Across the world, 1 out of 4 children have the habit of grinding their teeth. While the habit is not necessarily harmful and can go away as a kid grows – pediatric dental researchers have found that roughly 11% of such cases of bruxism lead to the pressurized tooth/teeth to be reduced to smaller (often painful) nubs. This, in turn, renders a full dental restoration procedure necessary. Fortunately, you can gradually reduce the teeth-grinding habits of your child by following these tips:
Tell your kid to not clench his/her jaw – Acute soreness in the muscles at and around the jaw area often leads to nighttime teeth grinding. According to leading dentists for children, as a kid gradually stops clenching his/her jaw tightly, risks of such soreness and related discomforts lessen. Explain to your child that jaw-clenching is bad for the teeth (you can put it down as ‘bad manners’ as well). There are certain jaw pain-relieving medications available over the counter – you can apply them after a consultation with your kid’s dentist.
Do not put your child under stress – Close to 70% of all reported cases of bruxism occur due to heightened stress – and not as a result of actual oral hygiene problems. The percentage of stress-induced teeth-grinding among children is high as well. Avoid putting any sort of pressure (academic or otherwise) on the little one. The tensions can keep working at the subconscious level of his/her mind, causing sleeping disorders and leading to bruxism. Spend time with your li’l darling, read bedtime stories, do some exercises together, and do all you can to keep him/her relaxed.
Make sure that dehydration is not an issue – At times, insufficient intake of water can also cause children to grind/clench their teeth. At most leading dental clinics in Kolkata and other places, regular pediatric consultation sessions are held – where you can find out about the proper diet for your son/daughter (that would be ideal for his/her dental health), and the amount of water (s)he should have everyday. Apart from bruxism, acute dehydration can lead to other serious health problems too.
Mouthguard to protect primary teeth – When your toddler is 6-8 months old, (s)he will be getting his/her primary teeth. This ‘teething’ process is often uncomfortable for the little ones – and they generally resort to bruxism as an automatic reaction for easing the pain. This risk is even higher for children who are undergoing treatment for delayed formation of teeth. Experts from dental hospitals generally prescribe mouthguards/dental guards to prevent this nighttime teeth-grinding. While they are effective, your kid will need a few days to get used to wearing the guard.
Ensure that your child gets the required amount of sleep – Bruxism is often classified by pediatric dental treatment professionals as a form of sleeping disorder, that has adverse effects on oral health. Hence, you need to maximize the chances of your kid’s naps be as interruption-free as possible. If (s)he is not lactose-intolerant and does not have acidity-related problems, give him/her a glass of warm milk before tucking him/her up for the night. A hot shower before going to sleep can also help. Make sure that your child is not suffering from sleep-deprivation due to any cause.
Mouthguard to protect secondary teeth – Serious as the dangers of bruxism at the time of ‘teething’ might be, they are nothing compared to the dangers of grinding the permanent teeth. Renowned pedodontists in Kolkata confirm that such repeated application of pressure on the surface of the teeth can cause irreparable damages to the dental enamel. If the bruxism habit persists as the permanent teeth start to appear, your kid’s dentist would, in all likelihood, recommend putting on stronger dental guards. Malocclusion of teeth is yet another dental risk that these mouthpieces keep children safe from, apart from the bruxism-related issues.
Understand the psyche of your child – You might have trouble understanding it – but your kid is…well…a kid, and (s)he might simply like the ‘feel’ of gnashing his/her rows of teeth against each other. Sit down with your child and find out if this is indeed the case. If yes, talk about how harmful this habit is, and offer small rewards if the kid refrains from teeth grinding for a night (you can continue with this ‘no bruxism means rewards’ strategy until the habit starts wearing off). If necessary, consider booking an appointment at a local dental clinic – where both you and your child will be given tips to reduce the habit of bruxism. Find out how you can replicate that ‘comfortable feeling’, so that the little one does not ‘miss’ that activity.
Be wary of infections – Professional dentists for children list out a fairly large array of mouth infections and allergies, that can lead to mild/severe teeth-grinding tendencies. It is always advisable to take your child for dental check-ups at regular intervals. Apparently innocuous things, like pinworms, can be the underlying cause of serious cases of bruxism. If dental x-rays and scans are performed regularly, such infections would be detected at an early stage. The problem won’t get out of hand.
Pay attention to your child’s complaints – Many parents (with very busy schedules, it should be added!) tend to dismiss the complaints of their kids regarding physical discomforts as mere whinings. Don’t take such a lackadaisical approach, and carefully listen to all that your son/daughter have to say. If (s)he is complaining of persistent, dull headaches, pains in the inner ear and/or behind the ear, and a general aching sensation in the jawbones – take the kid to a local pediatric dental hospital immediately. All of these are telltale symptoms of bruxism – and the earlier they are treated, the better.
Act before bigger problems surface – It’s not always the case – but dental healthcare experts confirm that continuous teeth-grinding can be an early indication of cerebral palsy and similar such serious health hazards. If you are in the habit of making your child pop pills at random without consulting doctors, that might lead to bruxism (certain medications have that side-effect), as well as other adverse side-effects. Do not try to take things lightly, and never try to double up as your child’s doctor. Taking risks with a kid’s health is never worth it!
Is your child breathing well? – Given that almost 74% of children suffering from bruxism have obstructions in their nasal airway passages, this is definitely something you need to be careful about. Observe your child carefully, to find out whether (s)he tends to breathe through the mouth (particularly at night). Cases of enlarged tonsils (fairly common among children and teens) can also cause upper airway obstruction – resulting in bruxism. Corrective surgeries are required to make the breathing normal again. A note of caution here: 2 out every 10 children continue with mouth-breathing, even after the operation(s). In general, breathing troubles wreck havoc with your child’s sleep. Teeth-grinding becomes an eminently likely risk.
Hyperactive kids tend to be bruxers – Not all of them, but the proportion is rather high. If you have a super-active toddler, there is a chance that some of his/her nervous energy will be expressed via teeth-grinding (when the kid is awake or asleep). Attention deficiency, another common pediatric problem, can be the reason for bruxism habits as well. It is important for parents to seek advice from child psychotherapists as well as qualified dentists for children. Ironically, as bruxism grows more and more acute, the social skills of a child tend to worsen.
Children tend to grind their teeth for 6-8 seconds at a time, and can repeat this many times throughout the day. While teething, oral infections, and breathing problems can cause bruxism – the problem can crop up from psychological disorders too. Many kids grow out of this habit by the time they reach 10-12 years of age, but it’s always advisable to consult a children’s dentist and find out how the teeth-grinding habits can be gradually reduced.