What You Should Know About Your Child’s Teeth Grinding – Assessing Bruxism in 2021

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Alpharetta, GA – Tooth grinding, also called bruxism, is a common problem that rightfully keeps parents worried. Statistics vary on the subject; some sources say one in four people grind their teeth, placing the number anywhere from 6% to around 50% of children experiencing nighttime bruxism, whereas other sources say 95% of people grind their teeth at some point in their lives.

Many parents have noticed their children grind their teeth during their sleep at nighttime. Have you ever listened closely while your child sleeps and noticed a scraping sound coming from their mouths? If you have, they may be grinding their teeth.

The jury is still out on what causes this condition, but, undoubtedly, this is one matter that makes parents worry. Fortunately, you can trust a pediatric dentist like Dr. Nanna to help with such matters in a welcoming environment.

Let’s go ahead and learn more about bruxism or teeth grinding.

What is Teeth Grinding or Bruxism?

Bruxism is just the fancy term we have in the dental health professional field to identify when a patient grinds or gnashes their teeth and clenches their jaws. Children and adults can suffer from bruxism, and it could manifest at any moment during the day.

When it comes to nighttime bruxism, you should be especially attentive to any additional complications; this condition may have a close correlation with other complications. This study points to a clearer relationship between sleep bruxism (SB) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Mild variations of teeth grinding may not require treatment with a specialist. Still, you might want to find professional help for your child as this situation can result in additional complications. Patients are often unaware of their condition, and as such, they may not realize they’re developing other problems.

We include this article because, as a pediatric dentistry providers, we know that sleep bruxism is more prevalent in younger patients when compared to middle-aged ones and older adults. Let’s take a closer look at some of the likely causes and symptoms of this condition.

Why Do Kids Grind Their Teeth?

As we mentioned, there are no clear causes for this problem. Our colleagues don’t completely understand what causes bruxism. Still, considering its consequences, it may come from a combination of physical, genetic, and psychological factors.

Stress is a common cause of tooth grinding for adults, though that’s not always the case with children.

According to the American Dental Association’s (ADA) 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.

Are there Risk Factors?

Even though we don’t have a clear definition of what causes bruxism, we could identify some risk factors related to it. Age is one of these as younger children are more susceptible to developing this tooth-grinding condition.

Some psychiatric medications, including antidepressants, can join tobacco, caffeinated beverages, alcohol, and some recreational drugs, in the list of chemicals that may increase the risk of bruxism.

You can also look at this study, identifying a relationship between children’s bruxism and other risk factors that include disorders associated with the patients’ mental health and nervous system, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and genetics.

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 change appearance slowly.

There are also some less obvious signs of tooth grinding, such as headaches and earaches. If your child frequently complains of dull headaches and earaches, you should see if they are grinding their teeth at night.

As you can see, tooth grinding is a serious problem for your dental health and overall health.

How Does a Pediatric Dentist Diagnose Bruxism?

Keep in mind that it’s very rare for a patient to realize they suffer from this chronic teeth grinding without help from others. Often, it’s siblings and parents who point out that a child needs help with this situation. Dental health professionals will examine your child’s teeth for signs of uneven wear and tear of their teeth enamel layer, chipped teeth, or unusual tooth sensitivity.

Following this physical examination, a pediatric dentist will answer some questions about their medical history and habits.

By the way, parents can also ask these questions and determine if there are any additional risk factors contributing to their child’s bruxism.

  • Do you feel pain when chewing?
  • Are you worried about things in school or at home?
  • Have you been feeling angry lately?
  • Do your teeth hurt right before you go to bed or after you wake up?

Such examinations will help differentiate genetic, anatomical, and psychological causes for bruxism.

What Is the Dental Treatment Available?

Children, who are the group with the highest risk, usually outgrow this problem, but a coordinated team effort between parents and pediatric dentists can help keep everything under control. Keep in mind that constant jaw muscles clenching and tooth grinding may damage dental structures and produce facial or jaw pain.

We could prescribe a custom-made nightguard to prevent excessive force over the teeth and promote positive results quickly. Some therapies and medication can help manage symptoms of sleep bruxism, helping prevent any additional tooth damage and relieve discomfort.

If your child develops other long-term problems, such as temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ or TMD), they may require additional coordinated work with dental specialists. However, the goal is that early help can avoid such long-term complications.

How Can I Help My Kids Stop Grinding Their Teeth?

Let’s review a couple of ways in which you can help your kids overcome teeth grinding.

Encourage Relaxation

Tooth grinding often happens at night. Therefore, any way you can get your child to relax before bed should alleviate their 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.

Teach Mindfulness

Have your child pay attention to the way their jaw feels. Is it tight and tense? Are the upper and lower teeth clenched against each other? Encourage them to breathe well, and with each breath, tell them to loosen and release the jaw.

Tell them to let the upper and lower teeth fall gently apart and to rest the tip of their tongue against the back of their top front teeth. When you get your child to notice when they’re grinding their teeth, they will likely have the power to stop this bad habit.

Visit a Professional for Help

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 culprits, then your pediatric 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 could request nighttime mouthguards to protect their teeth while they sleep.

Just because your child grinds their teeth now doesn’t mean they will always grind their teeth. Children often grow out of this bad habit as they grow and develop.

It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on how serious and how often your kid grinds their teeth.

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