Why Do Kids Grind Their Teeth at Night?
The condition of your child’s teeth is a major part of their overall health and wellbeing. Beyond standard dental hygiene, protecting your kids from bruxism, or teeth grinding, is an important step to protect their teeth.
Most commonly, people don’t grind their teeth unless they are asleep, so it can be hard to identify bruxism in your child. If your child regularly complains of a headache in the morning, or you notice their jaw is often clenched, they might be grinding their teeth at night.
To help you understand bruxism and how you can help your child, we’ve put together everything you need to know.
How Common is Bruxism?
The nature of bruxism makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly how many children experience it. Because it happens at night, oftentimes it goes unnoticed until the child’s pediatric dentist identifies it. That said, most experts agree that 2 to 3 of every 10 children will experience teeth grinding or jaw clenching.
It’s important to note that bruxism can develop at any age, so if you think your child might grind their teeth or clench their jaw frequently, take them to the dentist as soon as possible. The effects of long-term bruxism can be mild to aggressive, depending on how often your child experiences it. Because kids can start grinding their teeth at any age, regular pediatric dental visits are an essential part of prevention.
What Does Teeth Grinding Signal About Your Child?
If you notice that your child is grinding their teeth, don’t panic. Although the effects of bruxism can be harmful, especially as your child’s adult teeth start to come in, they can be reduced. Your pediatric dentist will be able to provide support to help maintain the health of your child’s teeth. As a parent, the more important details to look for is why your child is grinding their teeth.
Direct causes of bruxism are unknown, but there are several factors that can make it more likely for your child to grind their teeth. First, stressful situations often lead to teeth grinding, especially if the stress is also creating sleeping issues. To avoid the pain of bruxism, try helping your child with coping strategies to use during stressful periods of their life.
Other contributing factors include an abnormal bite, crooked teeth or missing teeth. As children transition from their baby teeth to adult teeth, make sure to check on them to ensure that they aren’t clenching their jaw or grinding their teeth in the night. Your pediatric dentist can help with helpful ways to prevent both at your regular visits.
Lastly, if your child is experiencing discomfort from colds, ear infections, allergies or other ailments, it could also lead to teeth grinding. It won’t always, but it’s a good thing to keep an eye on if you’re worried about your child’s dental health.
Can Grinding Teeth Cause Problems?
As a parent, we know that your biggest concern are any long-term problems associated with kids who grind their teeth. The most dangerous effect of bruxism is damage to your child’s teeth. Sometimes, the pressure from grinding teeth can cause cracks or fractures. This could result in more extensive dental care, including surgeries.
A more common problem, one that will affect your child’s daily life, is the erosion of enamel on their teeth which exposes the layer of dentin underneath. Once the enamel is gone, it can’t be replaced. Without enamel, your child will experience mild to extreme discomfort with both pressure and cold temperatures on their teeth. Some kids refuse to eat altogether because the experience is so painful. Talk to your pediatric dentist to learn preventative measures you can take to help your child avoid losing the enamel on their teeth.
Of course, the process of enamel erosion is a long one. It’s more likely that you’ll see other signs of bruxism first. Some symptoms to look out for include headaches, earaches, toothaches, sore facial muscles, and damage to the temporomandibular joints that connect the lower jaw to the skull. As with most health-related issues, the best way to know if your child is experiencing any discomfort is to ask them. If their complaints persist, talk to your pediatric dentist for help. They will know exactly what to do.
Does Bruxism Go Away?
Prevention is the best strategy for avoiding the problems associated with bruxism. However, if your child is experiencing the effects currently, there are a few ways you can reduce the symptoms.
Start with reducing your child’s stress levels. Try to find the root of their stress. Is it family life, school or friends that are affecting their stress levels? If your child can’t identify a specific stressor, try implementing some stress reduction techniques to improve their overall mood. Put some relaxing music on rather than turning to screen time. Encourage them to read or journal in times of high stress. You might also find that simply spending an hour to play and laugh together will have a dramatic affect on their stress levels.
Physically, there are a few ways to improve the problems caused by teeth grinding. If your child has an abnormal bite, ask your pediatric dentist if you should remove the high spots on one or more teeth. In serious cases, dentists might suggest reshaping or reconstructing your child’s bite in order to stop bruxism. For less severe cases, your dentist might suggest a nightguard to be worn while sleeping. Your dentist will custom make a guard to fit your child’s teeth perfectly to prevent contact and prevent the problems associated with grinding.
The good news is, there is always something that can be done. Simply ask your pediatric dentist if you’re worried about your child.
What to Do if Your Child has Bruxism?
The most important choice you can make if your child has bruxism is to schedule regular visits with your pediatric dentist. Your dentist will be able to detect and monitor damage caused by the condition, plus give you practical advice for how to help your child feel more comfortable.