Many parents ask me this question about their child’s sleep and dental health.
One of the most common questions is:
Why does my child grind their teeth in their sleep?
Teeth grinding in kids has become a common occurrence and many parents think it’s a normal part of growing up. However, teeth grinding may be a sign of a larger problem and should not be ignored – in adults and children alike.
There are a few potential causes for teeth grinding. In adults and children, bruxism (teeth grinding) can be due to an airway issue. Small airways can cause a person to not drop into the deepest stages of sleep, which means their glymphatic system isn’t fully running. Your glymphatic system cleans the brain of important neurotoxins during sleep.
Sleep is a crucial part of a child’s dental and brain development periods. You should never ignore teeth grinding in your children. Later in life, sleep apnea can lead to chronic brain and heart disease.
Another major cause of teeth grinding, especially in children is parasites. Not pleasant I know, but this common cause is something more parents should know about.
How do I stop my child grinding their teeth at night?
To stop teeth grinding in kids, we need to get to the cause in the first place.
Similar to how we’ve come to realize that snoring is a symptom we should never ignore, teeth grinding is also a sign we should never ignore. When I notice a patient has signs of teeth grinding, we immediately begin the process to identify the underlying cause.
Signs and symptoms of teeth grinding include:
- Sore jaw
- Unusual wear on the teeth
- Crowded teeth
- Chipped teeth
- Loud crunching sound during sleep
- Jaw pain
- Tired, irritable and poor concentration
- Afternoon sleepiness
- Mouth breathing
- Dark circles under eyes
- Digestive problems
- Skin allergies
In children, two major causes of teeth grinding are airway issues and parasites. When teeth grinding is caused by parasites, it’s a problem that only gets worse with time. This is why I encourage parents to never ignore teeth grinding.
Teeth Grinding and Digestive Parasites
Studies have suggested that bruxism may be more prevalent in the presence of intestinal parasites. At this stage, the research is not conclusive, and it’s uncertain whether parasites CAUSE teeth grinding. We now know the gut and brain hold a close connection through the vagus nerve. So the idea that a toxic invader may signal the brain to cause grinding, is a pathway that needs further research.
These infections can happens alongside other symptoms such as nutrient deficiencies, allergies, and food sensitivities. When parasites enter the digestive system they release metabolites that have a toxic impact on the body.
Parasite infection appears to be more common than we think, this is because the bruxism causing parasites are widespread. Water, dirt, toys, and hands are all sources of these everyday parasites.
Common digestive parasites in children include:
- Pinworms – Enterobius vermicularis
- Roundworms – Trichinella
- Giardia lamblia
- Dientamoeba fragilis
The two most common parasites in children are Enterobius vermicularis and Giardia lamblia. It has been suggested that better hygiene can prevent infection by parasites but it’s still possible regardless of how careful you are.
How Do Children Get Parasites?
Children are likely to get a parasite infections because they put things in their mouth that adults normally wouldn’t. Also, they are more likely to bite their nails and put unwashed hands in their mouth.
Nail biting is a common reason children end up with parasites. If your child bites their nails, and grinds their teeth, consider breaking the habit. Nail biters should also be checked for parasites and other signs of parasite infection.
Don’t start the disinfecting just yet!
Before we start grabbing the sanitisers, it’s important to know that the loss of gut microbiome diversity and a weak immune system in children could contribute to parasite infections. First, parasites are often a sign of a loss of probiotic species and a healthy gut microbiome. Through promoting balance of the gut microbiota through diet and probiotic supplements you can help your child naturally fight a parasitic infections.
Second, when the immune system is strong it’s better at fighting off parasites. Be sure your child is getting enough vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin K2 to help them resist parasitic infection. These factors should help their immune system balance exposure to potential harmful gut parasites.
[For a high quality, food-based source of Vitamin A, D, and K2 – Try this GHEE which can be cooked with or used to flavor foods]
13 Signs of Digestive Parasite Infection in Kids
Here are 13 signs you or your child may have parasites in the gastrointestinal tract.
- Teeth grinding – A common symptom in kid, a possible link could be due to toxins the parasites release.
- Nervousness – Anxiety and nervousness are a direct result of toxic burden caused by the metabolites of parasites.
- Insomnia – Infections can disrupt neurotransmitter balance and cause the nervous system to run in a heightened state, which can cause insomnia.
- Chronic gastrointestinal issues – Not surprisingly, parasites can cause issues with the gut and cause inflammation and chronic diarrhea and constipation. Other symptoms include vomiting and nausea.
- Abdominal pain – Certain types of parasites can cause abdominal pain, which is common when people who travel become infected by water or food of another country.
- Anal itching – This is one of the symptoms parents often notice after teeth grinding that is a telltale sign of parasite infection. I often tell parents to pay attention and see if they notice this form of discomfort in their child if they have signs of bruxism.
- Extreme fatigue – Parasites often interfere with nutrient absorption, which over time can cause extreme fatigue. Additionally, the sleep interference of insomnia and teeth grinding cause sleep to be less refreshing and compound the issue.
- Weight loss – Also do to the poor nutrient absorption, parasites will often cause noticeable weight loss.
- Mood swings – Mood swings are caused by the systemic inflammation and gut imbalance. Mood swings can include outbursts, anxiety, depression, and even hallucinations.
- Nutrient deficiency – Overtime parasites interfere with nutrient absorption until it become noticeable. Iron deficiency is one of the first signs, which is sometimes noticed when a child begins to bruise more easily.
- Skin conditions – Rashes, hives, or allergy-like symptoms are also signs of parasite infection.
- Weakness – Extreme weakness due to lack of nutrition is often one of the later symptoms of parasite infections.
- Muscle and joint pain – Some parasites can actually infect certain areas of the body, including the joints, and this can be confused for arthritis. Additionally, widespread inflammation due to the infection can also cause muscle and joint pain.
Bruxism and teeth grinding in kids over time can lead to erosion of the teeth and if left uncorrected it can cause permanent damage to the tooth and endanger the dental pulp. Importantly, if the teeth grinding is caused by parasites there can be other health complications as a result of the infection.
How to stop your kid grinding teeth in their sleep naturally
Firstly, you need a sleep and airway focussed functional dental exam for your child. If an airway or sleep disorder can’t be linked to teeth grinding in a child, it’s time to look deeper.
Secondly, it’s then time to be tested for parasites with your doctor. This is usually a stool test. Depending on the type of parasite, the treatment will vary slightly. You might need a anti-worm medication from your doctor.
Whether or not you go on medication, you should support your immune system as much as possible and make the environment less than ideal for the parasites to live in. Some natural parasite remedies you can start right away include:
- Start eating a nutrient dense, immune building diet – we explore this in The Dental Diet
- Probiotics – [For a kid-friendly, HIGH POTENCY Probiotic, I recommend this brand.]
- Apple cider vinegar
- Coconut oil
- Pumpkin seeds
- Exercise and sweat to help clear the lymphatic system
To prevent reinfection, you should try and prevent your child from putting his or her hands in their mouth. Trim their nails and work to improve personal hygiene, especially after going to the bathroom. Make sure the wear pants to bed to prevent itching and that only clean clothes, linens, and towels are used.
If your child is grinding their teeth at night, be sure to check for parasites – it’s more common than we realize. To get further to the root cause of a child’s disease, check out my online program here.
Now we want to hear from you. Please leave your questions in the comments below.