The constant clenching of the jaw and grinding of the teeth is known as bruxism. This condition affects an estimated 8 percent of adults, but it can also be a problem for children. While surprising to learn, bruxism can lead to a variety of dental disorders in young children, so proper understanding and treatment of this condition is essential. If you have noticed your child is grinding their teeth, mainly at night, this guide and your pediatric dentist can help you understand and manage their bruxism.
Dangers of Bruxism
Your child will most likely develop other problems if they are clenching their jaw and grinding their teeth.
First and foremost, bruxism can wear down your child's tooth enamel. Without a strong layer of enamel, food, plaque, and bacteria will seep into the teeth, increasing the risk of cavities and tooth decay.
Grinding down the enamel can also lead to a deeper level of staining, which can negatively affect the look of your child's smile.
Over time, the jaw clenching and tooth grinding can also misalign the jaw. In many cases, this can affect the alignment of your child's bite, which could lead to orthodontic care.
Finally, most children (and adults) with bruxism suffer from chronic jaw pain and headaches.
Causes of Bruxism
Stress is the most common cause of bruxism, but you may not even realize your child is dealing with stress or anxiety. Your child may be dealing with issues at school, such as bullying, social anxiety, or anxiety over grades or assignments.
Younger children who are experiencing discomfort while teething may also clench their jaw and grind their teeth periodically in an attempt to ease their pain.
Treating the condition is important if you want your child to have healthy teeth and gums. However, it is also necessary for reducing the risk of discomfort and bite misalignments.
Determining the root cause of your child's bruxism should be a priority. If your child is experiencing stress, there are many ways to provide them with some relief. Exercise and counseling can both be beneficial for helping your child cope with stress and anxiety in a healthier manner.
If your child is teething, talk with their dentist about safer options for finding relief. An over-the-counter ibuprofen can help ease their discomfort especially while they are sleeping.
Wearing a mouthguard at night may also be necessary. These guards are custom-fitted to your child's mouth, adding a layer of protection between the teeth to prevent any damage while your child clenches their jaw and grinds their teeth.