If you have a child, there are certain things you probably expect when you take him to his family dentist. When the dentist tells you your child needs to do a better job brushing his teeth and needs to floss more often, you’re probably not surprised to hear that. Learning that your child has a cavity and needs a filling probably isn’t shocking news either. But if your dentist diagnoses your child with bruxism, that’s probably something you didn’t expect to hear. Bruxism is most common in teenagers and adults, but it does occur in about 25% of children too. Screening for bruxism is a routine component of preventative dentistry for children.
What is Bruxism?
Bruxism is the medical name for teeth grinding and/or clenching. Usually, kids with bruxism grind their teeth while they are asleep. Most parents discover their children have bruxism when they hear the unmistakable sound of tooth-grinding at night. Other symptoms of bruxism to watch out for include:
- Child has sensitivity to hot or cold foods or beverages
- Child’s teeth appear worn down, cracked or chipped
- Hurts to open or close mouth
- Child complains about headaches or ear pain
What Causes Bruxism in Children?
The same things that cause bruxism in adults cause it in children. Stress is a major contributing factor to tooth grinding. Kids who are worried about an upcoming test, having trouble with friends or experiencing a life change such as divorce may subconsciously grind their teeth to relieve tension. Kids who are experiencing pain (from teething, an earache or sports injury, for example), may self-soothe by grinding their teeth. Hyperactivity and certain medical conditions also may contribute to bruxism.
What Should You Do if Your Child Grinds His Teeth?
Often children stop grinding their teeth on their own. In cases of stress-related bruxism, once the stressor is alleviated, the tooth grinding often stops. When teeth grinding continues night after night, though, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your family dentist in Leesburg. Regardless of the reason a child grinds his teeth, when it continues for a prolonged period it can cause serious tooth and jaw damage. Grinding wears down tooth enamel, weakening the teeth and making them more prone to decay. Bruxism also can cause the jaw to become misaligned, which can lead to painful temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. If you notice your child grinding his teeth for more than a couple of nights in a row, it’s wise to consult your dentist.