Many kids gnash and grind their teeth while sleeping, damaging tooth enamel and scaring parents. This condition is called bruxism, and it affects up to 3 out of 10 children. Although children can outgrow grinding their teeth at night, this sleep disorder can be a persistent long-term condition that can lead to severe dental erosion and other medical conditions. In this article, we’ll explore the basics of this condition as well as how to prevent teeth grinding in children.
Experts can’t always tell for sure what causes tooth grinding. It often depends on each case and on the lifestyle of the patient.
On cases involving kids though, the causes are often related to:
Anxiety and stress can also be the primary causes of bruxism. Have you noticed your children become worried about a change in routine, a new sibling or an upcoming test at school? If so, look for clenching of the jaw or grinding of the teeth, including grinding during sleep. They may use this as a way to relieve tension.
Bruxism can occur as a second symptom of conditions such as autism, Huntington’s disease and stomach reflux. Some medications can also cause teeth grinding as a side effect in both children and adults.
Symptoms of bruxism
Your children are likely not aware they are grinding their teeth while sleeping. The condition can generally pass undetected unless someone from the family identifies the jaw clenching noises. But in some cases, children complain about a few symptoms, which should be a warning sign to parents of the possibility of bruxism.
These symptoms can include:
- facial pain
- tooth sensitivity
- worn-down or broken teeth
How to prevent teeth grinding in children
Knowing the causes can help you and your children identify the risks and help you prevent the grinding. These are some of the precautions you can take:
Tip #1: Take your child to visit a dentist regularly
Bruxism can be a result of misaligned teeth, missing teeth or the eruption of wisdom teeth. Maintaining a regular routine of trips to your local dentist can help treat and prevent additional problems to oral health.
Tip #2: Help your child learn about diet and oral health
A diet rich in sugar and caffeine can lead to extra energy. While your children may enjoy that during the day, it can be a nightmare at bedtime.
Talk to your children about the need to limit or avoid foods and drinks such as soft drinks and sweets.
Tip #3: Make sure your child drinks plenty of water
Dehydration can lead to several issues, including bruxism. Develop a plan with your children that keeps them hydrated at breakfast, during school and during extracurricular activities.
Tip #4: Show your child how to protect herself from dental injuries
Dental injuries can happen due to inadequate dental hygiene, accidents or sports. Your children can maintain their oral health by wearing mouth guards during physical activities.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends mouth guards be used for any sport that involves the risk of injuries. This includes collision sports such as basketball, martial arts, hockey, boxing and soccer. It also includes limited contact sports such as gymnastics, skateboarding, volleyball and bicycling.
Bonus: wearing a night guard may help your children fall asleep and may alleviate some of the pressure of teeth grinding.
Tip #5: Help your child manage stress and anxiety
The National Sleep Foundation suggests your children find ways to relax before bedtime. Activities such as taking a warm bath, listening to music or reading a book can help calm down and find peace before sleep.
Also, maintaining a consistent daytime and bedtime schedule can reduce anxiety as well as establish a safe and consistent routine. Help your children establish this routine by:
- letting them play outside and exercise with safety to help release tension and accumulated energy
- having them sleep in their room with no television or any other screens
The bottom line on bruxism
Although many experts claim kids can overgrow teeth grinding, it can cause some severe health issues if not monitored or treated. Keep a watchful eye on your children’s oral health. Take active preventative measures. Talk to your children about any symptoms they may exhibit. Work with them to develop routines that keep their teeth healthy.
What steps do you take to help stop teeth grinding in your children?
Tell us what works in your household – and what doesn’t – in the comments!
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