The tendency to grind one's teeth at night is referred to by dental experts as bruxism. In most cases, this unconscious habit doesn't necessarily lead to damaged teeth. Dental development in children can mean an increase in teeth-grinding, so read on to find out more about this troubling but relatively harmless habit.
Signs of Bruxism in Children
When you think about teeth-grinding in an adult, you imagine the clicking or popping noises that can be heard by others. In children, you may need to actually catch the child moving their jaws back and forth while sleeping rather than count on sounds. These types of movements are typical in children with emerging and loosening teeth and are usually harmless. Often, the child will make grinding or grimacing motions while they are awake as well. This is almost always associated with emerging teeth. While teething can cause discomfort, any pain from emerging teeth should be addressed promptly with the dentist to determine the cause. In some cases, permanent teeth begin to emerge prematurely before the baby teeth are ready to drop out.
Determine the Cause of the Bruxism
Unfortunately, the signs of teeth-grinding in a child may not always point to bruxism. Almost any form of discomfort in the head area could cause the child to make these movements while sleeping. Be sure you rule out an earache. Ear infections may involve what is known to as referred pain. That means the child might sense discomfort in an area remote from where they are indicating. Some causes of bruxism include the following:
- Improper alignment of the teeth
Psychological Causes of Bruxism
Some children are sensitive to their environment, and they experience stress too. If your child is undergoing changes in their routines or seems to be exhibiting other stress-related symptoms, you might want to address the root cause of the stress. New schools, a new neighborhood, or a new baby sibling could be affecting your child in surprising ways.
When Damage Does Occur
Most children grow out of this habit in time with no ill effects on their teeth or anything else. Unfortunately, children can cause damage to their teeth if the grinding goes on for some time or they have weak enamel on their teeth. At its worst, bruxism can cause chipped or broken teeth, heat and cold sensitivity, and jaw problems. Speak to your dentist and have your child's teeth examined for damage. Special mouth guards can be used to prevent further problems.
Contact a dentist like Dr. Jon Douglas Lesan, DDS, RpH, PA for more information.