Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is the act of unconsciously grinding or clenching your upper and lower teeth together. And, about a third of all kids grind their teeth at some point during their childhood.
Infants, children, adolescents, adults and the elderly are all perceptible to it, so why does it happen? How can you stop the habit before it does any damage?
What to Look For
Since teeth grinding is done unconsciously and mostly at night, knowing if your child or teenager is doing it is half the battle.
The most common giveaways are if they complain of a sore jaw, tooth sensitivity or if they often find evidence of having bitten the inside of their cheek. Another symptom is a constant, dull headache.
In severe, uncorrected cases, it can wear away your child’s primary and permanent teeth or cause their teeth to misalign. If misalignment is left unchecked, then it can lead to gum disease.
Common Causes of Teeth Grinding
An infant grinding their teeth is natural once enough teeth erupt to touch together. The phenomenon of having teeth is a new to your baby, so seeing what they can do is normal.
Children getting their permanent teeth will often do the same thing, since one cause of bruxism is gum discomfort.
Bruxism can also be brought on by stress, sleep disorders, earaches or as a side effect of certain medications.
What You Can Do
If your child is grinding their teeth while they’re in the process of getting their primary or permanent teeth, then don’t worry. Children generally stop on their own with no damage to their teeth.
In the meantime, to treat any discomfort as a result of bruxism, put a warm washcloth on your child’s cheek in front of their earlobe before bedtime to relax their muscles. You can try the same thing with a warm washcloth over their entire face.
At their next dentist checkup, tell your child’s doctor about the grinding or clenching so that they can pay special attention in the future to any signs of excessive wear or fractures. If your child is showing serious signs of teeth grinding, then immediately call your dentist. Then, the dentist may fit them with a mouthguard or a dental splint.
Both fit over your child’s upper or lower teeth and are worn at night to protect their teeth from being damaged.