Tooth grinding, also called bruxism, is a common problem. Statistics vary on the subject; some sources say one in four people grind their teeth, and other sources say 95 percent of people grind their teeth at some point in their lives.
Many tooth grinders do their work at night. Listen closely while your child sleeps, and if he’s grinding his teeth, you’ll probably hear the teeth scraping against each other.
Why do kids grind their teeth?
For adults, stress is a common cause of tooth grinding, though that’s not always the case with children.
According to the American Dental Association’s patient resource Mouth Healthy, children could be grinding their teeth because of allergies, missing teeth, crooked teeth, an improper bite, or oral irritations. Stress may also be a factor, especially if your child has gone through any difficult changes recently.
Why is tooth grinding so bad?
Grinding your teeth against each other can wear down your teeth, which can affect your bite, your chewing, and your digestion. In extreme cases, you might wear your teeth down so drastically that you’ll need crowns, bridges, or dental implants to fix the damage.
Kids might also experience sore jaws, loose teeth, or tooth pain from tooth grinding in the short term. Continued bruxism over time can cause tooth loss, misaligned jaws, hearing damage, and TMD. Grinding your teeth can even cause your face to slowly change appearance.
There are also some less obvious signs of tooth grinding, such as headaches and ear aches. If your child frequently complains of dull headaches and ear aches, you should see if he’s grinding his teeth at night.
As you can see, tooth grinding is a serious problem for your dental health as well as your overall health.
How can I stop my kid from grinding his teeth?
Tooth grinding often happens at night. Therefore, any way you can get your child to relax before bed should alleviate his grinding. You can try gentle stretching, diffusing calming essential oils like lavender and chamomile, or guided meditation. Daily exercise also helps alleviate stress, which can help your child relax and sleep better at night.
Have your child pay attention to the way his jaw feels. It is tight and tense? Are the upper and lower teeth clenched against each other? Encourage him to breathe well, and with each breath tell him to loosen and release the jaw. Tell him to let the upper and lower teeth fall gently apart, and to rest the tip of his tongue against the back of his top front teeth. When you get your child to notice when he’s grinding his teeth, it’s very likely that he’ll have the power to stop this bad habit.
Bring your child in for a dental visit. It’s good to get to the root of the issue so you can fix it. If there’s an allergy or irritation present, your dentist can help treat the problem. If crooked teeth or misaligned jaws are the culprit, then your dentist may refer your child to an orthodontist. Braces can help align the teeth and jaws, and hopefully when the teeth and jaws are properly aligned, the need to grind will cease. Some kids may be fitted for nighttime mouthguards to protect their teeth while they sleep.
Just because your child grinds his teeth now doesn’t mean he will always grind his teeth. Children often grow out of this bad habit as they grow and develop. But even so, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on how serious and how often your kid grinds his teeth.
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