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Does Your Child Grind His or Her Teeth at Night?

Bruxism, or the grinding of teeth, is very common in children and adults. Nighttime grinding (during sleep) is most prevalent.  This condition can lead to a wide range of dental problems, depending on the frequency of the behavior, the intensity of the grinding, and the underlying causes of the grinding.

There is a wide range of psychological, physiological, and physical factors which may lead children to bruxism habits.  In particular, jaw misalignment, stress, and traumatic brain injury are all thought to contribute to bruxism.

What are the symptoms of bruxism?

Parents can usually hear intense grinding – especially when it occurs at nighttime. Daytime jaw clenching and grinding can be difficult to notice.  General symptoms provide clues an these include:

  • Frequent complaints of headache.
  • Injured teeth and gums.
  • Loud grinding or clicking sounds.
  • Rhythmic tightening or clenching of the jaw muscles.
  • Unusual complaints about painful jaw muscles – especially in the morning.
  • Unusual tooth sensitivity to hot and cold foods.

How can bruxism damage my child’s teeth?

Bruxism is characterized by the grinding of the upper jaw against the lower jaw.  Even if the child is completely unaware of nighttime grinding, the condition of the teeth provides the pediatric dentist with important clues.

Chronic grinders usually show an excessive wear pattern on the teeth.  If jaw misalignment is the cause, tooth enamel may be worn down in specific areas.  Children are more susceptible to chipped teeth, facial pain, gum injury, and temperature sensitivity.  Have in mind that frequent, harsh grinding can lead to the early onset of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).

What causes bruxism?

Bruxism can be caused by several different factors. If the child is going through a particularly stressful exam period or is relocating to a new school for example, nighttime teeth grinding may either begin or intensify.

Children with certain developmental disorders and brain injuries may be at particular risk for grinding.  It is noted that certain medications can start the onset of teeth grinding but even though teeth grinding is a rare side effect of specific medications, the medication itself may need to be switched for an alternative option

Elgin Teeth Grinding Bruxism Treatments

Bruxing spontaneously ceases by the age of thirteen in the majority of children. In general, the cause of the grinding dictates the treatment approach.  If the child’s teeth are badly misaligned, the pediatric dentist may take steps to correct this.  Some of the available options include: altering the biting surface of teeth with crowns, and beginning occlusal treatment. If bruxing seems to be exacerbated by stress, the pediatric dentist may recommend relaxation classes, professional therapy, or special exercises.

In cases where young teeth are sustaining significant damage, the pediatric dentist may suggest a specialized nighttime dental appliance such as a nighttime mouth guard.

If you have questions or concerns about bruxism or grinding teeth, please contact your Elgin dentist.

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