Roughly 15% to 33% or 2 to 3 out of 10 children grind their teeth – a condition otherwise known as bruxism. Although common, it’s not good for them. Children with bruxism may be wearing down their tooth enamel, which can put them at greater risk for cavities, toothaches, or sensitivity.
Why a Child Might Grind their Teeth
- Their teeth aren’t properly aligned
- To relieve pain or discomfort caused by earache or teething
- Stress – usually related to anger, anxiety, or nervous tension
- Certain medications or medical conditions, such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), night terrors, sleep-related disorders such as sleep apnea, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Though the root cause is hard to pinpoint, you can try to determine if your child has bruxism and the frequency at which it occurs when they’re awake or asleep.
- Common identifiers of a child who grinds their teeth when they’re awake can include emotions such as anxiety, stress, anger, frustration, or tension, or as a coping mechanism or habit during deep concentration.
- Common signs when they’re asleep are grinding noises, pain when chewing, or a sore jaw, neck, ears, or cheeks after waking up.
A child’s teeth-grinding may be a temporary behavior, though there are some cases where they may need additional pediatric dental treatment to prevent further damage.
The short-term effects are often associated with headaches, pain in the jaw, face, neck, or ears. Wear and tear on the tooth’s enamel can also lead to painful chewing or sensitivity to hot and cold. If your child grinds their teeth because of a medical condition or side effects from their medication, it is best to consult their pediatric physician in addition to their dentist.
Long-term effects can cause the enamel to wear down, chip, crack, flatten, or fracture the teeth. In instances of prolonged or frequent grinding and clenching, your child may develop disorders in the temporomandibular joints (TMJs), located just in front of the ears, causing clicking sounds or pain in the jaw making it difficult to open their mouth or chew.
Treating Children for Bruxism
Significant pain or tooth misalignment in an older child who grinds their teeth is usually treated with the consistent use of a nightguard – a thin, flexible plastic molded and fitted to your child’s mouth that slips over the upper gums. Battery-powered toothbrushes are another way to protect their teeth from long-term damage, as they often discourage overly aggressive brushing.
Toddlers’ teeth are constantly changing and bruxism can be challenging to treat. Schedule a dental checkup for a proper diagnosis in infant oral care and further treatment.
Tips to Help Your Child Cope
If your child suffers from bruxism, here are some useful ways you can help prevent it from worsening.
- Stress-induced bruxism can be avoided – for an older child who grinds their teeth make sure to teach them how to deal with their anxiety appropriately. Find fun, engaging ways to help them de-stress, particularly before naps or bedtime.
- Follow a bedtime routine and don’t allow your child to consume caffeine beforehand, this includes chocolates and sodas.
- Routine dental visits can help dentists detect and treat bruxism early on.
- Try massage and stretching exercises to relax the muscles. An exercise routine is also great for relieving stress.
- Make sure your child’s diet includes plenty of water as dehydration may be linked to bruxism.
When Does My Child Need a Dentist?
If your child grinds their teeth on a regular basis, contact a pediatric dentist as soon as you can to set up an appointment.
Dentists will look for signs of wear and tear and check for teeth misalignment in order to treat your child’s bruxism accordingly.
Regular checkups will ensure your child’s overall oral health.
Call a Pediatric Dentist
Our offices in Reno, Nevada can treat your whole family including infants from as young as 6 months, children, teens, and kids with special needs. If there are any signs that your child grinds their teeth, get in touch with us for better teeth and better health! Our services also include:
- Infant oral care: The first few dental visits are vital to ensure long-term dental health.
- Composite fillings: Our tooth-colored fillings are both medically and visually better than traditional silver fillings.
- Dental sealants: This quick and simple method of coating the teeth protects the enamel from bacteria and food particles that can cause tooth decay.
- Pediatric dental x-rays: If your child is complaining of pain and soreness, or if they have sustained an injury to the mouth, we can quickly determine the extent of the damage to their teeth, gums, and jaw.
- Orthodontics: We offer many solutions to straighten teeth, such as Invisalign, traditional braces, lingual braces, and ceramic braces.
Prevention is better than cure, which is why maintaining an oral health routine for your kids is so important. Contact Toothfairy Pediatric Dental today for top-quality dental services that are second to none.