Teeth grinding, also called bruxism, is a frequent condition that consists of grinding and clenching your teeth. Most people grind their teeth occasionally, without adverse consequences to their health. However, when it happens habitually, this disorder affects your teeth, muscles, and bones, causing various oral health complications.
Even though bruxism affects people of any age and gender, it is particularly essential for dentists during childhood. Thanks to its wide range of complications and the unconscious feature that these disorders have, they require a complete professional assessment and monitoring to avoid further problems.
What Causes Teeth Grinding?
Multiple factors can cause teeth grinding. In fact, experts estimate that it occurs as a combination of many reasons that can include:
- Psychological factors such as stress and anxiety.
- Bite problems or alterations such as overcrowding, crossbite, or open bite.
- Missing, mispositioned, or crooked teeth.
- And sleep disorders like sleep apnea.
However, the most common causes for this condition are bite problems, independent of its causes, and psychological influences.
What Are Symptoms of Teeth Grinding?
Although bruxism can occur both during the day and night, it is more frequent during sleep. Thereby, the exact symptoms of the condition will depend on its severity and type of presentation. Yet, most patients that grind their teeth will have some of the following indicators:
- Headaches that appear after sleeping, with dull and constant pain.
- Jaw pain after sleeping or during the day.
- Muscle cramps or pain in the cheeks or head.
- Tooth wear.
- Fracture lines.
- Tooth pain and mobility in severe cases.
As a parent, you should be aware of the grinding sound that can occur during the night. This could be a strong indicator of sleep bruxism, and you should take your child to visit his dentist as soon as possible.
How Is Bruxism Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of bruxism is determined by a complete assessment, dental evaluation, and complementary exams at the dental office. Establishing the exact cause of your child’s problems is essential to know how to treat them. Therefore, the dentist will perform a dental and medical history and a complete evaluation that usually can require complementary exams such as x-rays or an MRI.
Sometimes a rigorous and thoughtful clinical evaluation can provide enough information to determine if your child has bruxism or not.
Nonetheless, as a parent, your part to avoid this condition is to notice and report all the signs that we mentioned above. Your participation in the diagnosis is essential as your children could be grinding their teeth without knowing it.
How Does Teeth Grinding Affect Your Kids?
- Short-term effects
At first, applying pressure and clenching teeth can pass unnoticed without symptoms. However, as the problem persists, bruxism affects your children’s teeth first.
Tooth wear is the most common affection due to bruxism, and it damages teeth to many degrees. Usually, wear lesions appear as a small undermined teeth section. But, after some time, it can wear the enamel and expose the dentin beneath it. In severe cases, it can even reduce teeth height to a third of their usual size. All these problems can lead to sensibility, toothaches, and even abscesses if left untreated.
Additionally, teeth grinding can also cause dental fractures and affect the soft tissue that supports teeth, causing teeth loss.
- Long-term effects
The long-term consequences of teeth grinding are far more complex than the initial ones, especially with kids in developmental stages. Affecting your child’s denture during these stages can produce multiple problems in the future. Moreover, losing a tooth during childhood can affect the permanent denture and induce bite and bone problems.
Usually, persistent and untreated bruxism leads to Temporomandibular Joint Disorders, also called TMD. This group of conditions has been associated with teeth grinding, causing severe consequences on your mastication system.
In a nutshell, children with TMD can have difficulties talking, chewing, and opening their mouths. Also, they can have multiple symptoms that include pain, tenderness, loose teeth, abnormal movements, and more.
Not only bruxism can damage your children’s teeth, but also the structures around them, leading to significant disabilities, developmental problems, and discomfort.
How Can Parents Help?
The first measure as a parent is to notice any of the signs and symptoms associated with teeth grinding. Remember that this condition can pass unnoticed in most cases.
Furthermore, here are some recommendations that you can take to help your kids’ teeth grinding.
- Using mouth guards
The first defense line for bruxism is using a mouth guard during the night to avoid damaging teeth and other structures. Mouthguards are protective devices that you can obtain with the dentist or in commercial houses or shops like Amazon.
- Treat and avoid some habits
Ask the dentist about parafunctional habits and how to avoid chewing fingernails, pencils, pens, or anything else.
- Take some time for fun and relaxation
Due to the strong relationship between stress, anxiety, and bruxism, you should try to reduce your children’s school pressure and provide time for positive stimuli.
--- By Dr. Samuel I A Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S) from Central University of Venezuela. He is also the Member of the National College of Dental Surgeon of Venezuela. Boasts almost 10 years experience in general dentistry.