My 5-year-old grinds his teeth every night. I can hear him when I’m nearby, even when I’m all the way at his door sometimes. It sounds so awful and loud. It this hurting him? I there anything I can do? I’m worried he’s doing damage.
If your young child is showing signs of bruxism (the fancy word for teeth grinding), don’t panic. Teeth grinding is extremely common in young children, especially when new teeth are coming in or preparing to do so. The irritation from those new teeth contributes to a subconscious fixation on the mouth, which can contribute to tension, clenching, and grinding.
The schedule for adult teeth:
Usually, the first adult teeth break through the gums at 6 to 7 years of age. So, your child is close. At 5 years old, your child likely still has all his baby teeth, but the adult teeth may have started to move in and create pressure from inside the gums.
Fortunately, damage to baby teeth from grinding is not a significant issue because those teeth are only temporary. Many dentists will take note of whether a child is grinding their teeth at this stage, but the general policy, in terms of treatment, is to watch and wait to see if the habit continues once most of the adult teeth have come in.
Once the mouth is full of adult teeth, which usually happens between the ages of 10 and 12, a night guard is the first line of treatment your dentist might recommend if your child is still grinding his teeth. This device, made of plastic, will fit over the upper or lower teeth in your child’s mouth and protect them from the friction and pressure caused by grinding.
It’s the same kind of device that is recommended for adults who have the same problem.
Other issues that might come into play:
Sometimes, bruxism is an indication of a misaligned bite. It is always good to consult with your dentist and, if needed, an orthodontist to address bite issues early on. There is often more than can be done in a less invasive way while the mouth and jaw are still growing.
So, if bite misalignment issues run in your family, or you suspect your child might have a bite issue, or there are any concerning oral issues (like bruxism), make sure your dentist inspects your child’s bite.
Additionally, teeth grinding can lead to canker sores. This is because your child may be biting his tongue or the inside of his mouth while sleeping if he is grinding his teeth aggressively. You should be aware, however, that there are other possible reasons for frequent canker sores. So, if your child has an issue with them, you will want to rule out other causes, which include vitamin deficiencies, food allergies, and sensitivity to certain kinds of toothpaste.
Natural remedies to reduce teeth grinding:
If your child is complaining about pain from canker sores or is clearly experiencing discomfort due to teeth grinding, you might need to take some steps to help him reduce his grinding habit even before his adult teeth come in.
A night guard is not recommended for 5-year-olds because there is too much growth occurring in their mouth and teeth to create a night guard that will last beyond a couple of weeks. Therefore, stress reduction is your best tool
Teeth grinding is often worsened by stress. So, you should assess the level of stress in your household and the ways that it manifests. Then, brainstorm ways to reduce those levels or ensure that your child does not need to take on or experience that stress.
Create a relaxing routine for your child before bedtime. You might try yoga, deep breathing, stretching, a warm bath, quiet time, reading, and chamomile tea or warm milk. You can also try stretches, exercises, and light massage of the jaw area, and you can apply a warm compress to ease tension and inflammation there.
If your child is easily disturbed by noises at night, use a white noise machine in the room. The calming tone from the machine will block out other more attention-grabbing noises from around the house and outside. Bruxism happens most frequently between sleep cycles or when deep sleep is disrupted.
Additionally, many people find certain aromatherapy scents effective in increasing calmness and deep sleep.
Reasons to keep from worrying:
Many children grind their teeth, especially as their adult teeth are beginning to come in, and many of them stop grinding as they get older. So, in all likelihood, your child will outgrow this habit.
And, if he doesn’t, you will be able to get him a night guard eventually that can protect his gums, mouth, and adult teeth when he’s old enough. If you’re concerned, you can always visit TeethNightGuard’s Health Blog for more information and recommendations.
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