When kids grind their teeth in their sleep, should you be concerned or complacent?
There’s nothing more precious than a sleeping child. When we check in on them just before we turn in ourselves, few things make us happier than hearing the sounds of peaceful dreams, relaxed breathing and uninterrupted sleep. But what do you do when you hear the harsh sounds of gnashing and teeth grinding coming from your child’s mouth?
Bruxism is medically explained as teeth grinding or clenching. Many kids unknowingly have bruxism and while 25% of children will most likely participate in some form of grinding, clenching or gnashing, most kids eventually outgrow it.
Causes of Bruxism
Experts don’t always agree or even know with certainty, what causes bruxism. Kids have been grinding their teeth in their sleep for centuries. In a lot of cases, kids may find they are teeth grinding because of improper alignment between their top and their bottom teeth. Others kids grind their teeth in response to pain, like when they have an earache or when new teeth are emerging. They grind their teeth to bring relief and comfort, easing the pain just as one would if they rub a sore muscle to find relief.
For years it’s been said that stress causes childhood bruxism. Some children are sensitive and as a result, they carry around worry, guilt and stress resulting in teeth grinding. They might be concerned about an exam, worry about a situation at school or even a disruption in their routine can cause bruxism. Even arguing with a parent or a sibling can produce enough stress to provoke teeth grinding or jaw clenching.
What are some symptoms of bruxism?
Most of the time parents can hear the intense grinding and clenching that their children do while they sleep. On the other hand, it can be hard to detect jaw clenching and grinding during the day, as it tends to be subtler and not as noticeable, making it harder to pinpoint. These general symptoms can help point out clues that can help pinpoint whether your child is suffering from bruxism and teeth grinding.
• Regular complaints of headaches.
• Noticeable damage to the gums and teeth.
• Noticeable and loud clicking sounds or gnashing of the teeth.
• Routinely squeezing or clenching of the jaw muscles.
• Common complains about aching muscles in the mouth and jaw, particularly first thing in the morning.
• Complaints of tooth sensitivities.
Can bruxism damage my child’s teeth?
Bruxism is described as grinding or grating of teeth, when the upper and lower jaws meet. The times where intense grinding takes place, your child might complain of discomfort in their jaw, they might experience headaches and they often times will talk about ear pain. Even when the child is unaware he or she is bruxing, (and the parents don’t hear it either), the state of their teeth will provide the dentist with meaningful indications.
Chronic teeth grinding and clenching usually present itself as excessive wear on the teeth. If the cause of the grinding is because of a jaw misalignment, then tooth enamel in specific areas will be worn down and show signs fairly quickly. Also children who grind their teeth are more vulnerable to cracked or chipped teeth, unusual pain in their face, injury to their gums, and temperature sensitivity. In severe cases, regular harsh teeth grinding can indicate a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) may occur or be aggravated down the road.
Why do kids grind their teeth at night?
Well the answer to that question can be multi-faceted but in certain instances, it’s because their teeth are coming in, pushing through the gum line. Kids will also grind their teeth at night if they have trouble breathing. The strongest evidence out there suggests bruxism and breathing issues go hand-in-hand as teeth grinding helps open the airways, allowing for alleviated breathing while they sleep. A lot of times their breathing issues can be linked to the shape of their palate and also has something to do with the size of the adenoids and the tonsils.
I’m worried about it. What should I do?
While bruxism or teeth grinding in the very young (toddlers and young children) is definitely common, if left undiagnosed it can lead to severe problems. It’s worth a trip to our office to determine if this is simply a habit they’ll outgrow or if they have caused enough damage to their teeth that treatment should be considered sooner rather than later.
The best course of treatment for you should be discussed with your friendly dentist. Contact Ava Maria Dental today at (03) 8797 5078. for professional advice.