Many parents notice their young children grinding their teeth and are rightly concerned. The sound of your child’s teeth grinding can be disconcerting enough, to say nothing of the worry that they are causing physical damage to their teeth.
Tooth grinding, or bruxism, is a well-documented issue among adults, but not many people know that children as young as two years old can experience it as well. In adults, bruxism has various causes, including stress and TMJ issues. However, it is not completely understood exactly why children engage in this behavior. Some explanations include ADHD, an underdeveloped neuromuscular pathway in the jaw, and children who have difficulty breathing properly (especially while sleeping). For the most part, though, dentists generally regard juvenile bruxism as more or less acceptable and nothing to be too concerned about unless it becomes extreme.
Generally speaking, most small children and teenagers will outgrow bruxism, just like most children outgrow sucking their thumb. If they do not, though, damage to the teeth can begin to show. Although they may be “just” baby teeth, it is still important to keep them in optimal health despite the fact they will eventually be shed.
Diet can be a complicating factor in terms of the damage teeth grinding can cause. Lots of sugary snacks and drinks can weaken children’s teeth, making them more susceptible to the grinding forces of bruxism. In some cases, enamel may be broken off or teeth may break altogether. Clearly, for children who grind their teeth, it is important to take every step in keeping their teeth as strong and healthy as possible.
If you notice your young child occasionally grinding his or teeth, this is not an immediate reason for concern. Again, some grinding is considered to be normal. But if it very frequent or persists into elementary-age years, a consultation with your 63119 dentist may be in order. There are ways to protect the teeth, such as fabricating custom night guards, although for children these are generally reserved for the most extreme cases.
The bottom line is that you should be doing all you can to take care of your children’s teeth, especially in the presence of grinding. Chances are they will outgrow it. But if not, there are solutions available for protecting their teeth and ensuring that their adult teeth erupt properly and without problems of their own.