The problem of teeth grinding, also called bruxism, is not only found amongst the adults but also children. It is an unconscious habit of grinding teeth which generally results due to stress amongst the adults. However, in case of children, stress may not be a common cause even though occasional findings cannot be discounted. The occurrence of teeth grinding amongst children is usually found while they are asleep. Teeth grinding is generally found amongst children of ages 5 and 6, however, it may occur at any age.
Causes of Teeth Grinding in Children
It is interesting to note that as yet, no one particular cause for teeth grinding can be ascertained by dentists all over the world. However, habit of teeth grinding amongst children is usually attributed to many causes.
Some of the usual causes are as follows:-
- Abnormal growth of milk teeth
- Improper alignment of bottom and top sets of teeth
- Stress and pressure due to piling of work given in school (home work etc.)
- Anxiety or worries due to reasons like a new sibling / new tutor etc. (teeth grinding providing an outlet to child’s worries)
- Sometimes also found in hyperactive children
Harmful Effects of Teeth Grinding
Teeth grinding may damage the enamel of a child’s teeth. However, if a new set of permanent teeth is in the offing, there’s little to be worried about. In all possibilities, once a new set of well aligned teeth appear, the teeth grinding habit would automatically disappear.
Teeth grinding may become worrisome in case the habit persists even after the child has developed new set of permanent teeth. In cases where habit of teeth grinding becomes extreme, physical problems may occur.
Some of such problems a child may face are as under:
- Face sore
- Head aches
- Ear aches
- Sore jaws
- Damaged enamel
Symptoms of Teeth Grinding Habit
In most cases, the children aren’t even aware of their teeth grinding problem which goes on unnoticed till identified by parents or siblings.
Some of the symptoms / signs to look for are as under:-
- Teeth grinding sound while the child is asleep
- Child complaining of sore jaw or face
- Thumb sucking
- Finger nail biting
- Gnawing on pencils /pens/ toys
- Chewing inside the cheek
Prevention and Treatment of Teeth Grinding
Teeth grinding or bruxism is some cases is caused due to a child’s natural reaction to growth and development and therefore cannot be prevented. However, stress-induced teeth grinding can be prevented by talking with the child regularly about their feelings and helping them deal with stress.
As far as treatment is concerned, most children outgrow the habit of teeth grinding in the normal course of their development. Yet, a combination of parental observation and dental visits can go a long way in keeping the problem in check.
Teeth grinding during sleep can be treated by helping the child relax just before going to bed. This can be done by giving the child a warm water bath, making the child hear soothing music or read a book before going to bed.
In cases where teeth grinding land the child with face or jaw sore or damaged teeth, a special night guard prescribed by a dentist would come in handy. This night guard, molded to the child’s teeth, would act as a protective mouth piece, something like the ones worn by football players.