Why does my autistic child grind their teeth?

Written By Autism Parents

A collection of parents navigating our way around raising children with autism

Why does my autistic child grind their teeth?

If your autistic child happens to grind their teeth then you are not alone, it is a common behaviour. But why do they do it?

In this article we give some possible reasons why they’re engaging in this behaviour.

Teeth grinding and autism

Teeth grinding or what is otherwise known as bruxism is a common behaviour observed in many children, but particularly those with autism.

As we know, autism is a complex condition, and the reasons for teeth grinding in children with ASD can be multifaceted.

Here are some possible explanations;

Sensory factors

Children with autism may have sensory processing issues that affect their oral sensitivity.

They may grind their teeth as a way to stimulate their senses or to alleviate discomfort in the mouth.

Some children may grind their teeth in response to certain textures or tastes for example.

With sensory issues it is quite difficult for us parents to truly wrap our heads around them. I rationalise it as simply put that it feels nice to the child hence the continued behaviour.

Why does my autistic child grind their teeth
Stress coping mechanism

Sadly being an autistic child can be a stressful existence.

As a result your child may experience anxiety in response to various situations, such as changes in routine or new environments.

Teeth grinding can be a manifestation of this anxiety or stress a little like someone twiddling their hair can also be as a result of anxiety.

Communication factors

Children with ASD may have difficulty communicating their needs or expressing themselves verbally.

Teeth grinding may be a nonverbal way to communicate discomfort or frustration.

This would almost be similar to an autistic child making strange noises, it is their way of expressing themselves.

Medical/dental issues

Although perhaps less likely than something like sensory preferences, teeth grinding may be down to medical or dental reasons.

In some cases, teeth grinding in children with autism may be related to medical issues such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), ear infections, or teething.

Summary – Why does my autistic child grind their teeth?

As with so much with autism the cause will be dependent on your child’s individual needs, situation and preferences.

If this behaviour continues is essential to speak to your child’s healthcare provider to rule out any underlying medical issues and to develop a treatment plan that addresses the root cause of teeth grinding.

Caveats aside I believe that the most common reason for an autistic child grinding their teeth would be the sensory factors.

It is likely that the feeling of squeezing their jaw together and grinding feels nice for them.

If that is the case with your child you could weigh up the cost vs benefit of trying to stop the practice.

It may be worth speaking to a dentist and establishing if the grinding is causing any medical problems for your child.

If it is not and it calms or relaxes them then one option would be to just let them continue. This is obviously dependant on your personal circumstances.

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A collection of parents navigating our way around raising children with autism.

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