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Does Your Child Constantly Grind His or Her Teeth? Here Are the Problems It Can Cause and What You Need to Do to Stop It

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Teeth grinding, also referred to as bruxism, is a common condition in both children and adults. People may grind their teeth during the day as a response to stressful situations or may unconsciously grind and clench their teeth constantly during the night. Children often suffer from bruxism due to the discomfort of adult teeth erupting. When your child grinds his or her teeth, it quickly wears down the enamel on their surfaces, so it's important to treat this condition as soon as you can in order to protect your child's dental health. Here's what parents need to know about teeth grinding in children.

What Causes Children to Grind Their Teeth?

Stress plays a large role in bruxism—your child may grind his or her teeth during the day because of stress at school. During sleep, nightmares may cause your child to grind his or her teeth. Your child may also experience comfort from his or her adult teeth coming in, and teeth grinding may help to temporarily alleviate this discomfort. Chewing gum and drinking caffeinated sodas can also contribute to frequent teeth grinding.

How Can You Tell If Your Child Is Grinding His or Her Teeth?

If your child is grinding his or her teeth during the day, you will often be able to hear or see it. Bruxism during the night, however, is more difficult to detect. Your child may wake up complaining of jaw pain or may suffer frequent headaches due to the constant overnight use of his or her jaw muscles. In extreme cases, you may notice several white spots in your child's teeth—these are evidence of your child's enamel being worn down by constant grinding.

Is Teeth Grinding Harmful?

When your child grinds his or her teeth and constantly clenches his or her jaw, it exposes your child's teeth to much more force than normal chewing would. The enamel on the surfaces of your child's teeth is worn down rapidly as the teeth grind against one another. When your child's enamel wears down, it can cause sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures and can make your child's teeth more susceptible to decay.

How Does a Family Dentist Help Children to Stop Grinding Their Teeth and Prevent Damage?

The first part of treatment is to reduce bruxism by eliminating stress and practicing good sleep hygiene—make sure your child follows a regular sleep schedule and stays away from caffeinated drinks such as soda. This can help reduce bruxism that occurs during the night.

The second step of the treatment is to schedule an appointment with your family dentist and request a custom-made night guard. Your child wears this night guard before he or she goes to sleep, where it acts as a cushion for your child's teeth that prevents grinding from wearing down their enamel. While you can purchase a night guard at a pharmacy, it's a better idea to have one specially designed for your child's mouth at the dentist's office—a custom night guard provides a snug fit that works better to cushion your child's teeth against damage.

In some cases, your dentist may wish to hold off on treating your child's bruxism, as the problem may go away on its own. Sometimes the stress of going to school or suffering from nightmares frequently at night can lead to bruxism, which resolves itself once your child ages. However, it's important to monitor the situation. Schedule an appointment with your family dentist if your child continues to grind his or her teeth once the adult teeth begin to grow in. It's very important to protect the enamel of your child's adult teeth from the damage caused by bruxism.

In order to protect your child's future dental health, you should treat teeth grinding as soon as possible. Try to limit teeth grinding by removing stressors from your child's life, improving his or her sleep habits, and reminding your child not to grind his or her teeth during the day. Next, schedule an appointment with a family dentist to have a custom night guard made for your child, which will help your child stop grinding his or her teeth during the night and reduce the amount of damage that grinding does to the enameled surfaces of the teeth.