When your child is grinding or clenching their teeth it can be quite concerning. There are also many reasons why teeth grinding, or bruxism may have developed.
What is teeth grinding?
Teeth grinding can be a clenching, grinding and gnashing of the teeth that happens involuntarily, most likely during sleep. The medical term for teeth grinding is bruxism. Most people grind or clench their teeth on occasions and it doesn’t usually cause any harm unless it occurs on a regular basis.
Constant teeth grinding can lead to tooth wear and damage and other oral health complications such as TMJ pain or jaw muscle discomfort can arise.
My child grinds their teeth, is this normal?
While not normal, teeth grinding or bruxism in children is relatively common. Approximately 30% of children can develop bruxism throughout their childhood.
The good news is teeth grinding is usually self-limiting (resolves itself without treatment).
What are the reasons for teeth grinding?
In short, there is no singular cause for teeth grinding. It is generally thought to be attributed to a number of causes. Some explanations include a malalignment of teeth, while some children may do it as a response to pain such as an ear ache, tooth loss or teething.
Stress or nervous tension is also said to play a possible role. There is also a correlation between intestinal parasites (worms) and tooth grinding. Increasingly evidence is also pointing towards breathing difficulties during sleep (possibly caused by large adenoids or tonsils, the shape of the palate or even allergic rhinitis) as being a contributing factor.
What signs are there to tell if my child is grinding their teeth?
Signs and symptoms of tooth grinding include complaints of a sore jaw, face or teeth, and pain whilst chewing. Chipped, worn, flattened and sensitive teeth can also be signs that the child’s tooth grinding is excessive.
The most obvious method to find out if your child has bruxism is by listening to them when they sleep. If you hear a constant grinding noise, your child may be affected. You can also ask a sibling if they sleep in the same room to listen for grinding noises.
How can teeth grinding be treated?
Most of the time tooth grinding is monitored by your dentist. It is rare that intervention is required. If your dentist happens to detect obvious signs of airway obstruction such as large tonsils or adenoids, a referral to an Ear, Nose & Throat specialist (ENT) may be necessary.
The majority of children outgrow grinding, however, in some cases if grinding continues into adolescence a nightguard may be required to protect the adult teeth. A nightguard is a flexible, retainer-like piece of plastic that can be worn over the upper teeth at night time.
If stress is the cause, the grinding may continue until the underlying stressor is eliminated. Talk to your child to find out if they are worried about something and find out how they are feeling before bed time. This may help you to identify any stress factors.
Long-term Effects of Teeth Grinding
If teeth grinding during the night and even the day becomes a habit, it may have effects on your overall health.
One indication is the increased use of the masseter muscles located at the back angle of the lower jaw. These muscles can bulk up if you continuously clench your teeth which may give your face a wider appearance.
Teeth grinding can also lead to enamel surface loss resulting in shorter teeth. It can also increase sensitivity of your teeth.
Contact Us Today
If you are concerned that your child grinds their teeth, please contact one of our Coastal Dental Care practices or book an appointment online.