The last thing you want even to think about is your son or daughter dealing with a medical condition. What may even be worse is not being able to explain the symptoms your child is experiencing. If your child wakes up complaining about a sore jaw, sore teeth, earaches, headaches or neck and face pain, your child may have sleep bruxism. Other signs your child may have sleep bruxism are if you hear them grinding their teeth as they sleep or if our dentist near you notices damage to fillings or the biting surfaces of their teeth. What is sleep bruxism, and what can you do about it?
What is Sleep Bruxism?
Sleep bruxism is a medical term for the habit (at any age) of grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw as you sleep. (The same phenomenon during waking hours is called awake bruxism.) Approximately 15 to 40% of children experience sleep bruxism temporarily (compared to eight to 10% of adults). Most children outgrow bruxism as they get older.
Sleep bruxism can cause jaw soreness, tooth pain, ear and headaches, neck and face pain, cracked and chipped teeth, damaged fillings, increased tooth sensitivity due to worn enamel and even temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder). Sleep bruxism in children has also been associated with attention deficit disorder, gastroesophageal reflux disease and nighttime breathing issues.
What Causes Sleep Bruxism in Children?
Research into the specific causes of sleep bruxism in children (and adults, for that matter) is ongoing. Several risk factors and potential causes have been identified for some kids’ clenching their jaws and grinding their teeth. They include:
● If your child’s upper and lower jaws are not aligned properly
● An unconscious response to physical pain (such as from an earache or pain caused by teething)
● Stress associated with nervousness, tension and worry caused by things like a new sibling, teacher, school or a move or argument with a parent or friend
● Some reports indicate an association between medical conditions such as cerebral palsy and certain medications
How to Treat Sleep Bruxism in Kids
Tackling sleep bruxism in kids should be approached from a couple of perspectives: taking steps to improve your child’s sleep experience and protecting your child from the physical effects of grinding her jaws and teeth.
To protect your child from the effects of sleep bruxism, our dentist will recommend that you obtain custom-designed and custom-fit mouth guards in Edmonton to protect the surfaces of her teeth, create a gap between the biting surfaces on each jaw and position her jaw properly to allow her to breathe freely without exerting undue strain and pressure on her jaw and face muscles. If a mouth guard is not sufficient to eliminate sleep bruxism in your child, our dentist in Edmonton may recommend a consultation with an orthodontist regarding teeth and jaw alignment issues and may suggest subtle alterations to the biting surfaces of your child’s teeth to influence how, where and whether they come into contact.
To Help Eliminate Sleep Bruxism in Children by Improving Their Sleep Experience, Follow These Tips:
● Establish a consistent bedtime routine, including ample time to get ready for sleep
● Create a calm and quiet environment leading into and at bedtime
● Exclude the television, computer, video games and phones from bedtime routines, and replace them with personal interaction between caregiver and child
● Try to avoid your child falling asleep while being nursed, bottle-fed, held or rocked
● Don’t let your child consume anything containing caffeine or other stimulants before bed, including things like chocolate, soda, candy, cough medicines and decongestants
● If your child experiences stress, anxiety or emotional struggles, ask your pediatrician for relaxation exercises and habits to use before bedtime and at other times
Our dentist can help to protect your children from the potentially serious effects of sleep bruxism. If your child clenches her jaw and grinds her teeth at any time, ask our dentist where to obtain mouthguards near you.