Help Your Kids Manage Teeth Grinding & Jaw Clenching
There are a surprising number of kids grinding teeth in sleep, but while this may be relatively common childhood behaviour, its long term effects on the teeth, jaws and facial bones should be considered.
Known medically as bruxism, grinding teeth and clenching jaws is thought to occur in 3 out of every 10 children. The cause of bruxism is not yet understood, and may be attributed to a number of different factors such as anxiety, being in pain, hyperactivity or for stress release.
When unmanaged, teeth grinding can cause the enamel of the teeth to wear away. In extreme cases bruxism can also cause cracking or chipping of the teeth. the constant grinding also puts unnecessary pressure on the jaws, which can cause pain and discomfort throughout the bones of the face and head.
How do you know if you have bruxism?
Bruxism complications from grinding the teeth and clenching the jaws usually include issues such as jaw problems, facial pain, headaches and ear aches but you’re unlikely to know about it unless you check in on your kids while they are asleep.
Bruxism symptoms to be on the look-out for include
• Grinding sounds while your kids are asleep
• Painful or tight jaw muscles
• Swelling around the lower jaw
• Regular or rhythmic contractions of your child’s jaw muscles, which you may even notice while he or she is awake.
Make lifestyle changes to manage bruxism
If your child is going through a tough time or has any kind of stress or anxiety that you are aware of, you can make an effort to ensure that bedtime is peaceful and as stress-free as possible. This may include playing soothing music, having a warm bath and bedtime story or following the routine you use to calm your child. Ensure that bedtime is consistent too.
Also make sure your child is getting enough sleep to enable him or her to manage daily stresses effectively, if teeth grinding is caused by lifestyle anxiety. Pre-school children should be getting 11 to 13 hours of sleep a night.
Does your child chew his pencil at school?
Human beings carry a lot of tension in their jaws when they’re awake. Teach your children to train themselves to release their jaw tension when they are awake. By teaching your kids to place their tongue between the jaws when they start to feel tense, they start to become aware of how their bodies respond to stress, and have a corrective strategy to deal with it.
Practice good daytime habits to manage bruxism
Promote good habits when your kids are awake. Discourage them from chewing on their pens and pencils and from using chewing gum to help with teeth grinding.
Consider a mouth guard for bruxism
Speak to your dentist about having a mouth guard made, to protect your child’s mouth and teeth while you work through whatever the root cause of the bruxism may be. A lot of children simply outgrow the behaviour as they get older but some may continue to grind away at their teeth, and this problem would worsen as they get older.
The mouth guard effectively works as a cushion between your jaws, creating a buffer for any friction that might occur. You might not be able to solve the bruxism problem but you can help your child cope with it better by using a mouth guard.
Chat to one of our friendly dentists about management strategies for bruxism for kids (and adults). Give us a call today: 03 8595 2628