KC PARENT MAGAZINE – Healthy Kids section- October 2012
Bruxism is the medical definition for the clenching or grinding of teeth and, according to WebMD, it’s quite common: “Approximately 15 percent to 33 percent of children grind their teeth (but) lose the grinding after (both) sets of teeth have come in fully.”
Dr. Matt Hillman, dentist at Smiles Dentistry for Kids in Overland Park, sees children with bruxism in his practice. Dr. Matt (as his patients call him) answered a few questions for KC Parent on this perplexing and grating nighttime noise in many households.
Q: What health symptoms can night grinding cause for children?
A: Headaches, TMD (Temporal Mandibular Disorder), sensitive teeth, uneven wear or shortening of the teeth.
Q: If you notice damage to the enamel of the teeth, what questions do you ask the child or parent?
A: I look at the bite to see if the teeth are coming together properly. I ask the parents if they ever hear their child grinding his or her teeth at night. I also check the child’s finger nails for signs of nail biting. (This can cause a similar appearance to grinding.) Finally, I will ask about jaw pain and headaches.
Q: Do the majority of these kids have “stress-induced bruxism” or growth and development problems?
A: The leading cause of bruxism in children is stress. Some parents push their kids with multiple sports and school, or there are changes in the family dynamic, such as divorces, moves or new siblings. These can be stressful.
Malocclusions are where the bite is not “ideal” due to mal-positioned teeth or jaws. Some studies suggest that grinding is a result of the body trying to find a more “comfortable” position for the jaw to rest because the teeth are out of position.
Children who do not sleep well (i.e. apnea, stress, snoring, other sleep disorders) seem to have a greater occurrence of grinding.
There can also be neurologic or psychologic disturbances which play a role in bruxism. Hyperactivity, cerebral palsy or Aspergers/autism are conditions where grinding is common.
Q: Do kids usually outgrow this?
A: I have a handful of kids that seem to grind less with age. It’s often transient.
Nemours Foundations reports, “Most kids outgrow bruxism, but a combination of parental observation and dental visits can help keep the problem in check until they do.” If the grinding is damaging the teeth or causing face and/or jaw pain, a night guard may be prescribed. These are usually for older children, but tend to work effectively immediately. If you have any concerns regarding grinding, contact your child’s dentist to determine if there is a problem.
Stacey Hatton is a pediatric RN and humor columnist. She can be contacted at NurseMommyLaughs.com.