Why do children grind their teeth?
It’s not really known why children grind their teeth, but there are several theories as to why it happens. It is estimated to affect around 15% of children and it’s especially important to deal with this problem before they get their adult teeth. This is because the damage done to teeth by bruxism is permanent. More than half of children who are bruxist between the ages of three and ten will stop of their own accord by the age of thirteen, and bruxism is most common in children around the age of five.
Studies on children’s teeth have shown that quite often the upper and lower teeth don’t fit together properly which can be due to the jaw and teeth growing in phases. When teeth don’t fit together and are slightly out of alignment it can lead to unpleasant sensations to the nerves when they touch. This can lead to children grinding their teeth to quell this sensation, which later on becomes a habit. It can also be in response to earache or other facial pain, and it seems that hyperactive children or Downs syndrome children are more likely to develop bruxism or teeth grinding.
Prevention of teeth grinding in children
The first course of action to prevent teeth grinding in children should be a visit to the dentist so that they can assess the problem thoroughly. They will want to look at the way your children’s teeth are developing and to check their alignment. Your dentist is the best person to suggest possible treatments, but it`s most likely that they will suggest using a night guard.
This is the most immediate solution to stop teeth grinding in children and this treatment has an extremely high success rate in breaking the habit and will protect your children’s teeth from further damage. However some children feel extremely uncomfortable wearing a mouth guard and it may be necessary to use alternative treatments to try to alleviate the problem.
If a child’s bruxism is due to stress or anxiety then it’s important to try to understand the underlying cause of this problem so that it can be dealt with. If they are under serious amounts of stress or are especially anxious then they may need professional help, although there are simple things that can be tried out at home which may help.
Getting the child to relax before sleep, by maybe taking a warm bath or gently massaging their jaw may help them to have a restful sleep. Don’t make a big thing about their teeth grinding as this may cause them to become more stressed and might exacerbate the problem. Tooth grinding in children is not an urgent problem until their adult teeth erupt, so there is no need to put pressure on them for something which may resolve itself naturally.
Research is increasingly showing that teeth grinding in children may be caused by sleep disorders and could be related to problems like sleep talking and bedwetting. The underlying cause of some of these problems may be interruption to the rapid eye movement (REM) period of sleep which can be due to dehydration.