Why is my child constantly chewing in his sleep?
July 7, 2024 1:28 PM   Subscribe

Everything I can find on Google is about kids grinding their teeth. My eight-year-old isn't grinding his teeth (well, he does that very occasionally, which is why I can state unequivocally that I know what it sounds like when he grinds his teeth, and that's not what this is). He's just making chewing, lip-smacking sounds, every couple hours, all night, and has been for at least the last year or two. It sounds like he's just very obnoxiously chewing gum in his sleep. What's this about?

He says he isn't dreaming about eating, which was what I assumed when he first started. But it feels implausible he'd dream about eating every single night. He has water by his bed to drink if he's thirsty or his mouth feels dry. He does this so often and so loudly that if I share a bed with him on vacation his sleep-chewing usually wakes me up at least once. I meant to ask his dentist but forgot at his last appointment. Just wondering if anyone else has experience with this. I've been considering it just a strange quirk of his, but he's not a great sleeper (in particular, he often wakes up too early and can't get back to sleep, which makes me worried he's chewing himself awake) and if it's indicative of a problem for which a solution exists, I'd like to know.
posted by potrzebie to Grab Bag (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sleep chewing and lip smacking are also part of the bruxism menu.. time for a sleep study?
posted by The Last Sockpuppet at 1:50 PM on July 7

There isn’t a meaningful difference between grinding your teeth and clenching or chewing in your sleep in terms of detrimental effects on the teeth. It’s all related to the same problem. I know this because I have had this problem for most of my life, and like The Last Sockpuppet says, it’s all various flavours of bruxism. I’m like your kid (according to people who have observed it)—I mostly chew in my sleep, but I do grind my teeth too occasionally. I also clench my teeth frequently (I know because I wake up doing it). It has all caused painful problems for my teeth and my jaw.

Please talk to your kid’s dentist about it so they can do preventative measures now. I have a night guard that I wear every night and it helps a lot. When I was a kid, it was suggested by the orthodontist that I get braces and then get surgery to have my jaw reset. We went with the cheaper and quite effective option of the night guard, because my family didn’t have the money for braces, but I do have a weird bite as an adult and braces probably would have helped. I’ve also never been able to stop wearing the night guard, which kind of sucks, but night guard technology has improved over the years.

Anyway, only the dentist/orthodontist can speak to this. I’d get a couple of opinions like my parents did just so you know all your options.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:18 PM on July 7

Please talk to his pediatrician about this. It's possible this is a neurological problem. Sleep study likely will be a part of the workup.
posted by cobaltnine at 4:06 PM on July 7

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