The Dentist Magazine.

Could bruxism be a sign of bullying?

Published: 12/07/2017

New research has revealed that adolescents who suffer from bullying are far more likely to grind their teeth in their sleep, a sign which could help parents identify victimised children sooner.

The study, published in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation, found that teenagers who were subjected to verbal bullying in school were almost four times as likely to suffer from sleep bruxism (65 per cent) compared to those who were not (17 per cent).

Sleep bruxism is when you grind your teeth in your sleep and over time it can lead to major oral health problems, including migraines, sensitive and worn teeth, chipped or cracked teeth, loosing of teeth, severe oral pain and irreparable damage.

The Oral Health Foundation is urging parents, carers and schools to be alert to students complaining of oral health problems and symptoms related to bruxism as a signifier of them being bullied so that they help can tackle to issue.

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

“Grinding teeth may not sound like priority within the wider picture but it could prove to give a vital insight into a child’s state of mind and could be an important sign for us to identify bullying at an earlier stage.

“Both children and adults tend to grind their teeth when suffering from stress, and bullying is a significant contributor here. Sleep bruxism can be particularly damaging as we are often unaware that we do it. Many times, we learn that we grind our teeth by a loved one who hears the grinding at night.

“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.”

As well as drawing attention to this issue of sleep bruxism and bullying, the Oral Health Foundation is also aiming to raise awareness of the signs, symptoms and problems associated with bruxism more widely so that people who feel they are suffering from it can get it looked at.

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

“If you feel that you have any of these symptoms and may be suffering from sleep bruxism I urge you to visit your dentist who can assess you.

“They may choose to fit you with a custom dental appliance which will stop your teeth grinding together in a stressed manner.

“Suffers can also explore a course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to get to the source of the problem.

“Making lifestyle changes, such as giving up smoking, reducing alcohol consumption and managing stress, can also help alleviate the problem.”

If you wish to discuss the issue of sleep bruxism further the Oral Health Foundation offers expert, impartial and free advice through their Dental Helpline.

The Dental Helpline is available by telephone on 017888 539 780 or email at helpline@dentalhealth.org