This is part two of my thoughts concerning tooth grinding. The following entry will focus on treatment of bruxism.
Bruxism is the medical term for the grinding of teeth or the clenching of jaws, especially during deep sleep or while under stress. This affliction occurs in 5% to 20% of adults, and in 30 % of children in the age group of five and six years.
Whether the grinding is caused by misaligned teeth or psychological stress, most kids outgrow it. A combination of parental observation and dental visits can also help keep the problem in check.
In more severe, chronic cases where the grinding and clenching cause facial and jaw soreness and/or damage the teeth, Dr. Martines may prescribe a special night guard. Molded to a child’s teeth, a night guard is similar to the protective mouthpieces worn by football players. Though a mouthpiece may take some getting used to, positive results are often observed.
Helping Your Child
Whether the cause is anatomical or psychological, some kids are be able to reduce dental grinding by relaxing before bedtime. For example: by taking a warm bath or shower, listening to a few minutes of soothing music or reading a book.
For bruxism that is caused by stress, try to find out if there is a specific something that is upsetting your child and find a way to help. For example: a kid who is worried about being away from home for a first camping trip might need reassurance that mom or dad will be nearby if anything happens.
If the issue is more complicated, such as managing a busy school and extra activities schedule, moving to a new town, a new school, making new friends, and especially, discuss your child’s concerns. Try to ease any fears and make changes in his/her daily routine to reduce anxiety. If you’re concerned about your child’s emotional state, talk to your physician or pediatrician.
In some cases, these basic stress relievers may not be enough to stop bruxism. If your child has trouble sleeping or is acting differently than usual, an assessment by a therapist may be beneficial. This can help determine the cause of the stress and an appropriate course of treatment.
How Long Does Bruxism Last?
Childhood bruxism is usually outgrown by early adolescence. Most kids stop grinding when they are done losing their baby teeth. However, a few children do continue to grind into adolescence or until the stress that leads to it is addressed properly.
Because some dental grinding is a child’s natural reaction to changing teeth and to growth and development, most cases are benign and cannot be prevented. Stress-induced bruxism can be addressed with the basic stress relievers here described and by talking with your children regularly about their feelings and helping them deal with daily-life stress.