Eliminating Tooth Grinding

By Pam Marshalla

Q: I have two girls with Down syndrome who grind their teeth on a regular basis. They are the same age and function at about the same level. What strategies would you use to help with this area?

This is a tough question. We have no widely accepted strategies to eliminate tooth grinding other than the dental guard recommended by dentists. But my thinking has always been that if you can pinpoint the cause, then you can design a solution based on it. For example:

  • Some say that tooth grinding is due to stress. If so, reduce it.
  • Some say tooth grinding is just a habit. If so, use behavior modification to eliminate it.
  • Some say that tooth grinding in kids with lower cognitive skills is to relieve their boredom. If so, get the child busier.
  • Some say that the child is craving oral-tactile input. If so, give it to him by giving him oral play toys and things to chew on.
  • Some say that tooth grinding occurs in children with minor dental problems. Get the child to a good dentist for assessment, and make sure the family follows through with recommended treatment.

Let me be honest and reveal that I have never been able to completely eliminate a tooth grinding habit in a child with Down Syndrome. But many therapists talk about this as if they had, so I assume it is possible. I am going to get some input on this from other therapists and post a better answer soon.

2 thoughts on “Eliminating Tooth Grinding”

  1. I referred a 10 year old client with Down Syndrome (and apraxia & dysarthria) for craniosacral therapy a few months ago. In the 5 years that I have treated her, she has frequently shifted her mandible to the side, drooled, and ground her teeth. Although I was able to improve these to some extent, it was not commensurate with the changes we made in intelligibility and expressive language. A few sessions of craniosacral therapy made a world of difference, and I wish I’d thought to refer her years ago! She has since had to go back to craniosacral therapy for single treatment “tune-ups” when things started to slide after a couple of months, but the results are truly remarkable. Her parents have their first photos of her with a symmetrical smile (rather than jaw askew), and her drooling and tooth-grinding are dramatically reduced or non-existent.

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