Teeth grinding, also commonly known as Bruxism, is a relatively common pediatric dental concern. It has been estimated that up to 35% of children experience Bruxism at some point during childhood. Children are often entirely unaware that they are clenching their jaw or grinding their teeth at night, so as a parent, it's critical to be aware of the signs so you can look for them in your child.
If your son or daughter is suffering from severe teeth grinding, a mouthguard may be the solution.
Why Children Are More Likely To Grind Their Teeth Than Adults
Teeth grinding refers to the habit of either clenching the teeth tightly or continuously rubbing them against each other with force. While teeth grinding can be an action that happens during the day, the most damaging grinding habits often occur while sleeping. Many who suffer from Bruxism are unaware of their actions.
Children are susceptible to grinding their teeth during their development, particularly in those under the age of five. Most children who grind their teeth outgrow the habit without intervention and no harm to their teeth. However, if a child is suffering from severe Bruxism, your child's dentist may recommend treatment to prevent permanent damage.
Symptoms of Nighttime (nocturnal) pediatric Bruxism
The symptoms of nighttime grinding may vary, but a few of the more obvious may include:
- Tenderness in the jaw
- Tightness in the jaw muscles
- Visibly worn teeth
- Increased tooth sensitivity
The Long-Term Damage of Teeth Grinding
Many pediatric Bruxism cases go undetected with no ill effects, while others can cause chronic headaches and other symptoms. In severe cases, nighttime grinding and clenching can lead to long-term damage, including:
- Worn down tooth enamel
- Chipped teeth
- Temperature sensitivity
- Severe facial pain
- Jaw development issues, such as TMJ
How a Mouthguard Can Help
As a parent, if you're concerned about your child grinding their teeth at night, an essential first step is to have them evaluated by a dentist. In many cases, a child will not need any treatment. However, in severe situations where there may be a risk of infection or damage to permanent teeth, a mouthguard may be beneficial.
Mouthguards, also called night guards, are retainer-like pieces of plastic that cover either the top or bottom teeth. The guard cushions the teeth from the force of clenching and prevents the molars from grinding together. This not only safeguards your child's teeth but allows your loved one to sleep soundly.
A dentist may also recommend a treatment plan that includes the smoothing of teeth due to wear, fillings for teeth with deep holes, and continued regular evaluation to prevent any long-term damage to permanent teeth.
Determining The Cause Can Help Too
Unfortunately, there is no cut and dry answer to the whys behind pediatric Bruxism. Several suggestions regarding cause have been made:
- Local (or intra-oral) factors - Misaligned or overcrowded teeth can cause interference between upper and lower teeth and lead to Bruxism.
- Systemic (or internal) factors - Causes of teeth-grinding suggested include an earache or other physical pain, nutritional deficiencies, dehydration, allergies, endocrine disorders, sleep disorders, and even intestinal parasites.
- Stressful life situations - A change in environment, divorce, tension at school, or death of a loved one may trigger anxiety, which leads to Bruxism. Children may grind because they feel fear, anger, or another negative emotion.
Pediatric Bruxism typically lessens between the ages of 6-9 and stops entirely by the age of 12. If you're concerned over your child's teeth grinding habit, contact Tompkins Dental to discuss potential triggers and treatment options.