Does Your Child Grind His or Her Teeth at Night?

Grinding your teeth at night can lead to a number of problems and it’s something that around 15% to 33% of children deal with. It can cause long-term problems such as significant dental damage. If your child grinds his or her teeth at night, you’re likely to notice that they’re showing signs of pain in their jaw. You may even hear them grinding their teeth in their sleep in more severe cases.

With this in mind, you’re likely looking for a solution for your child’s bruxism. Here, we’re going to define exactly what bruxism and is and address some of the main causes.

Bruxism vs. TMJ

Before getting in too deep on what to do about your child grinding their teeth, there’s an important distinction to be made.

Bruxism is an involuntary grinding or gnashing of the teeth. This is typically done during sleep. There are a number of problems that this continued grinding can cause. It can wear down on the teeth, cause periodontal breakdowns, and, of course, result in pain.

TMJ, on the other hand, is about pain in the jaw including the muscle and joint. This can make the jaw sore and opening and closing the mouth painful. It can even cause your jaw to lock up and make it hard to open or close the mouth. TMJ can be caused by bruxism but bruxism isn’t typically caused by TMJ.

Night Guards

While it doesn’t necessarily address the causes of bruxism, a night guard can go a long way in helping to protect your child from bruxism. This is a piece that children wear on the top of their mouth while they sleep. This prevents dental damage due to the friction between their top and bottom teeth.

You can get night guards a few different ways. The easiest and cheapest comes from ready-made guards. You can usually find these in pharmacies and online. The downside is that these might not fit well, making them uncomfortable to wear. This is especially true if your child has dental irregularities like crooked teeth.

There are also “boil and bite” guard and custom-fitted ones. “Boil and bite” are exactly what they sound like – you boil the material and then bite them to fit your mouth while the material is soft. Custom-fit guards are the most accurate option and are molded by a dentist.

Watch What They Eat and Drink

Caffeine can be a culprit to bruxism, so it can help to reduce the caffeine in your child’s diet. There are obvious sources of caffeine to cut back on such as coffee and sugary drinks.

However, there are also caffeinated factors you might not think about. Chocolate, ice cream, and sugary breakfast cereals are all sources of caffeine. Even decaf coffee actually has some caffeine in it.

Avoid Unnecessary Chewing

Excessive chewing can make clenching a more frequent habit. That doesn’t necessarily mean cutting down on chewy foods. However, it’s worth noting that bruxism might make eating tough or chewy foods difficult or more painful.

That being said, it’s better and easier to try and break chewing habits. This could be pencil biting, chewing on pens, or even frequently chewing gum are habits best broken. It can help your children break these habits if you draw attention to it when you see it happen. After all, many habits are done subconsciously, so they may not even notice they’re doing it.

Help Them Relax Their Jaw Before Bed

There are ways to relax the jaw before going to sleep that can cut down on tooth grinding. One of the best ways to do this is to place a warm washcloth on the hinge of their jaw just in front of the ear.

Try to Reduce Their Stress Levels

Stress is a huge factor in bruxism. While you might not always be able to reduce their stress, it can help to be there for them and help when you can. A good start is talking to them and seeing what’s stressing them out. For instance, if they’re stressed by all their extracurricular activities, you can help them cut down or schedule everything.

Bruxism can be painful and dentally problematic. Luckily, you can use these tips to help reduce the teeth grinding behaviour your child has.

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