Children’s Behavior and Sleep Problems

In the American Academy of Sleep Medicine this abstract was included in one of the “most Popular” from last year and it was worth reminding parents of children. The article reviewed the relationship of children, nighttime bruxism (grinding/popping teeth) and preschool behavior problems.

Preschool children who grind their teeth and are withdrawn have lower school performance. This article in the Journal of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine was one of last year’s most popular topics for a good reason.

The study had just over 1500 preschool aged children enrolled. It asked whether the kids snored and then had observations from the parents that indicated the children who snored were more withdrawn, didn’t get involved with other children and had trouble adjusting to preschool. The more days per week these preschool children snored (starting at 1 day – up to 4 days) the observed negative behaviors increased. Interestingly these behaviors started presenting as the front teeth began to grow in (this is when the negative growth and physiologic effects of large tonsils/adenoids become problematic from a TMJ and Dental Sleep medicine specialist).

The article advises that preschool children get 11-13 hours of sleep (which is normal at this age – many parents are surprised at how much sleep kids need), it also mentions stress as a “possible” factor.

Suggestions from both Dental and Medical Sleep Specialists for children as bedtime approaches are universal; have a set bedtime and allow 30 minutes to “wind down”. No electronics of any kind for 30 minutes prior to bed. Interact with your children in a non-stimulating way as they wind down – read to them, etc. In our hectic schedules this can be hard to start, but once it’s established (may take a couple weeks or so of patient but hard work to establish the routine) it gives parents extra time to also wind down after their kids are asleep earlier!

From Dental Sleep Medicine and TMJ perspectives, this article is based on the fails to address the most important reasons early childhood bruxing occurs; large tonsils and adenoids that restrict breathing while kids sleep. This is Sleep Apnea and is directly correlated to behavior problems in children, lower academic performance, and ADD/ADHD-like behavior. These correlations are well documented in the Dental Sleep literature as well as the American Academy of Sleep Medicine journals. Evaluation by a Dentist trained in Dental Sleep Medicine and TMJ/growth for airway obstruction and altered facial development is recommended.

Facial growth is also recognized with infants who are “tongue tied” because they don’t nurse well. Many pediatric dentists are beginning to evaluate this critical anatomic problem –  treatment is easy and fast to “free the tongue”. Myofunctional and Speech therapists also recognize this condition.

If your preschool and grade school children have problems going to sleep, staying asleep or snore even once per week they should be evaluated.

Abstract Title: Indirect Effect of Tooth Grinding on Preschool Performance Presentation Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2017. Category: Pediatrics, Abstract ID: 0210, Updated Nov. 6, 2017

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