Bruxism is the unconscious act of grinding the teeth. This usually occurs at
night during sleep. Bruxism has been observed in people of all ages, including
young children. It is a contributing factor in temporomandibular disorders (TMDs).
Like daytime teeth clenching, bruxism is often considered to be
stress-related. Sleep disorders are also a cause of bruxism. The negative
effects of bruxism include:
Wearing down of the teeth over
Lingering muscle tension and spasm.
on the jaw (temporomandibular) joint.
Tiredness of the jaw muscles.
If your child grinds his or her teeth, don’t be too concerned.
Bruxism is not necessarily a sign of stress in your child. Pediatric dentists
have various theories about what causes bruxism, ranging from some irritating
feature in the mouth, such as misaligned teeth, to allergies, to stress.
Because a child’s teeth and jaw grow and change so quickly, bruxism is common
and is not usually a damaging habit in need of treatment.
If bruxism or teeth clenching (which is what you are most likely to
observe) is causing you trouble, consider seeking treatment, reducing stress,
or at least developing new ways of coping with stress. Exercise is an excellent
way for your body to process stress. Relaxation skills and activities can also
make a big difference in how stress affects your body and mind. Bruxism related to sleep disorders can be treated with a low dose of antidepressant.
Hypnosis, which addresses subconscious behavior, may also be helpful.
See the topic Stress Management. Also see the topic Mental Health
Problems and Mind-Body Wellness.