Childhood bruxism is surprisingly common, with some studies showing that as many as 1 in 3 kids suffer from bruxism at some point during their childhood. In fact, it appears to be more common in children than adults. But this is no consolation for parents that have to listen to the telltale “nails on a chalkboard” sound that occurs when kids grind their teeth. And naturally, you don’t want your child to compromise his oral health if you can possibly prevent it. If you know anything about teeth grinding, you are aware that it can lead to serious tooth damage, including excess wear, cracks, chips, and of course, resultant issues like cavities, loose teeth, infections, and even tooth loss. It can also harm the jaw and cause jaw and neck pain, headaches and ear aches, and general discomfort. But there are steps you can take to curb childhood bruxism.
In many cases, kids will outgrow this condition, but you don’t necessarily want to wait it out while your child suffers. And understanding potential causes can help you come up with appropriate treatment options. One of the most common causes of bruxism, in general, is anxiety, so you might want to start by seeing if you can determine potential environmental stressors that are causing your child to be nervous and unsettled. Family issues, separation anxiety, and illness are some potential causes of stress in children.
If this is the case, you’ll want to do all you can to reduce your child’s anxiety, removing stressors if at all possible and taking the time to reassure your child and make him feel safe and loved. You can also develop a bedtime regimen that includes calming activities. A nightly bath, reading a book, singing lullabies, rocking, or laying with your child and rubbing his back could all help him to relax into a deep and restful sleep, potentially reducing the occurrence of teeth grinding. You might also consider giving a young child a pacifier. The sucking sensation could be calming enough to curb bruxism. Or at the very least, the pacifier could act as a buffer to reduce the damage from grinding.
Of course, stress is not the only possible cause of bruxism in kids. Allergies could be to blame, as could oral issues like teeth that aren’t properly aligned, and you can speak to your child’s pediatrician and dentist about courses of action to deal with these situations. In the case of infants and toddlers, the problem could simply be that they’re still getting used to having teeth in the first place. You may or may not be able to accurately pinpoint the cause.
As for older kids, there is a much simpler solution: a teeth night guard. Once your child begins to get his permanent teeth, his dentist may be willing to prescribe a mouth guard to be worn at night. This treatment has proven to be the most effective in terms of putting a stop to teeth grinding during sleep, but it isn’t suitable for very small children. Over time, it is likely that your child’s bruxism will simply vanish on its own. But until then, there are several methods you can try to curb teeth grinding and protect your child’s oral health.