Teeth grinding in children

Teeth grinding in children

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is repetitive jaw-muscle activity that most often occurs at night during sleep but can happen during the day as well.

Do you have a teeth grinder in the house?

Teeth grinders will unconsciously clench their teeth together, grind them back and forth and/or brace or thrust their lower jaw. Grinding of the teeth can lead these children to suffer from facial tightness, headaches, neck pain, discomfort while chewing and sleep challenges.

Teeth grinding during the day may be seen as other habits such as nail biting, pencil chewing, jaw bracing and tongue or cheek biting.

If you have missed these signs of teeth grinding, it might only come to your attention that your child grinds their teeth during a visit to the dentist with reports back on noticeable wearing down of the teeth. You may want to double check for malocclusion here. But what causes teeth grinding?

Why do kids grind their teeth?

Studies on teeth grinding in children are limited and from a Western medical perspective, the reason why it occurs is complex and not very clear. It is currently considered a sleep-related movement disorder associated with a number of different factors and health conditions.

This is where we like to focus our attention on when supporting a child to stop grinding their teeth. It is important to look at each child as a whole and taking into account all the things that are going on for them.

  • What is their sleep like?
  • How is their gut going?
  • What is the diet like?
  • Are they an anxious child?
  • Are they a stressed-out or burnt-out little kid?

Sleep quality and quantity and teeth grinding

Sleep hygiene is an important consideration given the understanding that kids with a reduced number of hours sleep are at greater risk of teeth grinding.

We need to get to the bottom of why your child is having a disturbed sleep.

  • Are their disturbing lights and sounds?
  • Is the room uncomfortable?
  • Do they snore or have sleep apnoea?
  • Does your child have allergies, parasomnias including night terrors and nightmares,
  • Restless legs?
  • Seizures such as mandibular myoclonus?
  • Rapid eye movement disorders?

Get started by reading our blog about how to improve sleep hygiene.

Gut health and teeth grinding

Addressing the gut is a non-questionable part of every support plan.

If our gut isn’t working right or we aren’t feeding ourselves properly, all the nutrients and building blocks our body needs to function properly aren’t going to be there.

When it comes to gut health, an interesting consideration in teeth grinders is intestinal parasites.

The biggest contributor seems to be worms but other parasites including Giardia has also been found.

They way intestinal parasites cause teeth grinding is explained by the release of certain metabolites by the parasite during different times of its life cycle that can have toxic effects.

Does your child have worms? Find out here.

Stress/ anxiety and teeth grinding

Psychological factors do tend to be the most commonly stated cause of teeth grinding.

And studies have found increased teeth grinding in children with heightened emotional states, anxiety or anxious tendencies, increased levels of stress whether due to things happening around them or a full daily schedule, and personality traits such as tendencies to perfectionism and neuroticism.

Supporting their little nervous systems from different angles is a vital piece of the picture.

You might need a counsellor on board.

You might need to look at the diet and see how your child can be supported nutritionally to help support them emotionally and behaviourally.

Magnesium is a key nutrient here and is often deficient in the standard Australian diet.

A fantastic boost of magnesium would be a smoothie with banana, spinach leaves, avocado, cacao powder, and chia seeds. Or a chocolate avocado pudding with pumpkin seeds and almonds. Yum!

I also love getting children into an Epsom Salt bath using magnesium sulphate flakes and a few drops of lavender essential oil.

Teeth grinding may be a protective mechanism

Interestingly, your child may be grinding their teeth unconsciously as the body is using it as a protective mechanism. It has been found that children with reflux have a higher risk of sleep bruxism.

Researchers are hypothesising that the teeth grinding is a way to stimulate an increase in saliva which then protects the throat from the harmful effects of the reflux.

So, if your child has reflux then getting to the bottom of that may resolve the teeth grinding! Our bodies are fascinating, aren’t they!

As you can see, teeth grinding can very well be stemming from a number of different factors. Supporting the child sitting in front of us can have tremendous benefits by addressing their own set of imbalances that may very well be translating as the symptom of teeth grinding.

Ready to put a plan into action? Book with one of our practitioners today.

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