Bruxism is the grinding of the upper jaw against the lower jaw and is common among both children and adults. It can happen during the daytime or while a person is asleep and can lead to a range of dental problems depending on the frequency and intensity of the grinding and its underlying causes.
Bruxing in children can occur because of physical, physiological, and psychological factors. Jaw misalignment (bad bite), traumatic brain injury, and stress are the main causes, however, certain medications may have bruxing as a side effect.
How to tell if your child is grinding their teeth
In some cases, parents will be able to hear or see grinding, but it can be challenging to spot. General symptoms of bruxing include:
Loud grinding or clicking sounds.
Frequent complaints of headache.
Injured teeth and gums.
Complaints about painful jaw muscles – especially in the morning.
Sensitivity to hot and cold foods.
Rhythmic tightening or clenching of the jaw muscles
The causes of bruxism
The most common cause of bruxism in children is a misaligned jaw. When the jaw doesn’t fit together comfortably, children tend to subconsciously grind their teeth. Children who experience frequent life stressors, such as stressful exams or moving to a new school, are also highly likely to begin or intensify their grinding habits. Children with developmental disorders and brain injuries are also at risk for developing grinding habits.
Less commonly, bruxing is a side effect of children’s medication. If bruxing becomes an issue, switching to an alternate medication may be recommended.
Why should bruxism be taken seriously?
Bruxism can lead to severe discomfort in the jaw, ear, and head. It can also wear down the teeth and lead to jaw misalignment, worn down tooth enamel, chipped teeth, gum injury, and even temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) in extreme cases.
If your child is exhibiting signs of bruxism, taking them to see a pediatric dentist in Brooklyn right away is the best thing you can do to prevent further health complications.
How is bruxism in children treated?
Most children with grinding habits spontaneously cease bruxing at the age of thirteen. Until then, or if their habit continues, their pediatric dentist will monitor the effect bruxing has on their teeth and develop an intervention strategy.
The treatment approach depends on the cause of the child’s bruxing. If it is caused by misaligned teeth, the dentist may suggest correcting the biting surface of the teeth with crowns and beginning occlusal treatment.
If bruxing is caused by stress, the Brooklyn dentist may recommend special relaxation exercises, professional therapy, or relaxation classes for the child. In serious cases, they can also use muscle relaxants to alleviate jaw clenching and reduce jaw spasms. They may also suggest botulism injections to calm facial muscles or provide the patient with a protective nighttime mouthpiece if the teeth seem to be sustaining significant damage.
Nighttime mouth guards are specialized dental appliances that keep the teeth from grinding against each other while the child is asleep. They look like the mouth guard an athlete might wear during sports. Other appliances the dentist may suggest include bite splints or bite plates.
To express your questions or concerns about childhood bruxism and teeth grinding, please contact Brooklyn Dentist.