Statistics show that as many as 1 in 4 children suffer from bruxism, the grinding of teeth during sleep. While that number may seem high, here’s an even more startling fact: Very few cases of childhood bruxism are detected until the damage has already been done to their enamel.
Children with this problem may grind or clench their teeth more than 10 times in a given night, and, in the worst cases, perhaps more than a hundred. No one knows what causes bruxism, but the grinding is involuntary, subconscious and an apparent disconnect between the brain and jaw. Studies have shown correlations between bruxism and stress, anxiety and poor school behavior and performance.
Your pediatric dentist should automatically screen for bruxism during your child’s routine dental exams. Signs include erosion of the tooth and tooth edges, complaints of headaches or aches in the mouth and jaw, and tooth sensitivity. Left untreated, bruxism can eventually lead to stress fractures and cavities.
Treatment of bruxism is simple and straightforward. Your dentist will take a mold of your child’s teeth and fabricate a custom mouthguard, which is worn at night and acts as a cushioned barrier between the upper and lower teeth. Then, should the child grind her teeth, there will be little or no damage.
The dentist may also instruct you to try to address and relieve any sources of stress in your child’s life, and try to ensure he or she gets to bed early, with a goal of 10 to 12 hours of sleep per night for the average child. To ensure a more restful sleep, limit soda and sweets before bedtime, along with television and other stimulating activities.
Posted on behalf of Dr. David Janash, Park South Dentistry
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