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Teeth Grinding Symptoms Causes in Children & Treatment

What is Teeth Grinding

Most people probably grind and clench their teeth from time to time. The medical term for teeth grinding is bruxism. Bruxism is the excessive grinding of the teeth or excessive clenching of the jaw. It is an oral parafunctional activity. The problem of teeth grinding is not limited to adults. Approximately 15% to 33% of children grind their teeth.

Although teeth grinding can be caused by stress and anxiety, it often occurs during sleep and is more likely caused by an abnormal bite or missing or crooked teeth. Because grinding often occurs during sleep, most people are unaware that they grind their teeth.

What are the Causes of Teeth Grinding?

Though studies have been done, no one knows why bruxism happens.

  • Anxiety, anger, stress, frustration or tension
  • Aggressive, competitive or hyperactive personality type
  • Abnormal alignment of upper and lower teeth
  • Other sleep problems such as sleep apnea
  • An uncommon side effect of some psychiatric medications such as phenothiazine, certain antidepressants

Causes of Teeth Grinding in Children

Most commonly children grind their teeth during sleep rather than during waking hours

  • Children who grind their teeth tend to do so at two peak times- when their baby teeth emerge and when their permanent teeth come in. Most children lose the teeth grinding habit after these two sets of teeth have come in more fully
  • Usually nervous tension and anger is another cause. For instance, a child might worry about a test at school or a change in routine (a new sibling or a new teacher). Even arguing with parents and sibling can cause enough stress to prompt teeth grinding
  • Kids may grind because the upper and lower teeth aren’t aligned properly
  • Some kids do it as a response to pain such as an earache or teething

Classification by Temporal pattern:-

Bruxism can be subdivided into 2 types based upon when the parafunctional activity occurs

  • Sleep bruxism-during sleep
  • Awake bruxism-while awake

 Classification of teeth grinding by cause

  • Primary teeth grinding:-where the disorder is not related to any other medical condition
  • Secondary teeth grinding:-where the disorder is associated with other medical condition

Classification based on the duration

  • Acute teeth grinding:-which lasts for less than 1 week
  • Subacute grinding:-which lasts for more than a week and less than 1 month
  • Chronic grinding:-which lasts for over a month

teeth grindingWhat are the Symptoms of Teeth Grinding?

Bruxism may cause minimal symptoms and therefore people may not be aware of the condition. The symptoms of sleep bruxism are usually most intense immediately after waking and then slowly get better, and the symptoms of a bruxism habit which occurs mainly while awake tend to slowly get worse throughout the day, and may not be present upon waking. Bruxism can lead to a wide range of dental problems, depending on the frequency of the behavior, the intensity of the grinding and the underlying cause of the grinding.

  • Excessive tooth wear, particularly attrition, which flattens the Occlusal surface but also possibly other types of tooth wear such as Abfraction, where notches form around the neck of the teeth at the gumline
  • Tooth fractures
  • Repeated failures of dental restorations
  • Dentin hypersensitivity
  • Inflammation of periodontal ligament, which may make them sore to bite on and possibly also a degree of loosening of the teeth
  • A grinding or tapping noise during sleep sometimes detected by a partner or a parent. Noises are rarely associated with awake bruxism
  • A burning sensation on the tongue
  • Indentations of the teeth on the tongue
  • Hypertrophy of the muscles of mastication (increase in the size of the muscles that move jaw) particularly the masseter muscle
  • Restricted mouth opening
  • Pain or tenderness of temporomandibular joint
  • Clicking of the temporomandibular joint
  • Headache
  • Tenderness, pain or fatigue of the muscles of mastication, which may get worse during chewing or other jaw movements

What is the Treatment Plan for Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)?

In many cases treatment is not necessary. Many kids outgrow bruxism without treatment, and many adults don’t grind or clench their teeth badly enough to require therapy. However if the problem is severe, treatment options include certain dental approaches, therapies and medication

Dental approaches:-
Splints and mouth guards:-these are designed to keep teeth separated to avoid the damage caused by clenching and grinding
Correction of irregularly arranged teeth
Underlying cause should be treated

Stress management:-if you grind your teeth because of stress then you need professional counseling, relaxation, exercise, meditation

Behavior Therapy:-
Once you discover that you have bruxism, you may be able to change the behavior by practicing proper mouth and jaw position. Ask your dentist to show you the best position for your mouth and jaw

Train yourself not to clench or grind your teeth. If you notice that you clench or grind during the day, position the tip of your tongue between your teeth. This practice trains your jaw muscles to relax.

Avoid alcohol. Grinding tends to intensify after alcohol consumption

In general medications aren’t very effective for treatment of bruxism. Muscle relaxants and Botox injection may help some people with severe bruxism who don’t respond to other treatment

If you develop bruxism as a side effect of a medication, your doctor may change your medication

What are the Tips to Stop Teeth Grinding in Children?

  • Decrease your child’s stress especially just before sleeping
  • Try massage and stretching exercise to relax the muscles
  • Make sure your child’s diet includes plenty of water. Dehydration may be linked to teeth grinding
  • No intervention is usually required with preschool age children. However older children may need temporary crowns or other methods such as a night guard to prevent grinding
  • When you spot the child grinding his\her teeth in the day time, stop him\her by indulging them in so0me other activity like eating or talking
  • Bruxism spontaneously ceases by the age of 13 in the majority of children
  • Regular dental checkups

Dental Health Guide, Providing information on dental care and dental hygiene along with detailing the most common dental diseases with symptoms and treatment methods. Readers should use the dental articles as reference only and consult a dentist and visit a dental clinic for dental health problems.

1 Comment

  1. When I get really angry is when I subconsciously grind my teeth. When I try to fight it, it actually feels like I am just flexing my jaw. Is that something that would normally happen?

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