Bruxism in Children — Is It a Concern?

Bruxism In Children: Should You Be Concerned?

There are many and varied – and sometimes conflicting – statistics given about the incidence of Bruxism in children. The reason for the confusion and the rash of information is simply that the information comes from different sources and full data is hard to get hold of. There is little doubt that Bruxism in children is significantly under-reported because the tell-tale signs are often misconstrued as something else. In addition to this, the root causes of Bruxism (such as stress, medication and underlying conditions) are not something that people perceive as often in children.

One thing that should be remembered is that whether it happens in adults or in children, jaw clenching and tooth grinding leads to poor sleep and a lack of relaxation. In short, when you are grinding your teeth you are not getting quality sleep. Incidences of teeth grinding are considered “nocturnal arousals” and Bruxism is in fact classified as a sleep disorder. At no time in your life is sleep more important than when you are a child. So when a child is suffering from Bruxism it goes without saying that there can be additional problems.

Bruxism is somewhat common in children who mouth breathe as well as those with conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea and dental occlusion. It is also known to be at the source of persistent headaches and temporomandibular joint discomfort. But if these conditions develop, it is already late in the day to provide treatment. This doesn’t mean that the child will be saddled with these conditions for life, but it does mean that they will take longer to treat than they ordinarily may have done. It is essential to look out for cases of Bruxism.

This doesn’t mean you need to stand over your child’s bed listening for the slightest noise. A better bet is to be alert for signs of disturbed sleep. A child who is often overtired may well be a child who has frequent nocturnal arousals. In some cases these will be caused by teeth grinding in sleep, and in some they will be the cause of that teeth grinding. If you notice that your child is commonly “over tired” – and this is distinct from simply being in a bad mood – then the chances are that they are experiencing Bruxism, and a dental appointment is a good idea at this time.

Bruxism is believed to be more common in children than the statistics suggest – one report has the number at 20%, but this is a statistic for diagnosed cases and the actual number is believed to be a lot higher. In some children it will simply be a reaction to the changes taking place all over their body including in their mouths – teething, dental realignment and others – while for some it may indeed be connected to stress. Adults may smirk at the idea of a stressed-out infant, but at that age the world is a confusing and sometimes frightening place, and stress is indeed a common occurrence.

One simple reason why Bruxism in children is largely under reported and under diagnosed is that many of the symptoms are easily brushed away as “kids being kids”. Bruxism is often a result of ADHD, and some of the effects of Bruxism can read like those of ADHD or just like a kid acting out. A child who is not getting the amount of sleep that they need can demonstrate behavioral problems – it may not be the case that they are just being cranky, they may be displaying the signs of a bad night’s sleep. It is important to consider more than one possibility.

If it turns out that your child is grinding his or her teeth at bedtime, you don’t necessarily need to worry at all. Simply put, teeth grinding in sleep is common at their age. For that matter, so are a number of different medical and behavioral peculiarities. They are getting used to the world, and they haven’t been in it as long as an adult has. That is why it is important at their age to have regular dental and medical check-ups; there is no harm in scheduling one or both for a time when they seem to be exhibiting the signs of Bruxism.

Should you be concerned if your child is exhibiting signs of Bruxism? In reality, probably not. If detected and treated early, it will be negated and in many cases it is a highly temporary reaction to a bodily change which is inevitable at their age. There will be many such changes and reactions for years to come. Will you be concerned if your child is exhibiting signs of Bruxism? Probably – after all, it is your child and you are likely to have concerns about their health long after they’ve moved out, never mind at this early and important developmental stage.

By far your wisest step is to ask your family doctor and dentist to look out for signs of Bruxism when your child attends for a check-up, or to make an appointment if you have seen indications that they are suffering from it. It can result in some unpleasant medical problems which are all the more nasty when they are happening to a kid who may not really understand what is going on. But any parent who is likely to be concerned about an issue like Bruxism is also likely to be the type to take their child for medical appointments when there are outward warning signs.

In summary, Bruxism is not a pleasant experience for a child – it’s not pleasant for anyone if it is allowed to take hold. It is not something which can easily be prevented, as you cannot really tell if it is going to happen until such time as it does. So when signs are displayed, be vigilant and speak to a medical professional about it, but if it should happen you cannot blame yourself and you must not panic – it is a fairly commonplace occurrence with a relatively straightforward solution.

One response to “Bruxism in Children — Is It a Concern?”

  1. Ryan says:

    I agree that a warm cup of milk can work wonders to help reduce bruxism. A lot of parents really stress about teeth grinding in children, and although it can be a scary thing, you are right that it does not become that serious until later on in life if the condition still persists.

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