According to The Journal of Dentistry for Children, about 38% of toddlers grind or clench their teeth at night. Although this fact is alarming to some, it does not surprise many parents who’ve heard strange, grinding noises coming from their toddler’s bedroom at night. This habit is known as bruxism, or teeth grinding, and although it usually stops at around six years of age for most children, it can sometimes continue unabated by time. The problem is that bruxism – when it continues as the child matures – can have a deleterious effect on his/her dental health. According to Mount Sinai Hospital, tooth grinding can wear down, chip, flatten and even fracture enamel. The long-term effect of tooth grinding can include tooth loss, headaches, and temporomandibular joint dysfunction.
What Causes Bruxism in Children?
There is no established cause for tooth grinding but dentists have reached the consensus that these factors may play a role:
- Pain from an illness such as ear infection.
- Improper alignment of the top and bottom teeth (Malocclusions)
- Anxiety, stress, anger, frustration or tension
- Medications such as anti-depressants
- Disorders such as sleep apnea
Prevention and Treatment
Any long term treatment for bruxism should only occur after a dentist has been consulted. However, some health professionals recommend the following to help control your child’s teeth grinding.
- Having them avoid or cut back on foods and drinks that contain caffeine, such as colas and chocolate.
- Not letting them chew on pencils or pens or anything that is not food.
- Training them not to clench or grind their teeth by having them position their tongue between their teeth.
- Teaching them to relax their jaw muscles at night by having them hold a warm washcloth against their cheek in front of their earlobe.
Finally, if you suspect that you or your child is suffering from bruxism you should consult your dentist in order to receive a complete diagnosis and treatment plan. Our low-income dental plans can put you in contact with a dental professional who will help you overcome this problem which can lead to more serious complications if untreated. Ameriplan providers are as convenient as a search on our website. One of them may recommend a night guard to be worn at night in order to treat bruxism.