Parents often ask what to do when children grind their teeth. Bruxism, is the term for grinding teeth or clenching of the jaw. Bruxism will often occur during sleep, under stress or with pain. Most children will grow out of bruxism.
Generally, children may grind their teeth in response to pain such as teething or an earache. Additionally, improper alignment of the teeth or stress can be a trigger for clenching or grinding teeth. Children with certain medical conditions (such as cerebral palsy) or on certain medications can develop bruxism.
According to the American Dental Association, most cases of bruxism in children go undetected with no adverse effects, while others cause headaches, earaches or jaw pain. In some circumstances, nighttime grinding and clenching can wear down tooth enamel, chip teeth, increase sensitivity, and cause facial pain and jaw problems, such as temporomandibular joint disease. Most kids who grind, however, do not have temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems unless their grinding and clenching is chronic.
Many children who grind their teeth aren't even aware of it, parents usually identify the problem. Some signs to watch for:
Grinding noises when your child is sleeping
Complaints of a sore jaw or face in the morning
Pain with chewing
If you think your child is grinding his or her teeth, tell Dr. Michelle. She will examine the teeth for chipped enamel and unusual wear, and check for sensitivity.
Most children outgrow bruxism, but a combination of parental observation and regular dental visits can help keep the problem in check until they do.
In cases where the grinding and clenching make a child's face and jaw sore or damage the teeth, Dr. Michelle may prescribe a special night guard. The night guard is molded to the child's teeth and should be worn at bedtime.
Childhood bruxism is usually outgrown by adolescence. Most kids stop grinding when they lose their baby teeth. A few children do continue to grind their teeth into adolescence. However, if the bruxism is caused by stress, it will continue until the stress is relieved.
Sometimes bruxism is a child's natural reaction to growth and development, therefore most cases can't be prevented. However, stress-induced bruxism can be avoided by talking with your child regularly and helping them manage their stress. Routine dental visits with Dr. Michelle will help your child maintain good oral health and prevent dental problems.