Hearing your child grinds their teeth at night is probably very nerve racking. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents to monitor snoring and sleeping habits in their children as many may have sleep disordered breathing (SDB) or obstructive sleep apnea that may not be diagnosed. Children with these conditions may also grind their teeth when they are sleeping. Recent studies have suggested that children who have fragmented sleep grinds their teeth because they can’t breath properly and grinding opens up their airway to breath again. Studies have also found that children who persistently snore or grind their teeth during sleep may have more cognitive and behavioral problems including; hyperactivity, inattention and depression because they don’t really have a good night sleep and they are not well rested. Some of these children may be misdiagnosed as having attention deficit disorder and being put on unnecessary medications. Interestingly, some children’s apnea and teeth grinding subsides after their tonsils or adenoids have been removed and their quality of sleep improves. It seems that breathing smoother when sleeping at night is related to less teeth grinding and hence, better concentration during the day.
There are other risk factors for sleep bruxism other than sleep apnea. Children who are more stressed, anxious or task oriented as a result of their personality (eg. type A personality) are more at risk of having sleep bruxism. Children of parents who are teeth grinders are more likely to be affected. If your child has jaw pain, headache (especially in the morning), abnormal tooth wear or grinding sounds during their sleep, your child may have sleep bruxism. There are ways to manage sleep bruxism, for examples, relaxation techniques, cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback or oral appliances.
At our office, we routinely assess children for sleep disordered breathing and sleep bruxism during our regular dental examination. We are happy to discuss the situation and recommend treatment or referral to other health professional such as an ENT specialist or an oral medicine specialist who have the expertise to deal with these problems. Ultimately, we want to ensure your child oral health contributes to better sleep habits. Good night, Sleep tight and don’t let the tooth grinder bites!
References: Journal of Pediatrics, 2012; European Journal of Oral Sciences 2011
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