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Does Your Child Grind His or Her Teeth at Night?

Bruxism, or the grinding of teeth, is remarkably common in children and adults.  For some children, this tooth grinding is limited to daytime hours, but nighttime grinding (during sleep) is most prevalent.  Bruxism can lead to a wide range of dental problems, depending on the frequency of the behavior, the intensity of the grinding, and the underlying causes of the grinding.

A wide range of psychological, physiological, and physical factors may lead children to brux.  In particular, jaw misalignment (bad bite), stress, and traumatic brain injury are all thought to contribute to bruxism, although grinding can also occur as a side effect of certain medications.

What are some symptoms of bruxism?

In general, parents can usually hear intense grinding – especially when it occurs at nighttime.  Subtle daytime jaw clenching and grinding, however, can be difficult to pinpoint.  Oftentimes, general symptoms provide clues as to whether or not the child is bruxing, including:

  • Frequent complaints of headache.
  • Injured teeth and gums.
  • Loud grinding or clicking sounds.
  • Rhythmic tightening or clenching of the jaw muscles.
  • Unusual complaints about painful jaw muscles – especially in the morning.
  • Unusual tooth sensitivity to hot and cold foods.

How can bruxism damage my child’s teeth?

Bruxism is characterized by the grinding of the upper jaw against the lower jaw.  Especially in cases where there is vigorous grinding, the child may experience moderate to severe jaw discomfort, headaches, and ear pain.  Even if the child is completely unaware of nighttime bruxing (and parents are unable to hear it), the condition of the teeth provides your pediatric dentist with important clues.

First, chronic grinders usually show an excessive wear pattern on the teeth.  If jaw misalignment is the cause, tooth enamel may be worn down in specific areas.  In addition, children who brux are more susceptible to chipped teeth, facial pain, gum injury, and temperature sensitivity.  In extreme cases, frequent, harsh grinding can lead to the early onset of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).

What causes bruxism?

Bruxism can be caused by several different factors. Most commonly, “bad bite” or jaw misalignment promotes grinding.  Pediatric dentists also notice that children tend to brux more frequently in response to life stressors.  If the child is going through a particularly stressful exam period or is relocating to a new school for example, nighttime bruxing may either begin or intensify.

Children with certain developmental disorders and brain injuries may be at particular risk for grinding.  In such cases, your pediatric dentist may suggest botulism injections to calm the facial muscles, or provide a protective nighttime mouthpiece.  If the onset of bruxing is sudden, current medications need to be evaluated.  Though bruxing is a rare side effect of specific medications, the medication itself may need to be switched for an alternate brand.

How is bruxism treated?

Bruxing spontaneously ceases by the age of thirteen in the majority of children.  In the meantime however, your pediatric dentist will continually monitor its effect on the child’s teeth and may provide an interventional strategy.

In general, the cause of the grinding dictates the treatment approach.  If the child’s teeth are badly misaligned, your pediatric dentist may take steps to correct this.  Some of the available options include: altering the biting surface of teeth with crowns, and beginning occlusal treatment.

If bruxing seems to be exacerbated by stress, your pediatric dentist may recommend relaxation classes, professional therapy, or special exercises.  The child’s pediatrician may also provide muscle relaxants to alleviate jaw clenching and reduce jaw spasms.

In cases where young teeth are sustaining significant damage, your pediatric dentist may suggest a specialized nighttime dental appliance such as a nighttime mouth guard.  Mouth guards stop tooth surfaces from grinding against each other, and look similar to a mouthpiece a person might wear during sports.  Bite splints or bite plates fulfill the same function and are almost universally successful in preventing grinding damage.

If you have questions or concerns about bruxism or grinding teeth, please contact our office.

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Testimonials

I WISH I COULD GIVE YOU 10 STARS!!!!
Omg!!! SOOOOO happy I found you!!!
I've had these 4 veneers on my front teeth for about 5 years, put on, again, and again and again, after pop offs and cracks and breaks, and several thousands of dollars, by another Santee dentist's office (won't mention who).
After about 4 years of miraculously no problems, I felt a familiar crunch while biting into a fish taco... I was so upset, I just froze staring at this tiny piece of porcelain in my hand. The tears starting welling up as I was reminded of the nightmares I often have of this exact thing happening on a date, or during a job interview... I knew I wouldn't be able to enjoy the rest of my mom's birthday lunch w my daughters, and luckily, I decided to drive myself. I held back the tears, apologized and asked that they wrap up the rest of my meal and I'll see you at home, and ran to my car, wanting to just vomit.... I'm not too vain, am I?
Not just for vanities sake, but the thought of coming up with another 2 grand to fix this, again, was taunting me! My head was spinning. I felt like I had been kicked in the jaw - literally.
First thing I did, after having a few glasses of wine to calm down, was do a search on Yelp. Dr. Fossett was the first to come up -- but still wanted to give my old office a chance, seeing as especially how They WERE THE ONES WHO PUT THE ORIGINALS ON. But, they offered no rest for my weary soul -- no discounts, no deals and no financing. And a replacement will cost @2000!!
I called Dr. Fossetts office next and was enchanted by Robyn, who understood my plight and offered all the help she could; gave me a rough estimate on cost (final cost was LESS than what she quoted!), and applied for Care Credit for me over the phone.
I could go on and on about how my appointment went -- didn't even have to sit or wait, was brought back for a consultation immediately. Not expecting to have everything even started the same day, the assistant and Dr. Dave came back in two minutes and said, let's get started!
Not more than 30 minutes later, I looked in the mirror to the most gorgeous "Temporary" veneer I have ever seen!! I mean, I'd be happy w this for years! The last office would spackle on this horrible looking crap that had no esthetically pleasing value at all!! THIS is a premier job!
And I'm a chronic perfectionist! Especially when it comes to my looks (hair, teeth, ect).
SO IF IM HAPPY, YOU BETTER KNOW THE JOB WAS STELLAR!!!
Thank you Dr. Fossett and staff-- THANK YOU!!!

Vanessa M.

Yesterday was my first visit to this wonderful Dental office. I haven't felt more welcome and comfortable in a Dental facility since I was 19... Now 31 years young. I grew up, going to a father/son dental group and Dr. David and Dr. Douglas Fossett had the same family centered vibe and conservative but smart dental care I've been searching for! As a Registered Nurse, quality care and patient centered care is the core of my own practice. Dr. David and Dr. Douglas exemplify this to a tee! I've finally found my go to family Dental office. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders after getting a second option from these very well informed Dentists!

Haylee R.

Great office!!! From the moment I walked in I felt very welcomed by the staff. I'm always nervous when going to the dentist no matter how many times I go, however after my visit to Dr. Fossett's office I felt much more relaxed and at ease. They did everything they could to make me comfortable. I felt the staff was very knowledgeable and answered any questions I had. The assistants are top notch . The smiles , kind hearts and exceptional service will keep me coming back. Thank you to the office for a positive experience.

Rachel Y.

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