Did you know that 15% to 33% of children grind their teeth? Fortunately, this is mostly done when their baby teeth and permanent teeth are coming in, and children typically stop grinding before it becomes a serious problem. However, some kids continue to grind their teeth, and if that occurs, it needs to be addressed. So, what are the dangers and how can you stop a child from grinding their teeth?
Why Do Children Grind Their Teeth?
Teeth grinding, known as Bruxism, is typically associated with stress and anxiety, but it can also be caused by allergies, pinworm parasites, endocrine disorders or nutritional deficiencies. Teeth might be improperly aligned or there may be irregular contact between the upper and lower rows of teeth. Children might also be grinding their teeth as a reaction to pain, such as teething pain or an earache.
The Dangers of Grinding Teeth
In addition to the underlying causes, the grinding of teeth can cause headaches, tooth sensitivity and jaw pain, as well as further dental health problems down the road. In addition to headaches and possibly earaches, KidsHealth.org states that long-term teeth grinding can wear down tooth enamel, increase the child’s sensitivity to hot or cold foods and cause chipped teeth. It may even cause facial pain and long-term jaw problems, such as TMJ.
How to Know if Your Child is Grinding Their Teeth
If a child is complaining about headaches or a sore jaw, especially in the morning (teeth grinding typically occurs at night, while sleeping), then it’s quite possible that they’re clenching or grinding their teeth. If this is a regular occurrence, you should let your pediatric dentist know immediately, so that their teeth can be fully examined.
How to Stop Your Child’s Tooth Grinding Habit
There are various steps that can be taken to stop a child’s tooth grinding habit. For older children, and especially if the grinding has been going on for a while, their dentist might recommend that they wear a night guard or have temporary crowns put in. Night guards are designed to the child’s teeth, and are similar to what athletes use for protection while playing sports. With younger children, that type of intervention is usually not needed. There are important things you can do at home to stop the grinding.
- Minimize Stress. Do your best to decrease any stress your child may be feeling, especially if it’s just before they go to bed. Speak to them often and encourage them to tell you if anything is bothering them. A warm bath, reading a book or listening to music before bedtime are effective ways to unwind from the day.
- Massage and Stretching. Encourage your child to gently stretch before they go to bed, as this can relax muscles so they don’t tense at night. A gentle massaging is another relaxation technique that can loosen tight muscles.
- Plenty of Water! Dehydration may be linked to the grinding of teeth, so make sure your child drinks ample amounts of water as part of their diet.
Avoid Caffeine at Night. If your child is “hyped up” in the evening, that may cause teeth grinding while they’re sleeping. It isn’t just coffee and tea that contain caffeine. Popular soft drinks, and of course energy drinks and certain brands of flavored water, contain some level of caffeine that can affect sleep patterns as well as tooth grinding. And remember, chocolate also contains caffeine!