- Business Advocacy
When we think of a sleeping child, we picture a peaceful face and soft easy breathing. We don’t picture a loud sound of gashing and grinding teeth. When my daughter was younger and I heard her grind her teeth through the closed door at night, I was concerned she would break her teeth. Fortunately, her teeth survived. I can understand the concerns of the many parents who are worried about their kids grinding their teeth.
What exactly is teeth grinding? It is simply the teeth rubbing together, driven by a muscle force that in some cases is stronger than what we use for chewing.
Teeth grinding, or “bruxism,” is a very common habit among children, especially under the age of 14. It is actually more common in children than adults. However, unless it causes problems, like pain, severe tooth wearing, or sleep difficulties, kids are rarely treated for it.
What is the cause for bruxism?
Teeth related: Teeth are in different stages of tooth development and not in good alignment. Grinding is the natural process to even up or align the bite. A very important factor is the stage of eruption of the permanent canines. Canines are the long and pointy teeth; they appear in full length around 13 – 14 years of age to create one of the pillars of the bite. They work as natural jaw stoppers for grinding.
Oxygen deficiency: Other theories suggest that there is a connection between grinding at night and not enough oxygen intake due to airway obstructions:
- Enlarged tonsils. Removing the tonsils and adenoids has been shown to lessen teeth grinding in some children.
- Upper airway obstruction known as obstructive sleep apnea is when the tongue falls backward and blocks the airway. Sleeping on the side is recommended in these cases.
Asthma and respiratory airway infections may also be factors in teeth grinding.
Pain: such as from an earache. Kids might grind their teeth as a way to ease the pain, just the way we rub a sore muscle.
Stress and anxiety: All the causes are not completely understood, though psychological stress, anger, and nervous tension appear to play an important role in the daily clenching and nightly grinding.
Some medications, such as the most commonly prescribed antidepressants and amphetamines for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may contribute to grinding habits.
Genetic: Grinding has been found to run in families.
Because children generally outgrow the condition, treatment is not usually recommended unless the habit is causing troubling signs and/or symptoms, as well as excessive tooth wear.
Approaches depend on the damage caused. Severe teeth wearing may require bonding or crowns. A flexible thin night guard may be placed. A night guard is the most common solution for adults but difficult to apply for kids due to the constantly changing situation in the mouth.
Children with upper airway obstruction are best seen for additional diagnostics by their pediatrician or an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist.
The next time you hear that troubling grinding sound, stay calm and remind yourself that the majority of the time the habit of teeth grinding in kids is usually harmless.