Teeth grinding or bruxism is the clenching or grinding of teeth, conscious or unconscious. It happens mostly among children, with about 30 percent of them grinding, mostly while sleeping. Children can also grind their teeth during the day when they are stressed or anxious. Fortunately, most of them will stop grinding their teeth, usually around the time that they lose their deciduous or baby teeth.

Symptoms of Teeth Grinding

Physical symptoms are mostly related to the teeth and jaw. The teeth can be chipped or look worn down, which can expose children to dental issues in the future if left untreated like sensitivity to cold and hot food and beverages. A child who grinds their teeth also complain of a sore jaw upon waking up or when chewing. Teeth grinding can lead to facial pain, earaches and headaches, as well as TMJ (temporomandibular joint) problems.

Bruxism can also be linked to emotional symptoms like anxiety, depression, eating disorders, stress and tension. Some people grind their teeth without any symptoms; they might not be aware that they do it, especially when they do so while they are asleep. In some cases, the only way for a person to know that they grind their teeth is when a family member hears them do so while they are sleeping.

Causes of Teeth Grinding

The causes of teeth grinding are now exactly known. Among children, bruxism is commonly diagnosed with a hyperactivity disorder or health issue like cerebral palsy. Bruxism can also be caused by certain medications and misaligned teeth. Among adults, it can liked to daily stress. Its symptoms can depend on several things, including the level of stress, ability to relax, sleeping habits and teeth alignment.

Diagnosing Teeth Grinding

A physical exam can already tell a dentist or any healthcare provider that the patient grinds their teeth. The doctor will notice the teeth and enamel has an apparent worn out appearance. Medical professionals mostly consider teeth grinding as a diagnosis if their patient complaints of any oral or facial pain, as well as soreness during chewing. Also, an exam can rule out other possible causes of these symptoms like ear infections.

Preventing Teeth Grinding

Among children, teeth grinding is considered as a natural reaction to growth and development, which cannot be prevented. Those that are stress-related, however, can be avoided. Consider setting a calming bedtime routine by limiting television and electronics, listening to calm music, or having a warm bath. Reduce stress by talking to a friend or a counselor, all the while working to eliminate as much surrounding stressors as possible.

Treating Teeth Grinding

Treatment for teeth grinding depends on the symptoms and, if there are any, the underlying cause. There are treatment options designed to reduce clenching and grinding, the most popular of which is wearing a mouthguard at night. Various kinds of mouthguards are available; a doctor will determine the right kind for a particular case. If the grinding is caused by misaligned teeth, a visit to the dentist is recommended.

When stress is the underlying cause of teeth grinding, it is important for the medical health provider to get into the root of the emotional problems. For instance, the doctor can talk with the patient about things that worry them, including home life, school or new experiences. They can also create a plan to help the patient feel less anxious and worried. If there is no improvement, the doctor can further explore evaluation and treatment options.

Living with Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding is not exactly dangerous, and most children will outgrow it. However, it can cause unpleasant symptoms that can interfere with daily living. Some tips to reduce and prevent pain are applying ice or heat to sore jaw muscles, massaging neck and face muscles, avoiding hard and chewy foods, learning physical therapy stretching exercises, reducing stress and relaxing the facial muscles.

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