Teeth grinding is something that most people do from time to time, kids included. Teeth grinding on a regular basis, however, can cause a range of oral health problems. Medically, grinding teeth is known as bruxism, and can be caused by a number of factors ranging from stress to an abnormal bite. Often, teeth grinding can occur completely unbeknownst to the child and may require a dental examination to determine that they grind their teeth and to what extent. Occasional teeth grinding is not likely to cause significant long term harm, but addressing the problem is important to preventing potential dental problems.
Causes & Risks
Teeth grinding among kids can be caused by a variety of things. Often, an abnormal bite, crooked, or missing teeth are a strong reason why kids may grind their teeth. Stress and anxiety may also contribute. Bruxism is a serious medical condition that should be addressed by a dentist. This regular, constant grinding may be evident in abnormalities in the teeth and tenderness in the jaw. This chronic teeth grinding can result in erosion, fracturing, or loosening of the teeth, requiring a host of other dental procedures to remediate. Severe teeth grinding can even result in tooth loss or serious jaw problems.
Serious teeth grinding in kids is a problem that needs to be corrected with dental treatment. A dentist can fit a child with a mouth guard to protect the teeth from grinding during sleep. This, however, is more of a temporary solution to halt the negative effects on their teeth. If stress and anxiety are the underlying culprit for grinding, you will need to address these issues separately. A dentist may be able to recommend comprehensive, individualized solutions for bruxism or troublesome sporadic teeth grinding, but there are some things that you can encourage your child to do to reduce teeth grinding.
Avoiding or cutting back on foods and drinks containing caffeine is an option to help prevent teeth grinding. This includes everything from soda to chocolate. Reducing anxiety or compulsive clenching of the jaw can often be solved by reducing or eliminating intake of stimulants like caffeine. Make sure your child knows to avoid chewing pens or pencils or regularly chewing gum since these activities can tighten the jaw muscles, inadvertently encourage clenching, and lead to continued teeth grinding. Beyond this, getting your child to actively train themselves not to clench or grind their teeth and to relax their jaw muscles throughout the day may be the best way to discourage ongoing teeth grinding. Protecting your child’s teeth from night to night with a mouth guard is a good solution, but ongoing conditioning to resolve regular clenching and grinding teeth is the only long term solution.