On October 19, 2017, the Journal of Pediatric, Maternal & Family Health published a study reporting on a case of chiropractic helping a child with teeth grinding at night, which is called sleep bruxism. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Bruxism (BRUK-siz-um) is a condition in which you grind, gnash or clench your teeth. If you have bruxism, you may unconsciously clench your teeth when you’re awake (awake bruxism) or clench or grind them during sleep (sleep bruxism).”
The authors of the study begin by defining this condition by saying, “Sleep bruxism (SB) is described as a movement disorder resulting in habitual, non-functional and forceful teeth contact (grinding and clenching of teeth) during sleep.” They report that there is a wide variation on pinpointing how common this issue is as estimates range from 5.9% to 49.6% of the pediatric population.
The diagnosis of this condition, according to some studies, is based upon the parent’s report of their child’s sleeping habits. However, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine uses four criteria to determine a diagnosis of sleep bruxism. They include, 1) anterior teeth wear, 2) posterior teeth occlusal wear, 3) parents’ report of frequent noises of teeth grinding during sleep, and 4) a white line at buccal mucosa. The common medical approach for treatment of sleep bruxism can include use of certain dental appliances, behavior modification, and medications.
In this case, a 9-year-old boy was brought to the chiropractor by his mother for a consultation. Her initial question was, “Why does my son grind his teeth so loudly at night?” Upon questioning, it was revealed that the boy had been exhibiting this behavior at night for the past 4 years. In addition, the boy had been experiencing regular and heavy nose bleeds over the recent months for no apparent reason. It was reported that the boy had “Autism Spectrum Disorder tendencies.” However, his condition was not deemed significant enough to be formally diagnosed.
A chiropractic examination was performed which included a postural analysis, spinal range of motion, palpation, thermographic and sEMG studies. It was determined from the tests that subluxations were present and a series of specific chiropractic adjustments were given.
After the first adjustment, the parents reported a one-third reduction in their son’s grinding of his teeth while sleeping. Over the next three visits, the parents reported a continued improvement with their son showing a decrease in intensity and frequency for his sleep bruxism. Additionally, they reported that the boy was less hyperactive with his behavior being more relaxed. The boy’s sleep bruxism continued to reduce as his chiropractic care continued.
In their discussion the authors noted, “Sleep bruxism is an increasingly common condition reported in children, and has been associated with other long term psychological conditions that can have serious effects on the individuals quality of life.” They explained the chiropractic approach by adding, “Chiropractic care aims to optimize health and wellbeing through the enhancement of the nervous system function by removing nerve interference caused by vertebral subluxations. The correction of vertebral subluxations by chiropractic adjustments are a fundamental component of personal enhancement and wellbeing.”