Teeth Grinding ( Bruxism)
Teeth grinding is a behavior that usually happens subconsciously while children are sleeping. Between 15 and 33 percent of all children grind their teeth at some point in their lives. Bruxism is the technical name for this behavior, which is a common problem particularly for children under the age of 11. It’s so common, in fact, that your dentist won’t be surprised to find signs of teeth grinding in your youngster.
Bruxism isn’t completely understood — it’s often thought to be caused by psychological conditions. Children often develop habits that are largely subconscious — such as nail biting and thumb sucking. Teeth grinding usually occurs while your child is sleeping, though it may also be a habit that occurs while he is awake. Although it’s common, it’s a habit that’s really hard on your child’s teeth, so it needs to be addressed.
Loud and Frightening Noises
You may discover your child grinding his teeth when you go into his room while he’s sleeping. You hear a loud, unnerving sound. That’s because the noise from teeth grinding sounds like nails on a chalkboard and is often surprisingly loud. You may even wonder how your small child can make a noise that loud and stay asleep. If he grinds his teeth during the day, the noise usually is less noticeable and just looks as though he’s clenching his jaw.
If you don’t know that your child grinds his teeth, Dr. Mila Cohen may notice the resulting wear on the teeth during a check-up and ask you to check while he’s asleep. Once a diagnosis is clear, your kids dentist can recommend appliances and techniques that prevent this damaging behavior.
Causes of Teeth Grinding
What causes bruxism is still largely a mystery. Some of the potential causes include:
- Immature nervous system. Because bruxism can begin as early as one year old, many believe it’s a simple reflex caused by the immature part of the brain that’s responsible for chewing.
- A sleep arousal response. Sleep studies have shown that 80 percent of bruxism occurs during lighter stages of sleep. The theory is that moving from a deeper to a lighter sleep triggers an awakening response in young children.
- Upper airway obstruction. Children who snore or suffer from sleep apnea are more likely to grind their teeth in their sleep. This occurs more commonly in children who sleep on their backs. Removing their tonsils has shown to alleviate both symptoms of sleep apnea and teeth grinding.
- Some medications may cause your child to grind his teeth. Antidepressants are known for causing an increase in teeth grinding.
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The high-energy behavior associated with ADHD may cause bruxism. Additionally, the stimulants commonly prescribed children with ADHD also cause an increase in teeth grinding.
- Anxiety is a common cause of bruxism in children, teens, and adults.
- Similar to anxiety, stress is a potential cause of teeth grinding because it seems to worsen in high-stress times.
- There are a number of diseases that may cause children to grind their teeth more, including: Down syndrome, Huntington’s, epilepsy and cerebral palsy.
- Dental traumas can cause someone who never experienced bruxism before to suddenly start grinding his teeth. Tell your dentist if a change of any significance has happened recently.
- Other causes. In older teens, some behaviors that may contribute to bruxism include smoking, illegal drug use, and alcohol.
Common Problems Caused by Teeth Grinding
According to Dr. Mila Cohen of True Dental Care for Kids & Teens, teeth grinding places added wear and tear on the teeth. This can become a serious issue if it occurs over a long period of time. There are a number of issues that can arise from prolonged teeth grinding, some of the common problems include:
- Jaw soreness
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain
- Causing a click in your child’s jaw
- Teeth that are worn flat
- Permanent damage to the teeth
- Facial pain
- Loosening of teeth
- Tooth loss
- Cracked or chipped teeth
- Enamel damage and wear
- Receding gums
- Aching jaws
- Tooth pain
- Pain while chewing
In an average person, tooth enamel wears 0.3 millimeters every ten years; in people who grind their teeth, the enamel wears 0.2 millimeters every two years or so. The body doesn’t regenerate enamel, which is why it’s vital to help your child stop the habit of bruxism early.
Tips to Combat Bruxism
There are a number of simple lifestyle changes that can help your child alleviate some teeth grinding tendencies. Your New Jersey childrens dentist recommends:
- Avoiding caffeinated drinks such as sodas.
- Drinking more water. Many believe that being dehydration makes bruxism worse.
- Throwing away all chewing gum. Chewing gum can subconsciously reinforce the behavior.
- Avoiding other chewing habits such as chewing on pens.
- Talking to your children about the habit of teeth clenching and encourage them to focus on relaxing their jaw when they notice it.
- Using a warm washcloth at night against the jaw to promote relaxation.
- Watching for drinking problems. For older teens, drinking alcohol is a common cause of teeth grinding.
Treatment Solutions from Your Dentist
Your NJ kids dentist is your best ally in combating the lifelong negative effects of bruxism. Together, you and your dentist can educate your child on the impacts of teeth grinding and help spot patterns and causes. Your kids dentist may prescribe a teeth guard for your child to wear at night.
Night guards are custom-made to fit perfectly in your child’s mouth. Night guards are similar to mouth guards worn by athletes, but they differ in that they interfere less with your child’s overall bite and so are more comfortable. They’re worn at night and though they do not stop the jaw action in teeth grinding, they prevent the damage that it’s does to the teeth.
Damage to the teeth from bruxism is difficult to correct. Your NJ kids dentist can make a mouth guard for your child to stop the initial damage. The dentist also works to help treat the underlying causes of teeth grinding to prevent further damage to the jaw.