parents were more likely to report their child is withdrawn, doesn’t get involved with others and is having trouble adjusting in pre-school.

Tooth grinding or clenching is called bruxism. It is a normal occurrence in which the jaw contracts during sleep. When the contractions are too strong it becomes grinding which can lead to dental damage by wearing down the teeth. Buxism can also be caused by stress and anxiety.

Salvatore P. Insana of West Virginia University is the first author of the study. “Although we can not assume that tooth grinding causes withdrawn behaviors or problems in school, the dynamic relation between tooth grinding and pre-school adjustment indicate that there may be clinical relevance to grinding beyond a symptom of bruxism.”

The rate of bruxism is reportedly highest in children. About 14 to 17 percent have it. And if they’re grinding in childhood, chances are they’ll be doing it as an adult.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) suggests parents try a few things to help their child sleep better including a consistent bedtime routine that should take 10 to 30 minutes. They also suggest parents use some of that time to interact with their child, don’t let the child fall asleep while being held, rocked, fed a bottle or while nursing and don’t allow food or drinks that have caffeine like chocolate of soda.

If parents suspect their child has a sleeping problem, AASM recommends a consultation with the pediatrician or a sleep specialist.


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