Do you know if your child grinds his or her teeth? About 15 percent of kids have bruxism, the clinical term for teeth grinding, and most do it in their sleep. This can make it challenging to fix the problem, but it can be important to maintain good dental health.
Symptoms of Bruxism
Grinding the teeth can have negative dental consequences. Here's what can happen when a person has bruxism for a long period:
- Your teeth can become loose from the gums
- Your teeth can break or crack
- Your tooth enamel can wear away, making you more vulnerable to decay
- Your jaw can start to ache and long-term jaw joint disorders can develop
- Your teeth, jaw or entire head can ache
- You could lose your teeth
There are also indications that teeth grinding is connected to trouble breathing during sleep, also called sleep apnea, as well as some behavior disorders.
So if a child starts grinding teeth, by the time they become an adult they may have some or all of these symptoms and they will already have trouble with oral health.
How do you help your child stop grinding before it becomes a real problem? Here are some things to try:
- Encourage your child to sleep in a different position. Sometimes the way a child sleeps can make it easier to grind. Try putting a pillow between his or her legs so it is harder to turn over, and keeping fewer pillows under the head so he or she is sleeping on a flatter surface.
- Find ways to alleviate stress. Sometimes stress at school or home can manifest itself in bruxism during sleep. If big changes have been taking place, such as a move, parents divorcing or problems in school, look into therapy options. You can also try meditation or other mental techniques for relaxation.
- Try a mouth guard. You can purchase some types of inexpensive guards that you heat and mold to your mouth. For an even better fit, have your dentist make your child a custom mouth guard that will discourage grinding.
- Chew gum with xylitol before bed. If your child is not experiencing jaw pain, try chewing for a few minutes to help limit the natural reflex of the jaw muscles. Xylitol has dental benefits so it will not cause more tooth problems.
- Enroll in a sleep study. If the problem is so bad that the teeth are being worn down, a sleep study can help you understand the situations and positions that make the issue worse, as well as determine if there is any connection to another sleep disorder like apnea.
Talk to your dentist about other options to cure teeth grinding in your child. You can also find out if you will need more frequent exams to ensure that the teeth are not adversely affected while you get the bruxism under control. To learn more, contact a dentist like Sun Dental & Orthodontics.