If your little one often wakes up tired or groggy with headaches, their teeth may be stopping them from getting a restful night’s sleep. The kids’ dentists at Stellar Kids Dentistry in Mukilteo, Mill Creek, and Everett, Washington know that these symptoms can be alarming for parents. However, they’re more common than you might think.
Bruxism in children can lead to a variety of symptoms that may impact their quality of sleep. That’s why it’s important to know the warning signs of bruxism and how to treat them.
What is bruxism?
Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is a condition in which the top and bottom teeth rub together. It’s often accompanied by jaw clenching. Teeth grinding and jaw clenching are highly common in children, and many do grow out of these habits as they age. However, the condition can be very painful, leading to tooth pain and jaw pain.
What makes bruxism difficult to diagnose at home is that most children tend to grind their teeth at night, so you may not realize they’re doing it.
Warning Signs of Bruxism
The symptoms of teeth grinding can vary, but there are a few common warning signs to look out for if you suspect your child has bruxism:
- Tooth pain
- Facial pain
- Sore jaw
- Grinding or scraping noises during sleep
- Pain when chewing
- Morning headaches
- Daytime grogginess
While your little one may not realize they have bruxism, they can still feel its effects. Teeth grinding can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.
Without treatment, your child may start to feel tired throughout the day, experience difficulty concentrating at school, and other uncomfortable side effects of bruxism. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, children who regularly grind their teeth are actually more likely to struggle in school and feel disconnected from others.
Effects of Bruxism
Untreated bruxism can have detrimental effects on your child’s teeth and overall oral health. In the short-term, teeth grinding can increase your little one’s sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures and cause tooth pain, but the long-term effects are especially concerning.
When teeth grind together, the hard enamel that protects them begins to break down. Enamel erosion leaves your child’s teeth vulnerable to an array of dental concerns, including tooth decay (cavities), gum recession, gum disease, and even a tooth infection.
In addition, many children with bruxism develop temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), a condition that damages the temporomandibular joints. These hinge-like joints connect the upper and lower jaws. Once damaged, these joints can interfere with your child’s ability to chew and open their mouth comfortably.
Treatments for Bruxism
The best way to prevent tooth erosion from bruxism is to protect your child’s teeth. Your child’s pediatric dentist can diagnose bruxism during their bi-annual dental exam and teeth cleaning. Once they have a proper diagnosis, their kids’ dentist can recommend the appropriate treatment or combination of treatments.
A jaw massage can help relax the muscles that control movement in the jaw. Not only does this help relieve pain, it also reduces muscle inflammation.
Sometimes, children grind their teeth at night when they’re dehydrated. A glass of water shortly before bed can keep your little one hydrated so they don’t grind.
Regular exercise relieves tension and anxiety, which contribute to bruxism’s development. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day can help your child relax without clenching or grinding at the end of the day.
A custom-made night guard that your pediatric dentist creates can significantly improve your child’s bruxism. A mouth guard provides a barrier that prevents your child’s teeth from rubbing together, which protects against tooth erosion.
For more information about how to treat bruxism in children, call your kids’ dentist at Stellar Kids Dentistry or schedule an appointment online now!