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Teenagers who teeth-grind are being bullied, claims charity as parents are urged to be aware of the link

  • Teenagers being bullied are nearly four times as likely to suffer teeth-grinding
  • Charity urges parents to be aware of the link to tackle the problem sooner
  • Sufferers experience facial pain, headaches and damage to teeth over time
  • Experts give advice on what parents can do if their child is being bullied

Teeth-grinding in teenagers could be a sign they are being bullied, according to new research.

The study found that those experiencing verbal bullying at school were nearly four times as likely to suffer from teeth-grinding at night.

An oral health charity has urged parents to be on the lookout for this symptom to identify and tackle the problem sooner.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said: 'Bullying of any form is absolutely abhorrent and can have a both physical and psychological impact, and when experienced in childhood, can lead to trauma that might last throughout adulthood.

'Grinding teeth may not sound like priority within the wider picture but it could prove to give a vital insight into a child's state of mind and could be an important sign for us to identify bullying at an earlier stage.'

Parents should recognise teeth grinding in their children as a potential sign of bullying (file)

Parents should recognise teeth grinding in their children as a potential sign of bullying (file)

More than 6 million people in the UK suffer from the condition,which is also known as bruxism.

Often related to stress or anxiety, it doesn't always cause symptoms but some sufferers experience facial pain and headaches, and it can wear down your teeth over time.

HOW TO TREAT TEETH GRINDING

Using a mouth guard or mouth splint reduces the sensation of clenching or grinding your teeth.

They also help reduce pain and prevent tooth wear, as well as protecting against further damage.

Other treatments include muscle-relaxation exercises and sleep hygiene, according to NHS Choices.

If you have stress or anxiety, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may be recommended.

Lifestyle changes, such as giving up smoking, and managing stress, are also advised to help improve the problem.

Cutting back on alcohol is also recommended because it can make teeth grinding while you're asleep worse.

Teeth-grinding can also be caused by sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea and heavy snoring.

Key findings

A study published in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation analysed 300 13 to 15-year-olds in Brazil and asked them if they were experiencing bullying.

It found that 65 per cent among the bullied students ground their teeth, compared to 17 per cent among the others.

Dr Carter said this had universal implications and bruxism is also something to look out for in the UK.

Damaging consequences

He said most people who grind their teeth and clench their jaw aren't aware they're doing it.

A tell-tale sign is a constant headache or sore jaw when waking up, he explained.

'Sleep bruxism can be particularly damaging as we are often unaware that we do it. Many times, we learn that we grind our teeth by a loved one who hears the grinding at night.

'A dull, constant headache or sore jaw when you wake up is the first tell-tale symptom of sleep bruxism and I urge parents, carers and schools to alert to children complaining of this regularly so they may be able to identify cases of bullying and address it.'

Grinding can lead to serious dental problems, such as sensitive and worn teeth, chipped or cracked teeth, the loss of teeth as well as pain in the face and jaw.

Sufferers can end up with flat areas on their teeth and frayed edges as the teeth start to become very thin.

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR CHILD IS BEING BULLIED

Listen to your child

'Listen without getting angry or upset, said Sandra Hiller from charity Family Lives. 'Put your own feelings aside, sit down and actually listen to what your child is telling you then show you have done so by playing back to them what you hear.

'Ask your child: 'How do you want me to take this forward?' rather than just taking over so they don't feel excluded from deciding what to do or end up even more stressed/worried than they were already.'

Reassure your child

Reassure your child it's not their fault. There's still a stigma attached to bullying and some children feel they've brought it upon themselves. Remind them that many celebrities have been bullied too. Being bullied isn't about being weak and being a bully isn't about being strong.

Encourage confidence

Encourage your child to try to appear confident even if they don't feel it,' says Sue Atkins, former deputy head and parenting coach. Body language and tone of voice speak volumes.

Sometimes people say nasty things because they want a certain reaction or to cause upset, so if your child gives them the impression they're not bothered, the bullies are more likely to stop.

Role-play bullying scenarios and practice your child's responses. Talk about how our voices, bodies and faces send messages just the same way our words do.

Focus on other things

Don't let the bullying dominate their life. Help your child develop new skills in a new area, says Rob Parsons, international speaker on family life and author of Teenagers! What Every Parent Has to Know.

his might mean encouraging them to join a club or activity like drama or self-defence. This builds confidence, helps keep the problem in perspective and offers a chance to make new friends.

Source: Bullying UK

Tags Health

ABOUT THE AUTHOR celebrityrave

Journalist, writer and broadcaster, based in London and Paris, her latest book is Touché: A French Woman's Take on the English. Read more articles from Agnes.

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