A permanently clenched jaw and grinding teeth isn't just a problem that affected stressed-out adults who are too fond of their coffee pots. Teeth grinding and clenching, more properly known as bruxism, can affect children just as frequently. 2 to 3 out of every 10 children may be affected by bruxism.
Chronic clenching and grinding of the teeth can cause serious damage to a child's overall oral health and can lead to chronic dental problems later in their lives. Fortunately, dentists who specialize in pediatric dentistry can offer treatments and solutions that will help your child avoid long-term problems caused by bruxism.
What Causes Bruxism In Children?
Children can develop teeth grinding and clenching habits for a number of reasons, but one of the most common is tooth misalignment. If your child's top and bottom rows of teeth do not align correctly, your child may clench their jaw and grind their teeth to minimize the discomfort caused by the misalignment.
This is particularly common in young children, whose adult teeth have not yet erupted. Baby teeth tend to be more prone to misalignment and can also be more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures. In these cases, your child's bruxism problem may go away as more of their baby teeth are replaced by adult teeth.
Stress can cause bruxism in children in the same way it causes adults to grind and clench their teeth. Any source of stress from problems at school to changes in their home life can cause a child to develop bruxism, at least temporarily. While stressful episodes are an unavoidable part of most children's lives, you should be concerned if your child experiences bruxism for extended periods of time.
Childhood bruxism can also be caused by other health conditions. Hyperactivity is a common cause of bruxism in children and adults and may be a sign of ADHD or other hyperactivity-causing disorders. Children with disabilities that affect their motor function, such as cerebral palsy, are particularly likely to grind their teeth.
How Is Childhood Bruxism Treated?
If you notice your child grinding or clenching their teeth, or your child complains about experiencing frequent jaw pain, sensitive teeth, or inexplicable headaches, you should book an appointment with a pediatric dentist as soon as possible. Untreated bruxism can cause serious wear to your child's teeth and can worsen any tooth alignment issues they already suffer from.
Pediatric dental specialists can inspect your child's teeth and mouth for any signs of damage caused by their bruxism and repair worn and chipped teeth before the damage becomes more serious. They can also treat any cavities or tooth decay that occur as a result of the damage. If your child suffers from bruxism while they sleep, dentists can also create form-fitting, comfortable tooth guards to be worn at night.