When children are growing, there are several things you need to be aware of, their weight gain, their food intake and the general state of their health. Often parents tend to ignore the mouth, assuming that as long as teeth are brushed and general mouth hygiene is maintained, everything will be alright.
Teeth brushing and observing the regular milestones of milk and permanent teeth aren’t the only things that need to be observed, since there are many other problems that point out to underlying issues in children, which if not treated affect teeth and their physical health, as well as add to the stress as they grow up.
One such condition that many parents tend to overlook, is Teeth Grinding or Bruxism. Although not a symptom, it points to an underlying .
Teeth grinding, teeth gnashing, or the unconscious act of clenching and unclenching teeth is present in most kids, with 2-3 out of 10 children having this problem. Most children grow out of it by the age of 7 years, but many others carry this habit well into adulthood.
Although the reasons are unknown, experts have given a few reasons for this condition,
- Stress induced teeth grinding, especially when children aren’t able to cope with a new situation, such as a test at school or meeting new people. An argument with parents or siblings or arrival of a second sibling is also seen as a probable cause
- Mal-aligned top and bottom teeth which causes irritation and subsequent teeth gnashing
- Pain anywhere in the face is also a cause, whether earache or appearance of new teeth
- Hyperactivity and restlessness
- Kids with medical conditions ( such as cerebral palsy) or who take certain medication.
How does one whether your child is grinding their teeth?
Have you heard your child’s jaw moving continuously or regular sounds from their mouth during bedtime? If you hear them grind their teeth while asleep, without being aware of it, and they experience a painful jaw or mouth on waking up or pain when chewing, it indicates they suffer from the condition.
What harm can it cause?
Bruxism as such is a temporary harmless condition, and children most often outgrow it. In those children where this condition persists, symptoms of headache or earaches are often complained.
What harm can it cause the teeth?
A side effect of bruxism is the harm it can do to the child’s teeth. Nightime grinding, gnashing and clenching the teeth, can wear down tooth enamel, gradually chip off teeth, make the tooth temperature sensitive and also cause lingering jaw and mouth problems and pain.
It is important to take the child to a pediatric dentist, before the condition causes severe irreparable damage to the teeth in the long run. A dentist will examine the child’s teeth for chipped tooth enamel, and any other wear and tear. In addition questions related to stress or tension will try to be discerned.
All these observations will give the dentist information on whether the cause for bruxism is psychological (stress induced) or structural (misaligned teeth) and treat the child accordingly.
While the condition is outgrown by most children, some kids who have severe pain and wearing out, are prescribed a mouthguard; a thin protective mouthpiece moulded to the child’s teeth that acts as a barrier between the opposing sets. This can take care of the major problem.
If the cause is emotional or psychological, the underlying cause needs to be found out by talking to the child, understand reasons that are upsetting them, and try and resolve the issue. If it seems more complicated, then their fears will need to be eased by counseling.
Bruxism usually stops when the milk teeth are lost. In few cases the condition might continue well into teenage years. The condition cannot altogether be avoided, because most often, it is a coping mechanism in children, and their natural reaction to growth and development. It can however be avoided by talking to children frequently, letting them open up and ensuring regular visits to the pediatric dentist are carried out for optimal dental health.