Grinding of teeth in toddlers is seen very commonly and parents worry about it too often. Most of the time grinding of teeth is seen (heard) during the night when the child is asleep. Commonly known as Bruxism. Grinding of teeth usually doesn’t cause any harm, unless continued for a very long time.
Stress and teething are regarded as the most common reasons for the grinding of teeth in toddlers, but the exact reason is still unknown. The grinding tends to reduce with time as the child grows.
Bruxism is the grinding of teeth repeatedly, and grinding in the night is mainly referred to as Bruxomania. According to the AASM (American Academy of Sleep Medicine), 14-17% of children have it, and one-third of these children will still have it in adulthood.
A loud creaking sound can be heard by the parent or the sibling sleeping next to the child, but the child will not be aware of it at all. The jaw contracts while sleeping which causes the grinding of teeth.
Why do Kids Grind their Teeth?
The exact reason for the grinding of teeth is not known, but the following few reasons are considered as the cause of bruxism.
Stress is regarded as one of the main reasons for teething, though most of the research has not been very conclusive. Stress is believed to be the major cause both in kids as well as adults.
Clenching the jaw while sleeping leads to sourness in the muscles and therefore tenderness in and around the joint when the child gets up in the morning.
Stress can be of any kind, school-related, peer pressure, family-related, or anything that the child might not be comfortable with.
Teething is another reason for the grinding of teeth in children. During teething there might be pain and discomfort which sometimes is relieved when you apply pressure on the teeth, and thus the grinding.
The other reason is during teething the teeth are still not aligned and therefore do not contact properly, which might cause grinding of teeth during sleep.
Even with the eruption of permanent teeth, the contacts are still not proper and can be the cause of bruxism. Kids with braces (undergoing orthodontic treatment) are also more prone to bruxism.
Ache in any other part especially the ear is also linked to clenching. Clenching of teeth causes some amount of discomfort from the earache and so the child repeatedly does that.
Mal-alignment of Teeth
After all the teeth have erupted if the child is still having bruxism, and all the other factors are ruled out, mal-alignment of teeth can be another reason for the clenching. The contacts might not be proper, the bite might be shifting causing trouble while closing and thus the clenching.
If the child doesn’t have a sound sleep, sleeps for less number of hours, or is always tired, the child is prone to grind his or her teeth more. A proper sleep routine should be followed and a preschooler should get at least 11-13 hours of sleep during the night according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
What are the Signs that the Child is Grinding the Teeth During Sleep?
While co-sleeping you might hear a grinding sound, when the child grinds the teeth. Sometimes the sound might be loud enough to wake you up but the child would be completely unaware about it. Sometimes the child might be grinding the teeth even while he or she is awake, absorbed in something they are doing with full concentration. You just need to divert their mind and politely ask them not to grind.
Children with severe bruxism might have damage of teeth which is caused due to excessive forces on the tooth structure. Micro cracks and fractures can be seen on the surface of the teeth.
Sensitivity in Teeth
Due to teeth damage, the child might have sensitivity to hot and cold and to sweet stuff. In these cases a dental visit is mandatory and the best is to visit a dentist and get it checked and treated.
Jaw pain is another sign of bruxism in children. They might have pain in and around their TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) and the muscles surrounding the oral cavity. In such cases, the attention must be drawn towards finding the cause of the habit and breaking it.
How is Bruxism Diagnosed?
Professionals highly rely on parents when diagnosing bruxism in kids. They will ask you various questions like:
– Do you hear any grinding noises when the child is sleeping?
– Does your child complain of any jaw pain or muscular pain in the mornings?
– Is your child under any kind of stress, family pressure or pressure from school?
– Does your child have sleep disturbances?
The dentist will also check for any damage to the tooth structure and the joint. They might check for malaligned teeth.
A medical professional might check for other problems like ear infections.
How to Prevent Grinding of Teeth?
If the bruxism is related to normal growth and development, it can not be avoided. But if there is a cause for it, it surely can be avoided.
If stress is the reason for clenching, parents can help in a lot of ways.
– Ask the child if something is bothering him or her
– Ensure to your child that you are always there for them no matter what
– Start preparing for bedtime half an hour before itself
– Avoid TV or games during the night before bedtime
– Spend time with your child before bedtime
– Give a warm water bath to the child before sleeping
– Read a book before bedtime to your child
If teething is the reason, you can massage the gums with a moist clean cotton cloth and you can also give cold silicone teethers to chew on them. This might help in some cases.
If earache is the reason visit a pediatrician or an ENT for proper diagnosis and treatment.
If maligned teeth is the reason of clenching for your teenager, visit a dentist preferably an orthodontist.
Are there any Home Remedies for Bruxism?
Most of the times bruxism can be dealt with certain home remedies, like:
– Relieving Stress
– Proper sleep schedule
– Relaxing exercises
– Moist heat application
– Warm saline rinses
– Soft diet
When Should You Seek for Help?
Most of the kids outgrow it but if the clenching persists and the child complains of pain in the jaw, morning headaches, or sensitivity in teeth, it is time to get professional help. Visit a dentist and a pediatrician and they will help you rule out the cause and advise treatment if required.
When none of the home remedies are working, you need help.