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Autistic toddler grinding his teeth...

Okay I'm boggled by this one. My almost 3 year old autistic son is grinding his teeth in his sleep. Thanks to ABA and other therapies we have gotten really good at stopping undesirable behaviors.....but how do you stop a behavior that a kid is doing without even realizing it because they're asleep?! I know adults wear a mouth guard to bed for teeth grinding but that's out of the question (trust me). What do I do? I'm worried about his teeth. Tried googling this and couldn't find anything.

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Asked by aurorabunny at 11:21 PM on Apr. 18, 2009 in Kids' Health

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Answers (13)
  • I have a client who's little girl with Down's is a grinder. The ped dentist isn't really concerned. Hhe said she will outgrow it before her permanent teeth came in. When our dentist was telling us how wonderful MI paste was for Max's white spots, he said they were using it on another toddler who was having some pain from long term grinding, and the MI paste microscopically filled in the teeth enough to stop the nerve ending pain in about 2 wks of using it 2x a day.

    Answer by karamille at 11:56 PM on Apr. 18, 2009

  • not to worry you at all because it is proabably just that...teeth grinding. But teeth grinding is the way my brody's temporal lobe epilepsy presents. We didn't know that was what was going on but during a sleep study he started grinding and it was actually a seizure. Just something to think about. Sorry don't want to worry you.

    Answer by Blakesmom at 12:04 AM on Apr. 19, 2009

  • My son is autistic and he use to grind his teeth as well he eventually grew out of that. Maybe if you go to a dentist they can make a gaurd specially to fit your childs mouth:)

    Answer by txbran at 12:04 AM on Apr. 19, 2009

  • My son who is on the spectrum also use to grind his teeth at that age. OMG it was so painful sounding. He is now almost 7 and I think has cut down. I have not gone in his room at all this year and heard it. So keeping my fingers crossed your son outgrows it too.

    Other then that I am not sure there is much you can do....

    Answer by J9Mommy at 12:40 AM on Apr. 19, 2009

  • My son is 4.5 and has SPD and is also a teeth grinder. Not only does he do it in his sleep he does it during the day when he gets all excited or over-stimulated. Has your son been to the dentist yet or needed any dental work done? That would be my suggestion if not. My son had to have (I hate to say it, but...) a lot of work done back in March. Since having the work done and his teeth repaired which included the stainless steel caps on his molars (cuz I refused Mercury fillings) he hasn't done so much grinding. The grinding during the day is almost gone as well as the grinding at night. He does grind more at night, but like others have said, I think it's more because it's a subconscious thing then. Good Luck Mama!!!!

    Answer by neonds13 at 1:02 AM on Apr. 19, 2009

  • Thanks neonds and thanks for the invite! No we have not had him to the dentist, I don't know how on earth we're going to manage that. He won't even let us touch his mouth and I don't want them to put him under. I don't know how else we would did you manage a dentist trip?

    Answer by aurorabunny at 2:26 AM on Apr. 19, 2009

  • Lillian grinds her teeth at night, too. I cringe whenever I hear it and wonder how it doesn't wake her--it is so loud and sounds painful. I tried to get her to see a pediatric dentist who is supposedly well know for working with children with autism. She wouldn't open her mouth for him, so he wanted us to schedule an appt at the hospital so he could do a complete check-up, cleaning and put caps on her teeth under anesthesia. It would have cost us $1000 out of pocket, something we just don't have. We ended up waiting another year, and I asked our family dentist to see if he could look at her. She did let him look--but she wouldn't sit in the chair and wouldn't let him put anything in her mouth. But with what he was able to see, everything looked okay and the teeth grinding isn't causing the damage I was sure it was.


    Answer by jsbenkert at 9:41 AM on Apr. 19, 2009

  • Also, Brody might be cutting a 2 year molar--causing some pain. That might explain the cause of his sudden teeth grinding. But then again, this may be another of those behaviors that children with ASD will often have (like idiopathic toe walking and sleeplessness) that don't have a clear cause or solution. If you can get him to a dentist to look at his teeth, it might give you some peace of mind. If Brody won't sit in a dentist's chair (like Lillian) ask the dentist if he/she will just do a quick exam with him standing (or like Lillian, several quick exams). Bring a small flashlight that the dentist can use to look in there better, if you decide to give it a try.


    Answer by jsbenkert at 9:48 AM on Apr. 19, 2009

  • One more thing. I don't know if you are able to play games with Brody (I don't mean Scrabble or Go Fish), but if you can engage him, you can play a "monkey see, monkey do" sort of game. I did this with Lillian before the trip to the dentist. I'd tell Lillian to open her mouth wide and show me all of her teeth, and demonstrate. I wouldn't come near her or try to touch her mouth--just get her to open. When she started to copy me, after a few games like that, I'd come a little closer and admire all of her pretty teeth. Granted, Lillian is a few years older than Brody. When she was Brody's age, I don't think I could have managed this. But I have friends who have had varied success at the dentist. Have you tried social stories yet? Those have worked for some of my friends (but not with Lillian). Let me know and if you don't have access to Boardmaker, I'll use the one at Lillian's school and make one for you, if you like.

    Answer by jsbenkert at 9:57 AM on Apr. 19, 2009

  • He'll be 3 in a few months, is there a chance he's still cutting 2 year molars?
    We are not on the level of social stories quite yet, but I appreciate the offer. :) That's not a bad idea to try and find a dentist who might be willing to just take a peek while Brody is sitting in my lap. That's the only way that I see it being even remotely possible. He's gotten pretty good at imitation games, but not with his face unfortunately if that makes any sense. He can point out all of the body parts on my face like a pro but when it's time to point to his he gets confused...I think it is a spatial/sensory issue. We've been trying to work on it with a mirror.

    Answer by aurorabunny at 10:41 AM on Apr. 19, 2009

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