Child bruxism is a phenomenon that worries many parents and caregivers. When your child grinds their teeth while sleeping or, even worse, during the day, it is normal for you to wonder why bruxism occurs in children or how to avoid bruxism. From Medident we want to give you a complete guide with what you need to know about this topic.
What is child bruxism?
Child bruxism refers to the involuntary habit of clenching or grinding the teeth without a functional purpose. This phenomenon is not just limited to night time; although it is common to hear about childhood nocturnal bruxism where children grind their teeth during sleep, it can also manifest itself during the day.
Often, parents or caregivers detect this condition when they hear the characteristic sound of teeth grinding or when they observe their child clenching their teeth.
Differences between child and adult bruxism
Bruxism, although it can occur in both children and adults, has certain particularities in each group:
- Infantile: Associated with dental development and emotional changes, it is often transitory and diminishes as the child grows older.
- Adults: Related to malocclusions, stress, medication and sleep disorders, with possible long-term complications if left untreated.
Symptoms and warning signs of bruxism in children.
Childhood bruxism is a condition that, although often transient, needs to be detected early to prevent future complications and provide early treatment. Some of the most common symptoms of bruxism in children are:
One of the first signs that often alerts parents to bruxism in children is the characteristic sound of teeth grinding at night. My child grinds his teeth when he sleeps is a common phrase heard by dentists and is a clear sign that the child may be experiencing nocturnal bruxism.
Obvious tooth wear
Although baby teeth are temporary, they need to be cared for. If you notice abnormal wear on your child’s teeth, especially on the edges of the molars or incisors, it is an indication that they may be suffering from bruxism.
Headaches and jaw pains
Bruxism, by generating constant pressure, can cause head and jaw pain. If your child complains of discomfort in these areas, especially on waking, it could be related to this condition.
Sleep pattern changes
Childhood nocturnal bruxism can disrupt your little one’s sleep. If you notice that they are having trouble falling asleep, waking frequently or showing signs of tiredness during the day, it is important to consider bruxism as a possible cause.
How to detect and diagnose childhood bruxism?
If you suspect that your child may have bruxism, it is important to follow these steps for diagnosis:
Medical history and family history.
Knowing the child’s medical history and whether there is a history of bruxism in the family can be a starting point. Often, some health and behavioural patterns are inherited, so if there has been a family history of bruxism, your child may be predisposed to developing it.
Detailed dental examination
A trained dentist can identify signs of bruxism in children through a dental examination. By observing specific wear on tooth surfaces or damage to the enamel, it is possible to determine the presence of bruxism.
In some cases, one may choose to monitor the child during sleep to identify patterns of teeth grinding or jaw clenching. This monitoring, although not always necessary, can provide a clear picture of nocturnal bruxism in children.
Assessment of dental malposition and maxillofacial development
Bruxism in children may be related to dental malposition or problems in maxillofacial development. Through x-rays and other studies, it is possible to assess these issues and determine if they are contributing to bruxism.
Causes of bruxism in children
Although it is essential that a specialist diagnoses the child to understand the specific origin, these are the causes we see most often in consultation:
Psychological and emotional factors
Children, like adults, may experience stress, anxiety or worry. Situations such as changes at home, school or the arrival of a new sibling can trigger emotionally related causes of child bruxism.
Dental discomfort and malocclusions
The eruption of new teeth or the presence of malocclusions can generate discomfort in the child. This discomfort or pain can lead the child to clench or grind their teeth, triggering bruxism.
Sleep disturbances and the presence of parasites
Sleep disturbances or the presence of intestinal parasites can cause nocturnal bruxism in children. For example, the presence of worms can disrupt sleep and, as a consequence, lead to night-time bruxism in children.
Genetic and hereditary factors
If there is a family history of bruxism, the child may have a genetic predisposition.
This hereditary link is one of the reasons why a family history is sometimes asked about when investigating the causes of bruxism in children.
Influence of external factors and environment
The environment in which a child develops can have a significant impact on their well-being, including the occurrence of bruxism. Some of these external and environmental factors that can influence are:
- Consumption of caffeinated beverages.
- Exposure to high levels of noise or environmental stress.Use of certain medications or supplements.
- Prolonged screen viewing habits before bedtime.
- Situations of change or stress at home, such as moving house or the birth of a sibling.tense or conflictual school environment
- Traumatic experiences or bullying situations.
- Diet high in sugars or processed foods.
Treatments and Solutions for Childhood Bruxism
Dealing with childhood bruxism can be a challenge, but fortunately there are different treatments and solutions that can help alleviate and prevent this condition:
Dental guards or splints
These custom-designed devices are placed in the child’s mouth to prevent the upper and lower teeth from coming into contact. Not only do they protect the teeth from wear and tear, but they can also reduce the sound of grinding and alleviate childhood nighttime bruxism.
Behavioural therapy and psychotherapy
Since one of the factors that can trigger bruxism is stress or anxiety, therapy can be a valuable tool. Through psychotherapy, the child can learn to cope with stressful situations and manage their emotions, thus reducing the tendency to grind their teeth.
Relaxation and stress management techniques
Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing or even yoga for children can help relax the mind and body, reducing the occurrence of bruxism. These techniques can be especially useful if childhood nocturnal bruxism is related to stress or anxiety.
Interdisciplinary approach with specialists
In some cases, it is positive that various professionals, such as dentists, orthodontists, psychologists and paediatricians, work together to treat child bruxism. This interdisciplinary approach ensures a more comprehensive treatment tailored to the specific needs of the child.
Other emerging treatments
With advances in medicine and dentistry, new treatments for childhood bruxism are constantly emerging. These may include medication, biofeedback techniques, or even technological devices that monitor and alert when a child begins to grind their teeth.
Prevention and recommendations for parents
Prevention is key. As a parent or caregiver, there are several actions you can take to minimise the risk or intensity of this condition in your child:
Establish a proper sleep routine.
Make sure your child has a regular sleep and wake schedule. Avoid exposure to screens before bedtime and create a quiet, dark environment in their bedroom to facilitate rest.
Monitoring oral and eating habits
Some habits, such as chewing objects or consuming foods with a lot of caffeine, can aggravate bruxism in children. Watch your child’s diet and avoid foods or drinks that can increase jaw tension. Also, encourage good oral habits, such as not biting nails or chewing on non-food items.
Importance of regular dental check-ups
Regular visits to the dentist not only help detect dental problems such as cavities or malocclusions, which may be related to bruxism, but also help identify early signs of teeth grinding. A professional can offer specific solutions and recommendations for your child.
How to deal with stress and anxiety in children
Talk to your child about their feelings and concerns. Provide a safe and loving environment in which they can express themselves. If you detect high levels of anxiety or stress, consider relaxation techniques or even therapy to help manage these emotions.
Long-term consequences of bruxism in children
Childhood bruxism, if not properly treated, can have long-term repercussions on a child’s health and well-being:
Future dental problems
Constant grinding and clenching of teeth can lead to premature tooth wear. This not only affects aesthetics, but can also cause hypersensitivity, tooth decay and, in extreme cases, the need for more complex and expensive dental treatment later in life.
Temporomandibular joint disorders
Constant bruxism can create tension in the jaw, leading to problems in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This can manifest as pain when chewing, clicking when opening and closing the mouth, and in severe cases, the inability to move the jaw properly.
Psychological implications and affected quality of life
If bruxism in children is a consequence of emotional or psychological factors, it may be an indication of deeper problems, such as anxiety or stress.
In the long term, this can affect the child’s self-esteem, school performance and interpersonal relationships. In addition, lack of sleep due to nocturnal bruxism can affect their energy, concentration and overall quality of life.
Child bruxism is a phenomenon that can have multiple causes and consequences. Although it may be common at some stages of a child’s growth, it is essential to pay due attention to it and seek professional guidance. It is not only a matter of caring for the dental health of our children, but also of ensuring their general and emotional wellbeing.
At Medident we have a team of professionals specialised in treating and guiding families through the process of diagnosing and treating bruxism in children. If you suspect that your child may be facing this situation, do not hesitate to contact us.