Grinding teeth is an issue that plagues people of all ages. Many who grind their teeth are unaware they even do so as the habit typically occurs during deep sleep. And, those who develop this habit don’t have much control over quitting. However, teeth grinding can have a detrimental impact on many aspects of our overall health. It’s important that we get to the root of teeth grinding, and understand the ways to eradicate it.
Why we grind our teeth
Children often develop the habit in their younger years and as they grow, it can lead to serious health issues.The adult body tends to fall into grinding teeth as a way to handle stress and inadequate airway space.
In kids under five, teeth grinding is a common issue. As toddlers, 3 out of 10 children grind their teeth. Kids experience rapid physical growth, causing their teeth to come in quickly and cause the alignment in their mouths to shift. Teeth grinding is a typical result of improper jaw alignment. If your children continually experience a sore mouth or painful headaches, they may have developed bruxism–the habitual clenching or grinding of teeth.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the causes of bruxism, how bruxism can impact teeth alignment and overall health, and what steps we can take to rid our children (and ourselves) of this habit.
Bruxism can have an impact on overall health, and its causes vary. Some of the causes of bruxism in children include:
- Ongoing stress or anxiety
- Sleep paralysis or night terrors
- Inadequate jaw growth
- Birth trauma
Grinding toward improper teeth alignment
In children and adults alike, bruxism can have a detrimental effect on teeth alignment. Grinding your teeth can place immense pressure on your jaw, which, over time, can change its shape. Similarly, your teeth feel the impact of bruxism, which can weaken tooth enamel and cause teeth to chip.
In your children, bruxism can cause a sudden drastic appearance change in their teeth alignment, or even drastic changes in other aspects of their facial appearance. Typically, improper teeth alignment will result in a sudden over or underbite, an obvious weakness in tooth enamel, or in some instances, the loss of adult teeth. This change may be accompanied by a sore jaw, a headache, or other facial pain. Bruxism is treatable, though, and a caring dentist can help correct any alignment/jaw growth issues that may arise.
Grinding teeth has impacts on overall health
The mouth is often the gateway for overall health issues, and in well-maintained teeth, health benefits. In children, many illnesses and physical issues can often be traced back to dental disease and inadequate jaw growth. Bruxism can lead to a wide array of health issues including:
- Teeth sensitivity: Grinding your teeth can chip away at tooth enamel and create exposed nerve-endings, thereby causing tooth pain when ingesting anything cold or hot.
- Migraine headaches: Grinding your teeth can place a strain on your jaw, and then travel to the rest of your facial and cranial nerves and muscles.
- Enamel decay: Grinding teeth may wear on your tooth enamel and cause it to erode.
- Tooth fractures: The weight of your upper teeth grinding your lower teeth could cause your tooth to crack or fracture.
- TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder, which can include TMJ): When you grind your teeth, you clench your jaw.
- This can strain your jaw joints and cause lockjaw, and head, jaw, neck, and shoulder pain.
- Sleep disorders: Teeth grinding can be a sign of other treatable sleep disorders such as snoring or sleep apnea.
- Facial deformities (if left untreated): As children’s bones continue to grow and expand, grinding teeth could shift jaw and mouth alignment and cause abnormalities.
The great news is there are steps you can take to help family members stop grinding their teeth and there’s treatment for the habit as well.
How to treat grinding teeth
There are a variety of solutions that you can implement at home to help your children to stop grinding their teeth. Seeking out a caring, expert child dentist can help to correct these medical issues, too.
If you recognize that your child is grinding their teeth while sleeping, this may be the result of stress or anxiety. Have a heart-to-heart with your child to discern where their stress may stem from, and together, think of solutions to help alleviate their worries. Try to help your child to articulate their fears. Try using peaceful breathing exercises to help them when issues arise during waking hours.
Develop a scheduled, peaceful bedtime routine to help make sleep time as comfortable as possible. This may include reading a book together, taking a bath, or allowing them to fall asleep to light and comforting music.
It’s important to schedule a dental appointment for grinding teeth issues as well. A caring dentist can help prescribe treatment to protect the health of your child’s teeth, and better their overall health by treating dental problems. A dentist may treat bruxism in one of the following ways:
- Prescribe a temporary fix such as a night mouthguard, or, bite splint, to prevent tooth damage (although this won’t completely prevent grinding).
- For older patients, prescribe muscle relaxers to unclench the jaw and prevent grinding.
- Gentle expansion to grow the jaws
- Straighten teeth alignment with braces or aligners
- Fitting damaged adult teeth with crowns
Grinding teeth stems from a variety of causes, but can have an impact on teeth alignment and overall health. As their mouths and jaws continue to develop, children may need dental treatment to help them stop grinding their teeth. Parents can also help prevent teeth grinding in their children by allowing kids to express their stress and anxiety in healthy ways, and setting up peaceful bedtime routines. Dentists can help stop grinding teeth and correct the issues caused by bruxism by prescribing braces, retainers, and mouthguards.
At Ashburn Children’s Dentistry, we have been growing healthy faces for over 16 years. We believe that teeth health can have a huge impact on children’s overall well being –physically, socially, and academically. We aim to diagnose and resolve the root of any dental issue, rather than treat the symptoms alone. Contact us for a virtual consultation today.