The study focused on 1,956 pre-schoolers, whose low-income parents completed a questionnaire that included frequency of tooth grinding during sleep.
According to the results, 36.8 percent of pre-schoolers were reported to grind their teeth one or more times per week, and 6.7 percent reported this behavior four or more times per week. Further, as the frequency of children's tooth grinding during sleep increased, parents were more likely to endorse that their child is withdrawn, doesn't get involved with others, and that pre-school adjustment was worse.
"Although we can not assume that tooth grinding causes withdrawn behaviors or problems in school, the dynamic relation between tooth grinding and pre-school adjustment indicate that there may be clinical relevance to tooth grinding beyond being a symptom of bruxism," said Salvatore P. Insana, of West Virginia University, first author of the study. "Furthermore, parental report of tooth grinding may be a sensitive indicator of the presence of bruxism among young children."
Sleep-related bruxism involves the grinding or clenching of teeth during sleep. It is common for the jaw to contract while you sleep. When these contractions are too strong, they produce the sound of tooth grinding. This can cause dental damage by wearing the teeth down. In most severe cases, hundreds of events can occur during the night. In milder cases, the grinding may vary from night to night.
The rate of bruxism seems to be highest in children. About 14 to 17 percent of children have it. It can begin as soon as a child's upper and lower teeth have come through the gums. Around one third of children with bruxism will still have it when they are adults.
It can also be caused by stress and anxiety. This may be due to a life event or pressure at school or work.
It is recommended that children in pre-school get between 11-13 hours of nightly sleep.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) offers some tips to help your child sleep better:
- Follow a consistent bedtime routine. Set aside 10 to 30 minutes to get your child ready to go to sleep each night.
- Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime.
- Interact with your child at bedtime. Don't let the TV, computer or video games take your place.
- Keep your children from TV programs, movies, and video games that are not right for their age.
- Do not let your child fall asleep while being held, rocked, fed a bottle, or while nursing.
- At bedtime, do not allow your child to have foods or drinks that contain caffeine. This includes chocolate and sodas. Try not to give him or her any medicine that has a stimulant at bedtime. This includes cough medicines and decongestants.
Parents who suspect that their child might be suffering from a sleep disorder are encouraged to consult with their child's pediatrician or a sleep specialist.