Today we are going to talk about teeth clenching or grinding. In the Dental world, we call it bruxism.

Bruxism is the medical term for the grinding of teeth or the clenching of jaws. Many people have it ( 3 out of every ten kids will grind or clench, experts say, most outgrow it.) But make sure there is not an underlying cause before you accept your child will outgrow it. 

Bruxism often happens during deep sleep phases or when kids and adults are under stress.

 If you have bruxism, you may knowingly or unconsciously clench or grind your teeth. You may or may not have heard about this, or you have experienced it personally. You may have a loved one that grinds or even wears a guard to help protect the teeth from wear or fractures… 

 A lot of people Clench or grind their teeth during the day, while they are awake, even more people do it at night when they’re sleeping. 

Many of the patients see who do clench or grind, their teeth do not even know they are doing it unless they start developing signs and symptoms, or it has damaged or broken a tooth. 

That would be me!

Learn from my experience. 

My story

I woke up one night to a crunch, spit out what I was feeling, and realized it was my tooth. I broke it so much it needed a crown. I had a nightguard that I had not been wearing.  Once I had a temporary crown, my guard no longer fit, still grinding I also broke the temporary crown again at night while I was sleeping. This time I was out of town on a business trip and had to wait till I got back home to have the permanent crown put on. The dentist took the new crown out of occlusion, so I did not break the permanent crown. I did have a new nightguard made, so I would hopefully not break any more teeth. 

Causes of Bruxism

Experts aren’t always sure why bruxism happens. In some cases, especially in kids, it may be that the top and bottom teeth aren’t aligned properly. Or it is in response to pain,  from an earache or teething. Kids might grind their teeth as a way to ease the pain, just as they might rub a sore muscle. Many kids outgrow these common causes for grinding.

But it may also be a warning sign.

Sleep bruxism (SB) and obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) are often observed in children and may have several health implications. Both obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) and sleep bruxism (SB) are commonly related to interrupted sleep patterns. 

Stress — For both kids and Adults – nervous tension or anger is another cause. For instance, a child might worry about a test at school or a change in routine (a new sibling, a new teacher, bullying). Divorce or arguing with parents and siblings can cause enough stress to prompt teeth grinding or jaw clenching.

Some kids who are hyperactive may grind or clench their teeth. And sometimes kids with other medical conditions or who take certain medicines can develop bruxism.

Sign And Symptoms

The most common signs and symptoms of clenching and grinding are grooves, wear in your teeth, your teeth are getting weak, shorter worn down, broken teeth or fillings, and you may develop some sensitivity to hot and cold. facial pain, headaches, earache,

You may have some unexplained neck pains, shoulder pains, jaw pain, soreness of muscle, or your jaw when you wake up in the morning.

Tired jaw and feel like you’re having the sharp shooting pain that comes in, it goes sometimes it’s on your top teeth, sometimes it’s on your bottom teeth. 

Awareness is key to preventing cracked teeth and sores that they have tooth pain, but actually, it is usually caused by the clenching and the grinding head and neck issues.  

 A lot of times, your sleep patterns are disrupted as well. 

Honestly, many doctors, dentists, and the health industry, in general, don’t exactly know or understand why or what causes clenching and grinding. A lot of times, it’s blamed on stress like everything else in the medical world. 

It could be that psychological, genetic, or physical factors are involved. Most commonly, we see clenching and grinding due to some sort of anxiety and stress, or sometimes it is bad just a bad habit, and people are not even aware of it. 

The most common risk factors for clenching and grinding is when there is increased stress. We see a lot of people clenching and grinding more than the usual at any age. We see young kids around age five to six they also clench and grind. We are told they will usually outgrow it as they become adults. While that may be true, sometimes a certain kind of personality type may not outgrow it, or it just becomes a nervous habit that is harder to treat as your child grows. Early intervention is best.

 If you are an anxious person or an aggressive person,  sometimes you carry anxiety in your body, and Sometimes, a family history, your mom or dad looks back. They may have developed bruxism as a child.

Some disorders like psychiatric disorders, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, gastroesophageal reflux, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, night terrors, sleep-related disorder, ADHD, we see a lot of people with those conditions, also clenching or grinding.  In most cases, bruxism goes unnoticed. 

One doesn’t even know that it is an issue until it’s too late, and it starts to wander that we’re developing complications, as I mentioned earlier, damage to your teeth, cracked teeth, cracked fillings,  unexplained headaches, neck pain, and pain.

Common Causes Of Teeth Grinding In Kids

Why is your child grinding their teeth? Here are a few common causes that may cause children of all ages to develop teeth grinding habit.

  • Stress and anxiety – Just like adults, kids can respond to stress and anxiety by clenching their jaws and grinding their teeth, even at night.
  • Bite problems (malocclusion) – If your child has a bad bite, their teeth may not fit together properly, and this can create jaw imbalances that contribute to teeth grinding.
  • Pain response – If your child has an earache or is teething, the pressure of grinding may provide them with some relief from their pain or discomfort.

Diagnosing Bruxism

So when you need to see your doctor is when you develop any of these symptoms, so they can suggest the appropriate treatment. 

Those who grind their teeth aren’t even aware of it, so it’s often loved ones who identify the problem.

Some signs to watch for:

  • grinding noises when your child is sleeping
  • complaints of a sore jaw or face after waking up in the morning
  • pain with chewing
  • Earaches
  • Headaches

If you think your child is grinding his or her teeth, examine the teeth for chipped enamel and unusual wear and check for unusual sensitivity.

If the damage is found, the dentist may ask your child questions, such as:

  • Are you worried about anything at home or at school?
  • Do you have an earache?
  • Are you angry with someone?
  • What do you do before bed?
  • How does your jaw feel in the morning?

The exam will help the dentist see whether the cause is anatomical (misaligned teeth) or psychological (stress), and come up with an effective treatment plan.

You may also experience or see clicking and popping of your jaw joints in certain extreme cases.

Some extreme cases are locked jaw as well. So, what is the treatment of bruxism and clenching and grinding? 

Depending on the severity of your condition, your dentist will evaluate to see what is causing the clenching and grinding. Most of the cases, the treatment is simple. We will give you some muscle exercises, relaxing exercises, stress management options. In conditions where it’s extremely painful you Dr. can give you pain medications and muscle relaxation because most of the time, it is related to muscle spasms as well. 

Most commonly, it is recommended to wear a guard called an occlusal guard or night guard, especially when you’re doing it during the night, or some sort of a guard, when you do it during the day. If it has become a habit and you are conscious of it, we can give you exercises to do. In some extreme cases depending on if you evaluate your bite and if your bite is misaligned and it is causing a lot of stress on your joints and the muscles and leading to the grinding and the clenching. We will recommend you to align your teeth to fix the bite. 

Not all Dr’s are the same and know how to treat bruxism. It is easy to diagnose but not always so easy to find the cause and determine the right treatment.

Especially if it has become a bad habit, there are habit reversal techniques designed to break the habit. But there is no scientific evidence to suggest habit reversal will cure teeth grinding.

When you are awake and aware you are grinding it may be helpful to keep a record of when and how often you find yourself clenching or grinding. If you are aware of the habit, it will be easier to break. Where you have your tongue placed is also important1

Treating Bruxism

Most kids outgrow bruxism is what you will hear, but a combination of parental observation and dental visits can help make sure there is not a deeper problem they will not outgrow. Be your own advocate, and make sure there is not another underlying issue. 

In cases where the grinding and clenching make a child’s face and jaw sore or damage the teeth, Molded to a child’s teeth, the night guard is similar to the protective mouthpieces worn by athletes. Though a mouthpiece can take some getting used to, positive results happen quickly.

Helping Kids With Bruxism

About 20-30% of all kids grind their teeth at some point in their life, and while most grow out of it.  your child may have  a serious  problem and need treatments like:

  • Orthodontics –   To correct the teeth position and bite straightening the teeth can help with grinding and ensure that your child’s teeth do not get worn down as they grow form grinding.
  • Nightguards – A night guard is usually only worn on the upper teeth, made of plastic material, and prevents direct tooth-to-tooth contact when grinding, which protects your teeth and smile.
  • Lifestyle changes – Finding the cause and addressing sources of stress and anxiety and helping your child feel calm and relaxed before bed can help them prevent stress-induced grinding.

Whether the cause is physical or psychological, kids might be able to control nighttime bruxism by relaxing before bedtime — suggestions,  taking a warm bath or shower, listening to a few minutes of soothing music, or reading a book.

If you’re concerned, talk to your doctor.

In rare cases, basic stress relievers aren’t enough to stop bruxism. If your child has trouble sleeping or is acting differently than usual, your dentist or doctor may suggest further evaluation. This can help find the cause of the stress and a proper course of treatment.

If you feel like you have any of these symptoms or to find out what may help with your child’s grinding, see your dentist or contact us for a free virtual consultation. If we can not answer your question, we will find someone who can!