We all have our own odd, nightly habits. Some of us have snores that could virtually be heard a mile away. Others of us twitch, talk gibberish, or even walk in our sleep. It’s always fun learning from our friends and family what we do when we’re out like a light! While, in most cases, the things we do when we’re asleep are harmless and don’t really mean anything, there’s one habit that is definitely not something one should be happy about: teeth grinding, also called bruxism. Some of us might occasionally notice our little ones grinding their teeth in the day. However, teeth grinding at night is far more damaging as most people, especially children, are completely unaware that it’s happening. In turn, they can’t just stop themselves from doing it, even if they wanted to. The problem is, teeth grinding causes silent damage to the teeth. Fortunately, we’ll help you better understand why teeth grinding happens. We’ll also let you in on how to help your kiddo kick nighttime teeth grinding to the curb to avoid those damages to their pretty, pearly whites.
Causes of Teeth Grinding in Children
Teeth grinding in general, whether done in the daytime or at nighttime, can have many causes. Normally, however, it is a sign of stress or anxiety, but that is not always the case. This might be an early sign of an anxiety disorder, or your child might just be going through a particularly taxing time. Stressful moments for children might include starting a new school year, dealing with the loss of a family pet, or having recently moved homes.
Bruxism can also be due to a side effect of certain medications, like SSRIs. Or, if your child has had too much caffeine, this can also be a trigger of their teeth grinding. This is one of many reasons why many recommend that children under the age of 12 shouldn’t have caffeine and why those 12 to 18 should limit their daily caffeine intake to 100 mg.
But what about teeth grinding at night? Again, this could be due to stress or anxiety, a medication side effect, or excess caffeine. In addition, sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea can also increase one’s risk of grinding their teeth while sleeping. Research also shows that those who talk or mumble in their sleep, experience hallucinations while semi-conscious or sleep paralysis, or who exhibit violent behaviors while sleeping such as kicking or punching, are more likely to also grind their teeth at night.
What are the Effects of Teeth Grinding?
Both children and adults can experience side effects due to teeth grinding. Signs that one is grinding their teeth at night include waking up with headaches or earaches, experiencing tooth pain (normally back molar) or general facial pain, or having a stiffer jaw than usual. In children, they might complain of these aches and pains every, or nearly every, morning but complain less as the day goes on. As for those who grind their teeth in the daytime, these symptoms might instead appear throughout the day.
The effects of teeth grinding don’t just involve aches and pains that might be inconvenient and uncomfortable. The effects can be serious, permanent, and long-lasting. This is especially true when teeth grinding begins to directly impact the teeth themselves.
How Teeth Grinding Damages the Teeth
As you can imagine, when someone grinds their teeth, this involves a great deal of pressure and friction. That pressure and friction can do some damage to the teeth. This includes wearing down the enamel, which can increase the chances of tooth decay. So, if your child is a sufferer of teeth grinding, this might be the reason they’re getting more cavities than usual.
Apart from wearing down the enamel, the protective layer of the teeth, frequent clenching and grinding can also cause the teeth to crack or chip. This can be quite painful, and like the loss of enamel, can increase one’s risk of developing cavities. Due to the pain and risks, a cracked or chipped tooth is definitely a dental emergency. The sooner the situation is handled by a dentist, the more likely it will end up with a successful outcome. Refusal to get a cracked or chipped tooth repaired or removed, depending on the severity of the tooth damage, may even lead to the loss of the affected tooth.
You may or may not see the severity of a child losing or damaging a temporary tooth in the process of grinding their teeth. However, baby teeth are more important than you might think. Your child not only needs their baby teeth to speak and chew but to develop healthy adut teeth. Temporary teeth help lead to the proper development of adult teeth, you know!
How to Stop a Child from Teeth Grinding at Night
Now that you’re aware of the dangers of teeth grinding, you’re definitely going to want to know how to stop this damaging habit. This is especially true if you have a child who experiences teeth grinding at night.
Normally, helping a kid put teeth grinding to rest starts with finding the underlying reason for the grinding. Is your child stressed about an upcoming exam in school? Are they getting bullied? Might they be experiencing the early stages of an anxiety disorder? Is a medication they’re taking or too much caffeine the potential cause for their grinding? It might be easier to find the reason if the grinding occurs periodically instead of every day or if it’s something that only happens after certain stimuli (e.g., drinking caffeine before bed, having a bad day at school). A great deal of the time, your son or daughter might not even know the reason behind their teeth grinding.
A Dentist Can Help with Childhood Teeth Grinding
While it helps to resolve or eliminate the things causing or potentially triggering your child’s teeth grinding, this is an urgent time. To help your child avoid the serious effects surrounding bruxism, taking them to the dentist would be the best option.
For children experiencing teeth grinding at night, their dentist might suggest a mouthguard for them to wear. You can buy a mouthguard over the counter or can have one customized to fit your child’s mouth perfectly by their dentist. While a custom guard is more expensive, many find them to be the most effective. The great thing about mouthguards is that, while they don’t per se stop the grinding, they do help protect the teeth from being damaged during grinding sessions. Apart from suggesting or making a mouthguard, dentists can also help fix any damages your child might already have due to teeth grinding.
Daytime teeth grinding, however, is something your child is going to have to learn to be more conscious about in order to quit. Verbal reminders from parents can help. A reward and punishment system may also be useful to encourage your child to avoid grinding their teeth.
Child Experiencing Teeth Grinding? Act Fast!
In the end, whether your child grinds their teeth at night or during the day, there can and will be a solution. Understanding the reasons behind your child’s teeth grinding is a good start and then working from there. However, it’s also vital to get a dentist in the picture. Dentists have seen many teeth grinding cases in all ages. In turn, they are capable of finding a workable solution to prevent teeth grinding and restoring the damages from such.
The best results for teeth grinding involve speedy action. The faster you get help for childhood teeth grinding, the faster a solution can come about. Not to mention, the more likely it will be a success. So, start now while the effects are minimal.