Nighttime teeth grinding can damage your child’s teeth, causing loose and cracked teeth over time. Teeth grinding, also called bruxism, affects approximately 15 percent to 33 percent of children, according to Cleveland Clinic. If your child has a teeth grinding problem, your dentist may suggest that she wear a mouth guard at night to prevent grinding.
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Teeth Grinding Signs
Teeth grinding is often loud enough that it can be heard by other people. If you haven’t heard your child grind his teeth, several other signs can indicate the possibility of teeth grinding, such as morning headaches; jaw, tooth or facial pain; earaches; or pain when chewing. In some cases, you and your child may be unaware that there is a problem until he visits a dentist for routine care. Dentists may spot signs of wear on the teeth, such as fractures, cracks or eroding tooth enamel. The American Dental Association reports that when the tooth enamel is worn away, the underlying layer of dentin may be exposed, causing tooth sensitivity.
Stress, anger or tension can cause teeth grinding. It may also occur if your child’s teeth aren’t aligned properly or if your child is experiencing pain from ear infections, colds or other illnesses. Grinding can also occur when your child’s baby or permanent teeth begin to erupt. Cleveland Clinic reports that most children lose the grinding habit after these two sets of teeth come in more fully.
Using a Mouth Guard
Mouth guards, also called night guards, stop your child’s teeth from touching during the night, preventing damage to the teeth. Night guards also help relieve some of the pressure of grinding and clenching, according to the American Dental Association. Mouth guards are made by your dentist specifically for your child’s mouth and fit over the teeth in one jaw. Some dentists may make an impression of your child’s teeth and send the impression to a laboratory for creation of a mouth guard rather than making the guard themselves.
Talking to your child about feelings of anxiety or stress can help relieve teeth grinding. Developing a soothing nighttime ritual that includes a warm bath or shower, reading books or listening to quiet music can also help your child relax at night. If grinding occurs due to misaligned teeth or illness, treating those problems can help reduce teeth grinding.
Ignoring teeth grinding is not a good idea. If grinding is severe, tooth loss can eventually occur. Chronic teeth grinding may also cause temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, which can cause pain or clicking when moving the jaw, difficulty closing or opening the jaw and a change in your child’s bite.