Is Your Child Grinding or Clenching Their Teeth at Night?

Our Dental Blog | Info & tips | 03.25.2020

We have all experienced it once in our lives.

Waking up with a sore jaw, tender teeth, and stiffness in our cheeks. You were clenching and grinding again!

While this pain might only happen once in a blue moon, teeth grinding and clenching can become a considerable issue for some children.

If you have ever witnessed your child gnashing their jaw as they nap or have heard teeth grinding while they sleep, your kid may have bruxism.

But what exactly is bruxism? What causes my child’s teeth grinding? And what can you do to help ease their grinding?

Let’s run through everything that you will need to know as a parent!

What is Bruxism?

When you, or a child, or anyone grind their teeth involuntarily and habitually, their condition is known as bruxism.

This uncontrolled gnashing of your teeth can happen during the day or at night and is unrelated to normal functions, such as eating or talking. Since there is no connection to the ordinary use of our jaw, bruxism can be defined as a parafunctional activity.

Not so surprisingly, using our teeth for anything other than eating or talking is far worse for our enamel and increase the likelihood of extreme teeth wear.

However, bruxism is not uncommon. 8% of adults and 14% of children in Canada report grinding their teeth at least a few times a week, as reported by the Canadian Sleep Society.

These numbers may not paint an accurate picture, as Dr. Larry Levin from the Canadian Dental Association states, “…the majority of people experience at least some grinding…” whether that is compulsive bruxism or small bouts of stress.

Causes of Bruxism

While dentists and doctors are aware of the detrimental side effects of bruxism, experts still do not understand the complete picture. Simply put, we aren’t always sure why children end up with bruxism.

Grinding your teeth while you sleep can stem from several variables. For most of us, stress and anxiety is a simple driver for our teeth clenching. Being unable to relax, your stress translates itself through physical manifestation.

For children, bruxism has also been shown to triggered by a misalignment of their top and bottom teeth. Other examples can include pain from teething, earaches, temporomandibular joint disease (TMJ), and some medication side effects.

Whatever the cause, we understand bruxism is terrible for our teeth.

Why Does Teeth Grinding Cause Trouble?

If our teeth are the tools we use for chewing, shouldn’t they be able to withstand the force of biting?

Yes, and no!

While normal chewing and talking work to strengthen our jaws, bones, and muscles, bruxism is not the same motion.

Chewing distributes pressure through vertical energy transfer. Through this motion, much like with exercise, the resistance created will increases bone density.

Teeth grinding and clenching is perpendicular to your jaw’s traditional motion. Moving back and forth, the energy is transferred horizontally across your teeth leading to pain, chips in enamel, cracks, and can potentially damage past dental work (fillings, crowns, etc.).

Mouth/Night Guards

The damage caused by bruxism can be severe or mild. However, consistency is going to be the cause of concern.

Much like water eroding a river bed, habitual teeth clenching and grinding can cause enamel to crack, wear down the shape of your teeth, and can damage permanent teeth in children. For this reason, it is recommended for parents to monitor their child’s sleep intermittently, especially near the teething ages.

Listen for sounds of grinding and watch the motion in their jaw. The quicker you can catch cases of bruxism; the sooner you can protect their teeth!

And how do you protect your child’s teeth from grinding? – Mouthguards!

There are a couple of different avenues that one can look for when it comes to protection. Store-bought mouth/night guards are often the most inexpensive, but they come with issues.

Store-bought teeth guards for sleeping can claim they are one-size or preformed and claim they are ready to wear right out of the packaging. But as dentists, we KNOW that every mouth is different. It is more often than not a game of chance if a stock mouthguard will fit your child or not.

The second style is the boil-and-bite protectors. Exactly as it sounds, these mouthguards are made of a thermoplastic material that softens in hot water. Once boiled, your child will need to bite down and allow the soft plastic to settle into the shape of their jaw and teeth.

While this sounds more beneficial when compared to stock mouth guards, the boil-and-bite options are still prone to gum sensitivity. Teeth can be various sizes, so the amount of plastic used in a mouth guard might be too large for your child. Prolonged experiences with ill-fitting night guards will lead to gum sensitivity, and in severe cases bleeding.

The best-fitting mouth guard will always be a custom and mold-casted guard to match your child’s specific jaw alignment and bite. This is the favoured alternative for many patients as it ensures both comfort AND protection in one product. The caveat is that custom mouth guards are more expensive to the ones found in department stores or pharmacies.

Is Your Child’s Grinding Consistent?

If you believe that your child is experiencing bruxism, it is pertinent that you schedule them for a dental checkup for diagnosis and treatment.

Catching bruxism early will help to reduce the potential damage that could be caused to your kid’s beautiful smile!

Contact Treehouse Dental Care today to schedule your child’s next visit with the dentist. Our team of pediatric dentists are able to identify signs of bruxism, provide dental education to your children, and supply preventative dental tools, like mouth guards.

Get your child sleeping in comfort once and for all!

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