Teeth Grinding in Children (Bruxism): What Can You Do?

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Teeth grinding in children is otherwise known as bruxism and happens when children clench their upper and lower teeth, rubbing them together. Commonly children grind their teeth whilst sleeping and are not aware of what they are doing.

What are the causes of bruxism in children?

It is not known for certain why some children start grinding their teeth and some children don’t. There are many theories to suggest that it could be down to the fact that the sets of top and bottom teeth do not fit together comfortably due to the fact that children’s teeth and jaws grow in phases leading to unpleasant sensations in the area. The natural response of the child is to grind their teeth to soothe themselves which often later develops into a habit. It has also been shown that both children and adults grind their teeth when they feel anxious in some way, or even as a response to facial pain such as an earache or teething. It has also been shown that hyperactive children have developed bruxism.

More recent research has suggested that sleep disturbances may be a cause for bruxism in children as well as causing a number of other problems such as bed-wetting, drooling and sleep-talking. Interruptions in the rapid eye movement (REM) patterns due to dehydration during sleep can be the underlying cause of many of these problems, though your dentist will be able to advise you more on this matter.

What are the effects?

Children do not usually experience ill effects from grinding their teeth. Even when their milk teeth show wear it usually does not cause any pain or damage, yet if this wear gets severe, or if your child has already lost their milk teeth, then it is advisable to seek treatment from your dentist as dental problems such as tooth infections can occur. In most cases of teeth grinding in children they will usually outgrow the problem.

What can be done to help?

Whilst the problems will most likely go away you may want to try some methods to help the child stop grinding their teeth in the meantime. Your dentist would be the best source of advice, and will be able to make sure that there are no problems regarding the alignment of the child’s teeth.

The most common remedy recommendation is usually a mouth guard. Wearing a mouth guard at night will prevent the child from grinding their teeth and night, and has a very high success rate in reducing the habit. However, your child may feel uncomfortable wearing a mouth guard and for this reason it is wise to look into other treatment options. In many cases hypnosis has been shown a successful way to get people of all ages out of the habit of grinding teeth.

In children whose grinding appears to be down to stress or anxiety it is extremely important to discover the underlying cause for these feelings. Try ways to relax your child before they go to sleep, such as a warm bath and a massage of the jaw. These methods will help to ensure that your child has a deep, relaxing and uninterrupted sleep.

The most important thing is that you needn’t be alarmed by a child’s grinding as it is extremely common. If your child already has their adult teeth then it is more of a worry, though there are many options available so seek advice from your dentist.

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