Today’s public schools are required by law to have anti-bullying policies in place, while faculties are trained to watch out for signs of harassment and intimidation so they can step in when necessary. Dentists may be able to play a role too, as 65% of teenagers who are bullied also suffer from sleep bruxism, compared to 17% of teenagers who aren’t, according to a team of Brazilian researchers.
The study recruited students in Itabira, Brazil, between the ages of 13 and 15 years old. The subjects included 103 adolescents with possible sleep bruxism, as reported by themselves or their parents, and 206 who did not have it. All of the subjects completed a questionnaire about their involvement in verbal school bullying episodes and an evaluation of their economic class. Overall, 134 reported being a victim, a bully, or both, with 90.3% of those male.
“Both children and adults tend to grind their teeth when suffering from stress, and bullying is a significant contributor here,” said Nigel Carter, OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation. “A dull, constant headache or sore jaw when you wake up is the first telltale sign of sleep bruxism, and I urge parents, carers, and schools to be alert to children complaining of this regularly so they may be able to identify cases of bullying and address it.”
The Oral Health Foundation is working to raise awareness of the signs, symptoms, and problems associated with bruxism more widely so people who feel they may be suffering from it can have it examined. The American Sleep Association reports that 10% of all people and as many as 15% of children have it. Patients typically are unaware of it until their dentist recognizes the damage it causes.
“Bullying of any form is absolutely abhorrent and can have both a physical and psychological impact and, when experienced in childhood, can lead to trauma that might last throughout adulthood,” said Carter. “Grinding teeth may not sound like a priority in 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.”
The study, “Is There an Association Between Verbal School Bullying and Possible Sleep Bruxism in Adolescents?” was published by the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation.