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Relieving Tooth Grinding and the Pain and Oral Damage it Can Cause

Do your children grind their teeth? This phenomenon, known as bruxism, is common in both adults and kids, both during the day and while asleep. Dr. Terri would like patients in Geneva, NY to know that whenever it takes place, bruxing can cause a variety of dental problems.

A wide range of physical, physiological and psychological factors can contribute to bruxism in children. Jaw misalignment (bad bite), side effects of medication, traumatic injury and even everyday stress are believed to be causes of bruxism. The frequency, intensity and underlying causes of the grinding all factor into the degree of harm it can cause.

Take these steps to identify bruxism

Intense grinding is usually not difficult for parents to hear, especially if it happens in a quiet bedroom. Subtle daytime bruxing, however, is not as easy to notice. Look for these symptoms of bruxing in your kids:

  • Injuries to teeth and gums
  • Clicking sounds when the jaw opens and closes
  • Rhythmic tightening of the jaw
  • Complaints of painful jaw muscles
  • Frequent headaches
  • Unusual tooth sensitivity to hot and cold foods
Bruxism can cause a variety of problems

Frequent or intense grinding of the teeth can put strain on the jaw muscles, causing headaches, ear pain and discomfort while eating. However, even if those symptoms aren’t present, the condition can cause other oral damage that only a pediatric dentist will likely be able to spot.

Chronic bruxing can cause teeth to wear down. If the jaw is misaligned, tooth enamel can erode in certain areas. Kids who brux are also more likely to chip teeth, suffer from facial pain and gum injury, and experience temperature sensitivity in their teeth. Frequent, harsh bruxing can also result in early onset of the condition known as TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder.

What you can do to reduce your children’s bruxism

While bruxing typically goes away on its own by the time most children turn 13, your pediatric dentist may provide a strategy to reduce it in the meantime if it’s causing harmful symptoms.

The treatment plan will be determined by the cause of the grinding. If tooth misalignment is to blame, your pediatric dentist will take appropriate steps to promote alignment. This can include crowns on the biting surfaces of teeth, and occlusal treatment, which typically consists of a protective nighttime mouth guard. Bite splints or bite plates fulfill are almost always successful in preventing grinding damage.

If stress seems to be playing a role in your child’s bruxing, your pediatric dentist may recommend therapy or special exercises designed to promote relaxation. Muscle relaxants may be prescribed if jaw clenching or spasms are an issue.

Stress, misalignment and developmental issues can cause bruxism

While a variety of factors can lead to buxing, the primary cause for children is “bad bite,” in which the jaw is misaligned and promotes grinding. Pediatric dentists say stress is another big factor. Schoolwork, moving and conflicts with friends can all lead to or increase bruxing.

Other causes include:

  • Developmental disorders
  • Brain injuries
  • Medication side effects

Your pediatric dentist may recommend botulism injections to calm facial muscles, or provide your child with a mouth guard designed to prevent contact between the bottom and top rows of teeth at night. If your pediatrician or pediatric dentist believe that medication is to blame, which is not uncommon, the medication may need to be replaced with an alternative.

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