Pediatric Autism & Bruxism: An Overview Of Its Effects And Treatment Options

If you're the parent of a child with autism, you may be wondering how their bruxism is related to their autism diagnosis, the effects that bruxism may have on them in the future, and whether proper treatment is available. Below is an overview of how autism may play a role in your child's bruxism and how you can help your child. 

What is Bruxism and What Causes It? 

Bruxism is a dental condition classified by grinding, gnashing, and clenching of teeth that can lead to pain and sensitivity, as well as structural and cosmetic damage. 

Individuals with autism may be at an increased risk for bruxism due to anxiety, stress, and frustration and because teeth grinding is commonly used as a coping mechanism for emotional and physical pain. Individuals with autism may not be able to fully voice their frustrations and fears, which can lead to the grinding. 

The Long Term Effects of Bruxism

Bruxism can lead to pain and sensitivity due to the wearing down of the structure of the teeth, and can also lead to structural and cosmetic damage that may require extensive repair. 

Bruxism doesn't only affect the teeth, however. It can also lead to pain throughout the entire jaw, up into the ear and head, and can cause further frustration and anxiety, creating a vicious cycle. While the grinding and clenching may be comforting to your child in the moment, they can lead to further issues that may require extensive care in the future. 

Treatment Options for Patients with Autism

When the cause of bruxism isn't physical but emotional, like it is in so many cases of autistic children affected by bruxism, treatment can be trickier than usual. While crowns may be applied to the damaged teeth to protect them from further damage, getting your child to stop the grinding or gnashing behavior is another issue altogether. 

Children with autism who suffer from bruxism may require specialized treatment to halt the behavior. While the grinding can be frustrating, and you may feel compelled to get your child to stop as soon as possible, it's important to undertake treatment with patience and understanding. While protective devices, such as mouth guards, may be effective in lessening the impact of grinding on your child's dental health, research suggests that a combination of vocal and physical cues can reduce your child's grinding habits. With proper treatment, your child may be able to cease the grinding altogether and avoid further dental issues. 

To learn more about bruxism and the treatment options available to your child, consult with their dentist and psychologist. To learn more, speak with someone like Children's Dental Center Of Central Iowa PLC.