Teeth Grinding in Kids: Why Early Intervention Is Key to Long-Term Dental Health

February 4, 2015

Teeth Grinding in Kids: Why Early Intervention Is Key to Long-Term Dental Health

The grinding of teeth, known in the dental world as bruxism, is a common problem that is found in people of all ages, including infants. Usually, it begins innocently enough, but it can cause tremendous dental concerns when it becomes a habit. Teeth grinding can even lead to eventual tooth, soft tissue and hard tissue disease or loss. The key is for dental professionals to diagnose and treat bruxism in kids early, so the pattern can be broken.

Why Do Babies, Kids and Teens Grind Their Teeth?

Many parents want to know why their children are grinding their teeth. In truth, the underlying causes can vary widely from child to child. However, researchers suggest that the following reasons typically contribute to the beginning of frequent bruxism behaviors:

  • title_3-1 (1)Teething – When babies begin to develop teeth, they must become accustomed to the feeling of having something new in their mouths. As they teethe, infants and toddlers sometimes begin to bite down on their gums to relieve the painful sensations they’re experiencing. Over time, this biting may continue, even after the teeth are fully in place and the pain has subsided.
  • Anxiety – Yes, even babies and children can feel stress! Like adults, they don’t always have healthy outlets to deal with their intense emotions, so they may begin unconsciously tensing up their jaws. This can not only lead to bruxism, but also undue tension placed upon the joint of the jaw.
  • Malocclusions – This is a fancy term that means a child’s bite is misaligned. In other words, the teeth haven’t come in straight. In an effort to make the misaligned teeth fit more comfortably, your child may be unwittingly rubbing the tops of their teeth together.
  • Allergies and nasal problems – Some people believe that the underlying culprit of child teeth grinding could relate to breathing issues. The suggestion is that when it’s difficult to get air, the infant or toddler bites down in a panicked state before opening his or her mouth to breathe.

Of course, there are other reasons that a child develops a tooth grinding routine. No matter why he or she begins the habit, it’s important to stop it.

How Baby, Infant and Toddler Teeth Grinding Can Cause Dental Problems

A small bout of bruxism that is caught early will not create a lifetime of problems for the child. However, teeth are not invincible to constant stressors such as biting. Eventually, bruxism can lead to several problems:

  • Enamel damage – The enamel (the outer layer of the tooth) is a protective coating that helps keep bacteria from damaging the tooth. When the enamel is slowly ground away, small, unprotected areas appear and can easily decay.
  • Increased cavities – As the teeth are worn down, the door is inevitably opened to the bacteria that foster the development of cavities. More cavities mean amplified trauma to the teeth at a young age.
  • Cracked teeth – Sometimes, dentists notice that children with bruxism have teeth that are beginning to crack. These cracks must be filled in before they become too large.
  • Lost teeth – If teeth develop cracks that are big enough, the tooth can be damaged to the point where it either falls out or requires extraction. Even if it’s a baby tooth, if the tooth is extracted but the tooth grinding continues, the permanent adult tooth will be in danger as well.

Aside from problems directly related to the teeth themselves, bruxism can also cause pain in the jawbone. This leads to chronic soreness and headaches as well.

Work With AZ Family Dental to Stop Child Tooth Grinding

title_3-1At AZ Family Dental, we take a very personalized approach to tooth grinding in babies and toddlers. For example, if the child is grinding their teeth, but otherwise has a healthy mouth, we will likely just observe rather than instantly intervene. Sometimes, bruxism goes away on its own. On the other hand, if the child gets older and the teeth appear to be suffering, preventative therapy steps may be taken.

When we move toward prevention, we have the ability to implement high-tech, proven procedures to solve the toughest child bruxism cases. Some of our treatment options include specially-created dental guards, plans for the parents to help children identify and replace tooth grinding habits with healthier coping mechanisms, and even dental work if the teeth are severely misaligned.

By taking away all the barriers to good dental health and hygiene practices, your baby, toddler, child or teen can enjoy smiling for a lifetime! All it takes is one check-up to determine if bruxism is an issue that we need to keep an eye on together. Contact AZ Family Dental today to schedule an appointment.

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