Grinding (Bruxism)

A lot of people with special needs tend to grind their teeth during the day and especially at night. The majority of people do not even know they are grinding!  For many young children, it is a normal part of development and they will grow out of it as they grow older. If severe grinding occurs, it might be beneficial to go to a specialist such as an ENT as severe bruxism can sometimes be related to sleeping and airway problems. For many teenagers and young adults, grinding at night is usually due to stress related to school, work or even social concerns.  In the special needs community, grinding is especially common for those with Cerebral Palsy.  When individuals grind, it can cause a lot of pressure on the jaw and other teeth which can often cause pain and discomfort especially when they wake up. Sometimes, the pressure caused by grinding can even cause teeth to fracture and break. Luckily, as long as you are keeping your loved ones teeth free of cavities, the teeth will remain strong and able to handle the grinding pressure.

How to identify grinders:

  • Make grinding sounds while sleeping
  • Clenching the jaw when angry
  • Pain in jaw or teeth when they awake
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Mobile teeth
  • Cracked or chipped teeth

Effects of grinding:

  • Cracked tooth enamel
  • Excessive wear of teeth
  • Headaches
  • Jaw pain
  • Muscle soreness

The next step:

If you think that your loved one is grinding and you are concerned about how intense it is, the best thing to do is visit your dentist. A mouth guard is the best solution for those that grind. It is made to fit the individual’s mouth exactly and is worn at night to protect the teeth from touching during grinding. The main concern for those with special needs is if they would be able to tolerate a mouth guard at night as they tend to be bulky. 

For those individuals who grind heavily and have taken away a lot of their tooth structure, sometimes they experience a lot of sensitivity, increased chance of getting cavities since more tooth structure is exposed and even a fracture of the tooth. In these situations, the dentist might recommend crowns to be placed as they protect the entire tooth from further damage from grinding.  For many with special needs, sitting through multiple crown appointments is very difficult. We go into explaining treatment options such as crowns in other sections of the site. You can check it out here.