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A new link has been found between adolescent teeth grinding and bullying

The Oral Health Foundation charity is asking parents to look out for signs that their children are grinding their teeth. New research, published in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation suggests it is a major sign of bullying.

The research found that of the 300 13-15 year old respondents, those affected by verbal bullying were 65% more likely to suffer from teeth grinding in their sleep (sleep bruxism) than those who were not.

Sleep bruxism can lead to major oral health problems over time, including sensitive and worn teeth, chipping or cracking of teeth, tooth loss, severe oral pain – and migraines. It affects adults as well as children and we are often unaware that we are doing it unless a loved one tells us. Stress is a significant factor.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said: “Bullying of any form is absolutely abhorrent and can have both a physical and psychological impact, and when experienced in childhood, can lead to trauma that might last throughout adulthood.

A dull, constant headache or sore jaw when you wake up is the first tell-tale symptom of sleep bruxism and I urge parents, carers and schools to be alert to children complaining of this regularly so they may be able to identify cases of bullying and address it.”

Dr Carter added: “It is estimated that sleep bruxism affects more than six million people in the UK, but many are entirely unaware of it.”

It’s important to note that not all of those 6 million cases of sleep bruxism are caused by bullying or stress; sleep apnoea and snoring are also contributors. If you think that you may be affected, please do speak to us about it at your next appointment because there are several non-invasive ways we can help you.

Although our routine examinations include a check on whether patients are at risk of clenching their jaws or grinding their teeth, the effects are not always obvious, especially in the early stages. For that reason, please mention it if you think you may be being affected and we can investigate further for you.

Custom-made dental splints or guards to wear at night can help immensely and may be able to help realign your jaw if that’s needed too. Both Mr Kamali and Mr Shahab are trained in providing these splints and guards, so help is close at hand.

Some patients have also found cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) very helpful in identifying and dealing with the stresses that are at the root cause of the teeth grinding. Others have found that lifestyle changes like giving up smoking, reducing their alcohol consumption or factoring in ‘me time’ have improved their stress levels, which in turn have reduced their sleep bruxism.

Please do not hesitate to ask at Reception if you have any questions related to this subject.