Children who are diagnosed with attention deficit disorder might also experience bruxism. This can also be intertwined with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Knowing there is a connecting, dentists and dental hygienists need to help patients learn how to change their habits for the long term through behavioral therapy.

What parents are saying

When visiting the dentist with their children, parents often state that their young child is making a loud noise at night. This noise is often described as “something that sounds like he or she is grinding their teeth.” They might even describe it as a loud noise that will wake them up when their child is sleeping. 

Severe damage to the child’s teeth can often result from this sleep bruxism if treatment is not sought. However, parents are often more concerned with if there child is experiencing a psychological component to their bruxism or unsure of what to do. 

Understanding sleep bruxism

If a child is experiencing sleep bruxism, mouth breathing may increase and cause upper airway resistance during sleep. This can occur after a tonsil and adenoid removal, which can often make the situation worse for children. 

The upper airway is a collapsible tube that increases during sleep. Orofacial dysfunction may be part of obstructive sleep apnea as well, which can add more complications. Bruxism often occurs during stage 11 sleep. It is non-rapid eye movement (REM) sleep that occurs before REM sleep. 

During REM sleep, muscles are relaxed to the point of paralysis. However, brain activity is similar to that experienced when awake. 

Behavioral therapy and dental management

Adding in a psychological approach might help reduce symptoms of sleep bruxism. Although, it is important to receive proper treatment in addition to behavioral therapy and stress and relaxation management.

For dental management, a dentist might recommend occlusal therapy, splints, night guards and adjustments. The use of occlusal splints can help to protect the teeth, but are rarely used or recommended for young children. Intraoral appliances can also be used to open airways in obstructive sleep apnea cases and for treating snoring in adults. However, they are not effective in young children. 

There is often a wait-and-see approach for children, but wear on permanent teeth is not acceptable. Bite plate retainers might be an option to prevent incisor wear while still allowing for normal dental development. And when other factors such as GERD are involved, alterations to a child’s diet can be effective in improving their health.

Contact Dr. Mayoor Patel of Craniofacial Pain & Dental Sleep Center of Georgia for more information on sleep bruxism and how to help your child.