Manage Your Dental Problems One Tip at a Time

Pediatric Teeth Grinding: What Is it & How Problematic Is it for Your Child?

If your child grinds their teeth and clenches their jaws on a nightly basis, speak to a pediatric dentist right away about bruxism. Bruxism is a term used to describe teeth grinding and jaw clenching. Although it doesn't happen to every child, bruxism may cause dental problems with some children over time, such as misplaced front teeth or weakened jawbone muscles. In some cases, bruxism may affect your child's quality of life if it causes head pain and other symptoms.

A pediatric dentist may offer a number of solutions for your little one's teeth grinding, including prescribing special mouth guards to stabilize your child's teeth and jaws when they sleep. Here's more of what you should know about pediatric bruxism and what a dentist might do to help your child.

How Does Teeth Grinding Develop and How Does It Affect Your Child?

Although it's not completely clear why some people grind their teeth and clench their jaws, a number of factors may cause or lead to bruxism, including stress, illness and teeth misalignment. Some children may experience stress when they enter new grades or meet new people that leads to bruxism during the night. If your child experience bruxism regularly, they may develop temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ. 

TMJ generally develops when the hard and soft tissues located between the upper and lower jaw become weak or injured. The disorder can produce a number of issues, including earaches, soreness in the jaw joints and headaches. Your child may experience problems with how their teeth look and fit in the jaws. For instance, your child may develop an overbite. The bite surfaces of your child's back teeth, or molars, may not line up correctly when they chew food.

Your child may also experience problems in their sinuses that mimic the symptoms of a sinus infection when they grind their teeth. This is usually caused when your child clenches their jaws together tightly, which places tension on the muscles that support the upper and lower jawbones. Although they may produce similar symptoms, such as head and face pain, sinus infections usually develop from bacteria, fungi and viruses. Bruxism doesn't develop from bacteria, but it may aggravate the bones of the sinus cavity by bending them. 

How Can a Pediatric Dentist Help Your Child?

The first thing a pediatric dentist might do for your child is examine their teeth for signs of damage, such as cracks and broken bite edges. Bruxism can be severe enough to crack tooth crowns. The dentist will likely prescribe a sleep or mouth guard to separate their upper and lower teeth during sleep. The guards not only keep your child from grinding their teeth, it may also reduce the pain in their jaws.

A dentist may prescribe different types of guards during your child's treatment to see which dental appliance works best. In addition, your child's mouth may change as they grow, which may interfere with their treatment if the guards no longer fit properly. Although mouth guards fit directly over your child's teeth, a dentist may use headgear or another type of appliance to keep the guards in place during the night.

In addition to sleep guards, a children's dentist may place braces on your child's teeth to correct the malocclusions. Braces gradually move your child's teeth into place. It's a good idea that you speak directly with a pediatric dentist to find out more about the treatments available for your child. 

For more details about bruxism, contact a pediatric dentistry like Kids First Pediatric Dentistry. They will likely help you discover which of these options are best for your child.