Whenever you look at your child while they’re sleeping, it feels good to see an angelic face and hear gentle breathing. Unfortunately some parents notice a not-so-peaceful looking face and hear much harsher sounds. Unless they’re experiencing a bad dream, it’s most likely a case of teeth grinding.
Understanding Bruxism In Children: Teeth Grinding & Jaw Clenching
Bruxism is the medical term for habitual, involuntary grinding of one’s teeth and/or clenching of one’s jaws. It can become a serious issue if this reaches a point where teeth grinding erodes precious tooth enamel. That natural enamel is finite. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever and you won’t get to do the usual things with your teeth as pleasantly as before.
This might surprise you but many children fall victim to teeth grinding. According to the Nemours Foundation, for every 10 children, 2-3 experience teeth grinding, in other words, they have bruxism. Although most tend to outgrow it. Bruxism (teeth grinding) for children often occurs when they’re under stress or going through deep sleep phases.
While it’s possible for a case of bruxism (teeth grinding) to go undetected without causing distinct physical issues, there’s also a chance of earache, headache or even severe facial pain and jaw problems.
What Causes Teeth Grinding in Children?
Sadly there is no clear cut answer to this question. Medical experts are not always sure why a certain individual suffers from bruxism. There are children who experience teeth grinding habitually due to a misalignment of the top and bottom set of teeth. Other children may grind their teeth in response to a current painful experience like teething or an earache. Lastly, there are children whose teeth grinding is a reaction to certain types of common medication.
More commonly, other children may experience teeth grinding due to stress or worries from their environment, such as classmates at school or sudden changes (like a new baby in the family). But with time and a little patience, you can potentially help your child or children stop teeth grinding and unlearn the habit.
How Can You Tell If Your Child Grinds Their Teeth?
As many of the children who grind their teeth are unaware of it, it’s more likely for their siblings or parents to notice the problem. So you definitely want to check on your child while they’re fast asleep from time to time, watching out for any grinding or gnashing noise. Other possible signs include your child feeling pain with chewing, as well as having a sore jaw when they wake up in the morning.
You might consider visiting a dentist who can examine your child’s teeth for unusual wear and tear or chipped enamel. Your dentist can also test for unusual sensitivity by spraying air and water on concentrated areas of the teeth. If they find damage, your dentist may ask your child questions like “How do you feel before you go to bed?” or “Is there something you’re worried about in school or at home?” This exam will help the dentist see if the cause of your child’s teeth grinding is psychological (stress) or anatomical (misaligned teeth) and figure out the right treatment plan.
What Can You Do To Help Children Suffering From Teeth Grinding?
The solution here is essentially a combination of communication with your child, parental observation and periodical visits to the dentist.
It helps to have a conversation with your child about the cause of their concerns or negative emotions. The sooner you identify the source of stress, the sooner you can work towards combating it. If your child usually has trouble relaxing before sleeping, activities like warm baths or listening to soothing music may help.
Cases where teeth grinding and clenching cause tooth damage, a sore jaw and face may occur. Your child’s dentist may prescribe a specially designed, custom made night guard similar to mouthpieces professional athletes wear. These night guards might need some getting used to but for your child’s health, it is absolutely worth it.
Here at Dentaservice, our staff are very experienced with children, especially common cases like teeth grinding in children. In fact, we love working with kids! We believe in getting your child dental appointments early on in their pre-school lives to familiarise themselves with their dentist. As a result, this will help them be more relaxed as they grow up. Additionally, early check-ups can also stop minor dental issues from turning into bigger problems. In our dental centre, you can trust that we always make your child’s appointment a fun and pleasant one.