Alexandria, VA 22311
Have you heard of the simile that goes, “sleep like a baby?” It means that you are sleeping very well — quiet, peaceful, and calm. While many children sleep soundly just like that, some grind their teeth and clench their jaws firmly so that you can hear the noise that their teeth are making. If your child does this during his or her sleep at night, then your child may have Bruxism.
Bruxism is the medical term for the gnashing, grinding, and clenching of teeth in an abnormally habitual manner. Approximately 15%-33% of children grind their teeth at night. Some children outgrow this habitual manner by the time they reach the age of 6, while others don’t.
What causes Bruxism in children?
There is no definite answer on why children grind their teeth at night. However, several factors may have contributed to the condition, such as:
- Stress. Sometimes when children are worried or anxious over something, say an incoming test or sports competition, they tend to grind their teeth or clench their jaws.
- The top and bottom teeth are not aligned properly
- Discomfort from teething. According to medical experts, children tend to grind their teeth during two peak times — when their baby teeth and permanent teeth are emerging. It is their way of relieving discomfort and pain.
What are the negative effects of teeth grinding in children?
Most children with Bruxism may be able to sleep through the noise they are making, the habit may also wear away their teeth quickly. Children who grind their teeth tend to experience headaches in the morning or pain in the ear and its surrounding areas. This is due to the pressure that the condition puts on the jaw.
If the child is sleeping in a separate bedroom, parents will also know if they have Bruxism by checking the child’s tooth enamel. The abnormal habit of grinding teeth puts a toll on the tooth enamel resulting in premature wearing out of the enamel. With this, the child may feel discomfort when chewing foods or develop teeth sensitivity.
If teeth grinding continues, it may cause significant damage to your child’s teeth, such as chipping, cracking, and even fracture. Worse, the child may develop Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorder. The Bruxism Association also noted that teeth grinding can also lead to behavioral issues in children, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), especially when the condition has already interfered with their sleep.
How can Bruxism be treated?
If you believe that your child has Bruxism, visit your dentist immediately. The dentist will examine the teeth of your child for any indication of teeth grinding. When your child is diagnosed with Bruxism, may observe and monitor the condition until the child outgrows it.
The dentist may also prescribe a night guard customized to the size and needs of your child to minimize wear and tear of the teeth and protect it from damage. Helping your child relax before bedtime can also help reduce the occurrence of teeth grinding and clenching.