The problem of bruxism, otherwise known as teeth grinding, is not limited to adults. According WebMD, approximately 15% to 33% of children grind their teeth. Children who grind their teeth tend to do so at two peak times in their lives – (1) when their baby teeth emerge and (2) when their permanent teeth come in. Some of this potential grinding is protected or goes unnoticed because of thumb sucking, which can cause a different set of problems. However, most children who do not suck their thumbs while sleeping lose the teeth grinding habit shortly after these two sets of teeth have come in more fully.
While it is more common for children grinding their teeth to do it during sleep rather than during waking hours, it has not been determined exactly why children grind their teeth. There are several theories which include improperly aligned teeth or irregular contact between upper and lower teeth, illnesses and other medical conditions (such as nutritional deficiencies, pinworm, allergies, endocrine disorders), and psychological factors including anxiety and stress, and all of which appear to be unsubstantiated theory.
The main reason there has been very little study on children grinding their baby teeth is that it rarely results in problems. However, teeth grinding can cause jaw pain, headaches, wear on the teeth, and TMD. Consult your dentist if your child’s teeth look worn or if your child complains of tooth sensitivity or pain.
Should teeth grinding result in a real problem for your child, here are some specific tips to help stop teeth grinding:
- 1. Where possible, decrease your child’s stress, especially just before bedtime.
- 2. Try massage and stretching exercises to relax the muscles.
- 3. Make sure your child’s diet includes plenty of water. There is some thought that dehydration may be linked to teeth grinding.
- 4. Ask your dentist to monitor your child’s teeth if he or she is a grinder. Possibly consult a pedodontist (children’s dentist) and pediatrician if it becomes apparent that damage is occurring.
No intervention is usually required with preschool-age children. However, older children may need temporary crowns or other methods, such as a night guard, to prevent the grinding in their sleep.
Dr. Scheinfeld is an Emory trained prosthodontist specializing in mandibular form and function.
Novy Scheinfeld, DDS, PC
290 Carpenter Drive, 200A
Atlanta (Sandy Springs), GA 30328
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